Monday, December 3, 2012

Journalism Ethics: Where Have They Gone?

Ethics and journalism, why do they go hand in hand?

We all know what ethics are, but do we really understand them at the root of their meaning? Ethics can be interpreted differently by different people, we all have our own set of beliefs, and they are what shape us as a person. While researching the definition of ethics, I came across a wide variety of meanings. The best definition I found, that incorporated all aspects of ethics was, “The basic concepts and fundamental principles of right human conduct. It includes study of universal values such as the essential equality of all men and women, human or natural rights, obedience to the law of land, concern for health and safety and, increasingly, also for the natural environment.” (Business Dictionary) The question that arises is, what does ethics have to do with journalism?

As a journalist, the most important thing to remember is to always remain ethical. Ethics are extremely important when it comes to any kind our journalism, be it print, broadcast, or photojournalism. The Society of Professional Journalists has a Code of Ethics that all journalists should follow. The code includes, seeking truth and reporting it, minimizing harm to public, acting independently, and being accountable. Citizens trust journalists to report the news, and they trust that what is being reported is 100% the truth. Journalists have a huge responsibility to maintain that trust with the public.

A look into the past: Journalism ethics 50 years ago

Let’s go back into time to a simpler place, a time where there was no internet, no cell phones, just televisions with a handful of channels. Life was quite different back then. In 1972 Walter Cronkite was determined to be the “most trusted man in America.”( PBS) No matter what your political stance was or religious belief, you watched Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News. He broke the news to America that Kennedy had been assassinated. He expressed his distaste for the Vietnam War in a somber broadcast, a broadcast that apparently made the President at the time, Lyndon Johnson say, “I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” That is the influence that Cronkite had on America. He reported the news in an ethical and easy way, so everyone understood what was going on. What happened to all the Walter Cronkite’s of our time?
A Nation split: Leading to more journalism outlets, and less journalism credibility? 

As an aspiring journalist, one has to be extremely flexible with our changing world. Journalism is totally different from what it used to be. We have a plethora of different news mediums that people receive their news from. Has this boom of journalism outlets caused the profession of journalism to be looked upon as less credible? I sat down with Deborah Nelson, the Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative journalist turned professor at the University of Maryland.

Nelson received a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law and a B.S. in Journalism from Northern Illinois University. She teaches media law as well as non-fiction war literature and investigative reporting. (Deborah Nelson) Her most recent publication, The War Behind Me, a non-fiction account from Vietnam Veterans about the war, gained national popularity.  Nelson and I discussed our changing journalistic world in regards to journalism ethics.
As I sat listening to Ms. Nelson discuss journalism ethics in relation with new media, it dawned on me that maybe we haven’t completely lost all ethics in journalism. When I asked, “Do you feel as if journalism ethics has diminished with new media?” She gives an optimistic view for journalists. Nelson states, “New media has forced us to think about the rules we’ve applied for years…the emerging media has really presented new challenges…” New media is affecting us in ways we can’t even imagine, but one thing that will always, and should always remain in journalism is ethics.

Have no fear; ethics in journalism will always be here!

Yes, we do live in a constantly changing technological world, with new advances coming out everyday. Journalism is a field that is changing as much as our technological world, one thing that should always remain it the set of ethics that journalists have to follow. With the changing time, of course new categories will be added to the Code of Ethics, but journalism ethics should always remain.

For another journalism class I sat down to interview Greg Vistica who is an investigative journalist. He has written many controversial articles on many pressing issues. Including a book titles The Education of Lieutenant Kerrey, which exposed Senator Bob Kerrey’s war crimes in Vietnam. I asked him, “What made you want to become a journalist? Was there something that sparked your interest?” His response was:

“My focus was international relations, so when I was in college and I had to take a few electives so I took an elective called Journalism Ethics. The class was fascinating, but journalism was never a passion of mine. The class was about when do journalist actually become real people, when do they interject into real life situations, like when do you intervene and do you steal classified papers for the greater good of humanity. So, it sparked an interest, I talked to the chairwoman and she convinced me to minor in journalism, so I did. While I was at San Francisco State I wrote for the school newspaper eventually becoming the editor of the paper. It was after college that I really gained a passion for 

This really taught me that not all journalists are cut-throat-money-hungry people. Vistica explained to me that sometimes you have to weigh your options to figure out if what you’re researching will be beneficial to the greater good of the people. The greater good of the people. That is what should always be the focus of journalism.

I interviewed Tanner Treschuk, an employer at Tempus Consulting. I was curious as to what he had to say about Journalism ethics. The results are below:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Journalism and Ethics in Today’s World

How has our evolving technological world affected journalism and ethics?

While thinking about what I should research for my topic, I was playing around with a bunch of different ideas. I knew I wanted it to be about Journalism, but what, I thought to myself. In my Journalism 200 class I am writing a research paper on Walter Cronkite. He was what most people referred to as, “the most trusted man in America”. Then it dawned on me, where have all the Walter Cronkite’s gone? How come our world today does not have one journalist whom we all turn to for our news?

