Blog Essay Week 13

EJ Ch. 10

This penultimate chapter discusses the principle that journalists have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience, and it begins with a notorious violation of this principle: the Jayson Blair scandal. Howell Raines actually came to UF to speak while I was in Reporting, and he confirmed much of what was discussed here, especially the outrage expressed by New York Times reporters at the perceived failure of leadership.

This seems like the most relevant chapter to this class, as it focuses on the idea that “every journalist…must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility—a moral compass.” Since this is not an ethics book per se, the authors don’t seem to have as firm a grasp on ethical concepts as those of the other major text in this class. For example, in the previous sentence, they appear to equate ethics with morality, despite the fact that we established a clear division between the two in the first few weeks.

In the section titled “Exercising Conscience is Not Easy”, the authors state the glaringly obvious. If the answers to dilemmas of conscience and ethics came easy, they wouldn’t be called dilemmas. The key point being made here is that, with the increasingly precarious financial positions that publications are in, it becomes more desirable to make ethical compromises to increase profits or save a few bucks. This pretty much sums up what is likely the biggest ethical issue in modern journalism.

This chapter returns to an idea discussed in weeks prior: the goal of intellectual diversity in the newsroom. Since the authors discuss the journalist’s moral compass, I though this goal brings up an interesting conflict. People of different cultural and ideological background are bound to have different morals. It would have to be common guidelines in journalistic ethical reasoning that unites these diverse individuals, rather than some moral ideal.

The chapter concludes with an almost cursory mention of the role of citizens. It is essentially a rehash of the idea of dilemma of making compromises for financial sake: more specifically, what extent journalists should conform to the desires of readers and viewers. Yet again, the authors seemed to give very little time to the role of citizen journalists. I hope they discuss this more in the final chapter.

 

Two Short Articles On Advocacy Journalism 

I don’t think the first article is necessarily about advocacy journalism. Alana Moceri’s central point seems to be that journalists should include information about what readers and viewers can do about things in the news that affect them. She is not calling for journalists to advocate these actions, but merely to present information should citizens desire to take such actions. This doesn’t seem to be much of a deviation from journalistic standards. If an area is under a tornado warning, any good journalist would provide information on what those affected should do to protect themselves. It stands to reason that if, say, a politician is revealed to be a part of a scandal, so too should a journalist provide information on how to voice concerns or vote him or her from office.

The second article is much more specifically focused on advocacy journalism, which it defines as “coverage with a clearly stated worldview.” The calls these writers “almost-journalists,” holding issue with the fact that they often fail to report opposing viewpoints and facts. However, he says, he’s ready to drop the “almost”, because these writers are still providing in-depth coverage of vital issues. While this is a positive aspect, I still hold this type of reporting below the more objective variety. How can journalism be certifiably accurate if it comes with a purposeful slant? Rather, I think this is a sign that “traditional” journalists need to focus more on the underreported issues that the advocates are bringing light to.

 

DQ: Does advocacy have any place in journalism, and if so, to what extent?

 

Ethical Issue of the Week

I thought the recent Colbert Report Twitter “scandal” presented an interesting media ethical issue outside of traditional journalism. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/01/cancel-colbert-stephen-colbert_n_5068592.html. The major question here is whether satire can really be criticized for things like racial insensitivity, especially when the point of the quote in context was to itself criticize actual racial insensitivity. This also ties into the larger argument of whether comic personalities like Colbert and Jon Stewart who, at times, report on actual news stories should be held to any of the ethics of “real” journalism.

 

-Jovahn Huertas, jhuertas@ufl.edu

 

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