New Media Ethics Guidelines
The term ‘new media’ is thrown around quite often in our society, but what exactly are people referring to when they talk about it?
New Media in general, is everything in regards to the internet and technology. With that being said, the definition for new media is never static — it is continuously evolving and reaching new boundaries. It involves the active online audience of feedback, participation and ‘prosumers’. ‘Prosumers’ refers to the producer-consumers of the internet. It is no longer mass media controlling the content, with the help of new media and Web 2.0, the audience is taking a stance and becoming both the consumers and producers. They now hold the power to create the trends and make content that they want. Along with the new ‘prosumer’ role for audiences, the issue of free labour has come into light. The simplest act of creating a Facebook account contributes to free labour and creation of capital for Facebook. This raises questions about whether it is ethical to be taking free information and profiting off of it while the original creator gets nothing. These problems find their ways into many ethical questions in regards to journalism and since new media is always evolving, so are the ethical standards. The following set of ‘rules’ are intended for anyone who identifies as a journalist but should also apply to everyone who uses new media. It will cover in specific privacy, truth and accuracy, citing sources, minimizing harm and sensitivity.
Overall one must attempt to approach ethics and journalism from a very compassionate stand-point. We must respect each other yet still be able to communicate the truth and keep our responsibilities to both the audience and the subjects.
-Subjects committed of a crime are granted the right to a free trial and an objective stand point before the final hearing.
-Journalists must be sensitive to situations and not report what is too sensitive for a subject.
-Reporting by using information posted by a subject on social media is acceptable as once it has been posted it is seen as public material, however, if the information was posted on social media but was intended to be private we must not report it.
-One must not report un-necessary information which infringes on a subjects privacy. Only report information that is relevant to the public and avoid damaging the subjects reputation with un-necessary information.
Commitment to Truth and Accuracy:
-Reporters must verify and take full responsibility for their work. By conducting thorough verification of facts, on must be accountable for the work they publish.
-Give the public as much information as possible so they can judge the facts for themselves and formulate balanced opinions.
-Allow both sides of a story to have their input — subjects accused of criticism must be able to respond.
-Give a voice to people who are not being heard. Shed light on other sides of the stories by empowering these people.
-Avoid stereotypes when reporting to remain as objective as possible.
-If a journal/writer is working with a company (being funded by them etc.) and they include a reference to a product from the company (such as a review), the writer must make it apparent at some point (such as with a ‘*’ at the end or beginning of the article) that they are working with said company so as to ensure that the audience is aware that since it is funded the view could be favoured towards the companies side.
-Writers must ensure that they are citing the sources from which they got their information
-Writers must ensure that readers are aware of where the information is from, how you are getting it and what kind of authority the information is coming from (for example; is the wine company telling you that drinking wine everyday is healthy for you? Or is it a doctor? Who is telling you the information changes everything)
-Journalists must try to minimize harm to subjects. They must balance the responsibility of the publics right to know and the subjects privacy.
-Examine and respect the implications of publishing a story that may affect a subject’s future. Ensure you have all the verified facts before deciding whether to publish.
-Just because someone has already posted a story revealing sensitive information, from the journals ethical standpoint, one does not need to engage further in circulating such information.
-Journalists must approach situations with caution and sensitivity as some situations can trigger feelings for people. Photos (if used,) of such situations must be tasteful and mindful of sensitive subject matter.
-When dealing with sexual assault victims respect their anonymity and do not include any information that the victim does not feel comfortable with.
-When dealing with children ensure that their parents or guardians are present and informed of the intentions of the article or such that they will be used in.
Overall, one must attempt to approach being a journalist in the most compassionate way possible. Although with this new age of instant access and lack of privacy, it does not mean that one should be contributing in exploiting such information and manipulating it in any way. A new journalists responsibility (much like old journalists,) should be to communicate the objective truth to the audience. Approaching each story with compassion will eliminate many of the ethical problems related to journalism. Although I have presented this set of rules, it does not mean that this is the only set of rules there should be. The boundaries of journalism in the new media sphere is constantly shifting and expanding and so should the ethical rules.
With every new aspect and change we must remember to approach it as compassionate human beings since at the end of the day we are more alike than we think.