VIEWS

The Media has
an Ethics Problem

A free and honest press is a critical element of a vibrant democracy.  Our founders felt so strongly about it that they called it out by name in the First Amendment of the Constitution.   Tirelessly pursuing an issue in search of the truth is a hallmark of an ethical journalist.  Being willing to follow wherever the trail leads, irrespective of personal preference, takes great character and, historically has been a factor in keeping our elected officials honest. We can’t believe what we’re told without verification, and an intended role of the press from the outset has been the watchdogs of truth.

 

Recent years have seen a dramatic shift in the ethics of our media.   In the past, effective journalists kept their political preferences out of sight and in check when chasing news. Their reports were kept free of opinion unless they were on the editorial page.  Today, many who claim to be journalists in the print and broadcast media, are overtly partisan.  Their efforts to shape the news, rather than report the news, are on display every day.  There are many ways to lie.   Deciding what to cover; deciding what “sides of the story” to tell; taking a quote out of context; or reporting only part of a quote in a way that completely changes its meaning, are just a start.  A lack of integrity, coupled with a lot of creativity, can produce many novel approaches to lying. 

 

Our need to know the truth is very serious. The primary sources of news are accessible to all of us in today’s world.  You can read a court transcript, watch a YouTube video or catch live coverage of Congressional hearings and other events.  If you compare a primary source to the coverage of the same topic in the various news media, you can evaluate for yourself the accuracy of the reporting.  One or two such comparisons and you’re likely to view all future reporting with the skepticism it deserves.