My name is Jovahn Huertas, and I am a third year student at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications focusing on print and online journalism. I moved to Gainesville in the fall of 2011 from my hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla., to attend UF. While I had written for my high school paper, and was reasonably sure that I wanted to go into journalism as a career, I wasn’t sure if I should major in it initially. After my first semester, however, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I have written frequently as a stringer for the Independent Florida Alligator. Most recently, I completed an internship at The Gainesville Sun during the fall 2013 semester, and am now a paid freelancer for The Sun.
My journalistic interests currently lie in the fields of science, technology and the environment. As far as career plans go, I hope to some day become a correspondent in one of these fields for a major metro publication, or else write for a specialty publication like Wired, Scientific American or National Geographic. For now, I’m trying to get as much experience as possible in all fields of journalism, though I hope to get an internship that allows me to focus on my interests in the near future.
I would define ethics as the commonly accepted and often unwritten rules and guidelines that determine right from wrong. In the context of journalism, this would include issues of honesty, privacy, taste, and plagiarism. While some of these issues may be covered to an extent by written law, they all fall under the greater ethical umbrella, and are thus not always clear-cut.
One ethical issue I’ve run into occurred during my Beat Reporting class in fall 2013. As the UF beat reporter, I was looking for a prominent person at the university to profile, and decided on the director of a popular volunteer program at UF Health Shands Hospital. Though she initially seemed more than willing to speak with me, she began delaying an interview for unclear reasons. Weeks went by before she finally told me the truth: she was in the process of resigning. While this made for an even more newsworthy story, she told me this off the record. Nevertheless, The Sun wanted to run the story as soon as possible, and my editors pressured me to make it happen. In this situation, I could have gone to Shands for comment or written the story anyway, betraying the trust of my source. To a lesser extent, I faced an ethical dilemma in that I felt I was putting undue stress on my source by pressuring her to go on record when it was clearly an unhappy subject for her. Fortunately, after I explained my situation to her, she agreed to go on record immediately after speaking to the program’s volunteers about her resignation, and we were able to break the story in the next day’s paper.
So, now that I’m thoroughly tired of talking about myself, here’s hoping for a great semester.