Journalism ethics are more important than ever

Mike KnaakEditorial, Opinion, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

Journalists don’t like to be part of the story.

We prefer observing, researching the facts and conducting interviews to report the news.

But sometimes we have to step forward and talk about the work we do and how we do it.

This week is Ethics Week, a yearly project sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Most years, Ethics Week passes without notice. Usually there are seminars and workshops for journalists to reinforce ethical standards and address new ethical issues that demand discussion.

This year is different. Day after day, some political leaders confuse unconfortable and inconvenient reporting as fake news. Readers have to sort through conflicting stories found on social media to determine what to believe.

Journalism ethics have developed over time into a set of standards to ensure fair and trustworthy reporting.

You can read them at https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp.

Journalists who support these standards work in the newsrooms that provide trusted reporting that is not fake news.

Whether you get your news from the Newsleader, the St. Cloud Times, WJON, MPR or the StarTribune, the reporters and editors in those newsrooms strive to live by that code of ethics. They are trusted sources and trusted brands.

Ethics standards address how reporters achieve fairness, how they handle conflicts of interest and how they pursue stories with compassion and empathy.

Yes, journalists make errors. But we explain and correct them. Yes, readers sometimes disagree with what we choose to report or how we choose to report it. Journalism is not a science. Editors and reporters often disagree about the importance of a story or what angle the reporting should take.

But we don’t disagree about the facts, no matter how inconvenient or uncomfortable for those in power.

Ask many people these days where news comes from and they are likely to say from Facebook or Twitter.

That’s wrong. News doesn’t come from social media any more than food comes from grocery stores…leaving out of course the farmer.

Good reporting takes time. The process is inefficient and expensive. Twitter and Facebook don’t employ even one journalist. The costs associated with reporting are borne by mostly print-based newsrooms and their associated websites.

SPJ lists five reasons we need ethics. They are:

• Information: Ethical journalism results in quality information people need to live their lives.

• Accountability: Ethical journalism uncovers and reports on when those in positions of power abuse their office and status.

• Empowerment: Information often equates to power, and an informed public is a powerful public.

• Comfort: Ethical journalism can provide comfort and knowledge to communities seeking information on tragic events.

• Democracy: Ethical journalism is the cornerstone of an informed citizenry who can use their voices to alter lives.

Please join us in “celebrating” Ethics Week by reading trusted news sources and holding all those who use the privileges of the First Amendment to the highest ethical standards.

Author: Mike Knaak

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