Technology and journalism ethics, do they mix like oil and water?

Before we had technology, we lived in a simpler world. Now we have new devices popping up daily! As a whole we have become more and more separated as technology increases. We don’t get our news from one source like Uncle Walter and we have so many different news outlets. What I want to explore, is has technology caused journalists to be less ethical? In my opinion, journalism has to change with the times; it has to keep up with such a fast paced lifestyle where certain things can be left at the door.

What about leaving technology behind, and just focusing on Journalism and Ethics?

As a person concerned with doing good in this world, and a firm believing in what is right and wrong… I have realized that Journalism can be a dog eats dog industry, with people just trying to get the best story. I have always been curious about the ethical means behind journalism. I want to gain a better understanding for journalism as a whole and gain insight to the workings of real journalists. Can journalism be 100% ethical? Or is journalism and ethics and oxymoron? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The DIgital Divide: is it shrinking?

In our country, and even the world there is a huge digital divide.
Many are moving forward with new technological advances, while many
others are left in the dark and are at a stand still. There are so
many new technologies that can be used to help us do everyday
activities, but many American do not have access to these luxuries.
Within the next 3 to 5 years will this divide become a growing gab or
decrease in size?

We have to look at current trends in order to analyze this fully.
According to the reading titled, Mobile Device Problems, a majority of
Americans have mobile devices. Out of these 88% of Americans, a
majority of them have experience issues with their phones. In my
opinion, issues with phones will persist. With any new technologies
problems will arise. Take the iPhone 5 for example, people are
complaining about a variety of different issues coming about with the
new product. This may or may not affect the digital divide that is
seen in many Americans.

The digital divide is seen throughout our country. We have one side of
the spectrum where many people have cell phones, and we don’t normally
think about the other side of it. But it is there. Many people go
through each day without the use of cell phones, to people with smart
phones that just doesn’t seem right. The digital divide will, in my
opinion start to get smaller as time persists. I’m not saying everyone
will eventually get a smart phone, but as time goes on I think that it
will be necessary for everyone to have one, in order to keep up with
the times.

Looking into the future, we must understand that technologies change
with time. They advance in ways our minds can’t even fathom. The fact
of the matter is that mobile phone issues will continue. There are no
questions asked about that. With every new technology issues will
arise. But when looking at mobile problems and the digital divide, it
is different. The 11% of American who do not have a cell phone are the
people who are in the digital divide. They do not experience mobile
phone problems because they do not have a mobile phone.

I think that in the future the gab between people with mobile phones
and people without them will continue to get smaller. Over the last 10
years the amount of people who have mobile devices has increased
significantly and that trend will continue to stay true. There will never be 100% of people with mobile devices, but it could come close.

All in all, mobile devices help us be productive, stay in touch with friends, and do a variety of other things that make our lives easier. There is a percentage of people who do not have mobile devices. But with every new technology, problems can arise, and that is normal. Yet, the people in the digital divide do not experience the issues that can arise from having a mobile device.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Now reporting live from…Your cell phone?

As a technology based generation, our phones are our lifelines. They help us communicate with friends overseas, tweet about funny comments, take photos, and the amount of aps that smart phones have available make the options truly endless. For most of us, going a day with out our cell phones, to quote Joe Biden, is just pure malarkey! Little do we know our cell phones could help us to become the next Tom Brocaw.

Citizen Journalism: a growing phenomenon

A fairly new concept is arising along with the increasing demand for smarter phones. This phenomenon is called citizen journalism.  The concept of citizen journalism is simple; it’s based upon public citizens playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing, and disseminating news and information. (Citizen Journalism ) This trend has been made much more prevalent due to the increase in smart phones and social media outlets, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Citizen journalism is getting increasingly more media attention due to the amounts of mobile devices. But, citizen journalism didn’t necessarily begin when cell phones became popular. While reading about the history of citizen journalism, I learned that it dates back to the 1800s when activists such as Thomas Paine, took action and published his feelings about the government in pamphlets. Fast-forwarding a few decades, citizen journalism became increasingly popular during controversial events. Video footage of the assassination of President Kennedy and the Rodney King riots were filmed by citizens who just happened to be there. (Guide to Citizen Journalism )

The growth of the World Wide Web led to an increase of citizen journalism. It allowed people to voice their opinions on certain issues for a mass audience. Average Joes could blog about pressing issues, issues such as 9/11, the Iraq war, natural disasters, the government, and other current events. Now, we have smart phones making citizen journalism even more prevalent. There is now the ability to write about what is going on in the blink of an eye. Mobile devices are allowing citizen journalists to become even more popular, but is everyone in favor of this trend?

Truth: Something that the media tends to leave behind

At times we are flooded with so much information from the media and news, it makes it difficult to decipher what is true and what is fabricated. Citizen journalism picks up where news falls short. With citizen journalism we see actual footage of pressing issues that open our eyes, giving us the cold hard facts. A website I stumbled upon titled 5 news stories changed by the rise of citizens journalists (New Stories Changed by Citizen Journalism) Really helped me understand the basis of citizen journalism. The stories included raw footage of the 2009 Iran presidential election, the Egyptian protests, and footage from 2010 Moscow Metro Bombings. Three out of the five stories were citizen journalist stories involving police brutality and mistreatment.

