Monday, October 3, 2011

Journalism and Loyalty

Most journalists believe their first loyalty is to the citizen, as noted in this article from the Oregonian. This means that even though a news network may pay the paycheck, a journalist is really working for the people. Because of this most large newspapers have codes of ethics, like this one from the Washington Post.

The problem here arises because one loyalty, to the company, can conflict with the loyalty to the citizen. Journalists have an obligation to tell the truth; they are the “fourth estate.” But suppose some news reflects badly on the news company. Does the journalist report it or stay silent? For the citizen, it all ties into whether the reporter is credible or not. Kovach and Rosenstiel in The Elements of Journalism say, “The notion that those who report the news are not obstructed from digging up and telling the truth—even at the expense of the owners’ other financial interests—is a prerequisite of telling the news not only accurately but persuasively.”

I understand the need for news companies to base salaries on how popular their network or paper is, news is a business, after all. But I see how difficult it can be on journalists and citizens. Journalists can’t have divided loyalties when they seek to tell the truth as best they can all the time. Divided loyalties could, potentially, hurt business. After all, who wants to watch or read news that might not be credible? In class we talked about five ways of keeping news credible and news companies loyal to the citizen, all from The Elements of Journalism. They are:

· Owner/corporation must be committed to citizens first

· Hire Business Managers who also put citizens first

· Set and communicate clear standards to the public

· Journalists have FINAL SAY over news

· Communicate clear standards to the public

The most important thing I see here is that everyone is loyal to the citizen. That way there will be no conflict of interest. Simple, huh?

According to an article on a Pew study done, 80% of people surveyed said they believe the media is influenced by powerful people. This shows how citizens recognize it when journalists have divided loyalties and will paint other journalists with the same brush.

The Pew article also says some interesting things about how people get their news. Most people watch TV, but newspapers, Web sites, and other forms of news are preferred for deeper knowledge into stories. The most interesting thing the Pew study found, at least to me, was how though right now many people read newspapers and watch news on TV, young adults prefer to get their news from the Internet and are not concerned about their local paper going out of business. There's such a profusion of news that to my generation it seems like we can quickly find it anywhere if we go online. That is something I think journalists should consider when studying now; online media are going to become very important in the next few years, more than they already are.

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