The Video that shocked me the most was the Oscar Grant shooting video. It showed police shooting an unarmed and already handcuffed 22 year old. Bystanders witnessing the entire scene took out their camera phones and received footage that later was used as proof in the trial. Eventually convicting the officer who shot Oscar of involuntary manslaughter. This evidence provided by various citizen journalists helped to serve justice, something that larger news mogul’s can fall short on doing.

Citizen Journalism, a friend or foe?

Citizen journalism was in no question a pro, in serving justice for the Oscar Grant case, but there are some cases where it can be seen in a very negative light. In order to be a good, objective journalist, one should be able to leave opinions and bias out of their work. Many argue that citizen journalism does not do that, people become passionate about current issues and when they get footage of police brutality or a large riot, emotions will definitely be involved. (Pros and Cons of Citizen Journalism )

There is also the argument that citizen journalists do not want to be journalist, they may just feel passionate about a certain pressing issue. Or they may capture something that is appalling or disheartening and want to share it with others in order to get word out about it.

All in all, citizen journalism keeps us in the know

Citizen journalism is a great idea. It helps to get news out in a more raw and honest way. What could be more real and believable than actual footage of current events? This is the time for people to really speak up and make a difference and citizen journalism allows that, while influencing and impacting the world.

Friday, September 21, 2012

To be or...Technology?

We live in such a rapidly growing technological world. But the question that arises is; are we disconnecting ourselves from human interactions when we connect in our devices? Last night I went to my mom’s house for dinner, and the topic of conversation surprisingly enough was technology! My stepfather was explaining the “phenomenon” of posting an article to someone’s Facebook wall, “I mean, it’s really amazing. This person had somehow put an article on their Facebook!” He exclaimed, while I laughed and thought, “Is he serious?” To someone in my generation, to not know how to use Facebook is just wrong, but we grew up at a time where texting and the Internet is second nature.

“Hamlet’s Blackberry” is a book by American author William Powers. In it Powers argues that technology is making us become less personal and less connected. In his interview with Katie Couric, William Powers explains that technology is great and helpful in many ways, but information overload is very possible. His argument explains that despite our devices intentions of making us become more efficient individuals, it is making us less efficient and making us less connected to people, and more connected to our technological devices.

Throughout this interview I came to the realization that Mr. Powers made a very plausible argument. Many times I find myself not being able to hold conversations with people because I’m constantly thinking if I have a message on my iPhone. Throughout the course of writing this post, I’ve looked at my phone at least 10 times, and to me that is being too connected. Powers brings up the issue called “digital maximalism” and goes on to explain it means the more connected you are the better. On average, American’s spend 2.7 hours socializing on their phones, which is over twice the amount of time we spend eating. (Digital Buzz) We lack a sense of deeper connectivity to people, we see the people we interact with more as a text message or an email, rather than another human being. There is the ability to be personable in a text message or an email, but you can only go so far.

While researching my stance, I stumbled across an article that states, “Technology is ours alone, separating us from every other species, yet we continue to develop it to the point that we destroy a distinctly human process — communication.” (Collegiate Times) To me this was interesting. I don’t think that technology is 100% destroying our process of good-old-fashioned communication, but I do think it is putting us in a place where we will eventually lack some necessary social skills.
Are we in a “conundrum of connectedness”, as William Powers said in an interview with NPR? (NPR) Our brains are constantly adapting to meet the needs of our changing world, but it almost seems like we are experiencing information overload, and making our brains work harder to understand new information. We have mastered the art of multitasking, we can talk on the phone while still texting someone else, and checking our Facebook status.

In the interview William Powers says that technology is increasing our groupthink, so we lack our own individual thought. I would say I disagree with this, technology allows us to express who we are and express our thoughts. If anything, I would say technology increases our uniqueness as individuals. 
Now, like William Powers' argument, I think that technology is great! It has made our lives much easier and helped us get things done more efficiently and faster, that is if we stay off social media platforms.  Powers does not give an extremist pont of view, but rather a rational point of view. In my opinion, everyone can benefit from taking a little break from technology, even if its disconnecting for a few hours a day, or like William Powers suggested, the entire weekend. I think that it is time we stop Instagraming the roses and stop and smell them for a while. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Member on the Endangered Species List: Newspapers

As a young adult living in this constantly changing world, I find my self wondering what our future will bring. Is technology beneficial or will it lead to our slow demise? But, the question to really ask is; will we embrace new technologies and use them to our best ability? I came across this article that was titled “Who Killed The Newspaper?” to briefly describe it, it talked about how newspapers are slowly coming to a halt due to the internet, and people’s want for quicker, easier, and “sexier” news. It gives a realistic, yet comforting view on the decline of newspapers. Yes, in our lifetime there is a huge possibility that we could see newspapers 100% online, but instead of running and hiding from this change, one can learn that this is the future and embrace this change for what it is.