New Year, New Me: Right?

Haven’t had a chance to make any new years resolutions? Here’s your chance!

Thank goodness 2016 is over. A few reasons for this may be: Terror, the horrendous election, general ‘fake news’ and the loss of many talented stars like Prince, George Michael and Carrie Fisher — to name a few, meant that 2016 was a little more difficult than most years.

Surely, 2017 must have something a bit better in store? So Chop, Chop! We can’t just wait around we must divide and conquer. We must set our own goals and objectives to be better journalists.

If you’re like me and still struggling even by the 11th (gulp) to get into the new year and through this bleak January this is for you. I know it’s 5pm on Wednesday, I know it’s the second week of the year, (already) but you’ve been busy and it’s been a tough first week back. You’ve been down but now you’re going to pick yourself up. And you know what? Better late than never.

Let’s make some resolutions to become better journalists — because let’s face it they’re easier than losing that stone, or paying into your pension more often or meeting deadlines.

Let’s be objective

Objectivity is a significant principle of journalistic professionalism. All humans differ in their learnings, priorities and values therefore to be totally objective naturally is impossible.

René Descartes’ famous quote could be modified for us in this context: “I think, therefore I am biased.”

So to avoid objectivity, let’s avoid conveying our feelings, biases or prejudices in stories. Accomplish this by writing stories using language that is neutral and avoids characterizing people or institutions in positive or negative light.

Tip: Avoid adjectives as they indicate how you might feel about a subject.

Let’s be transparent

“Why is your story so special? Why does it deserve more trust than any other on the same topic?”

If you can’t be objective atleast be transparent. Transparency is argued to be even more important than objectivity. It signals the journalist’s respect for the audience and a public interest motive — the key to credibility.

Newsrooms can’t expect to build meaningful relationships with their communities if they keep their community at an arms length (or further).

Since most people are facing a flood of information every day, transparency is becoming critical in building stronger, more trustworthy relationships between journalists and their audience.

Rapid changes of technology in reporting and consuming news demands greater openness from journalists but it also provides journalists new and more effective ways to practice transparency.

To be transparent, we must state our values up front. Tell people how you got the story, report why you included what you did. What was left out and why? Tell us who your sources are. Why is your story so special? Why does it deserve more trust than any other on the same topic?

Tip: Implementing processes, policies and tools that enhance transparency increase accountability and credibility. They’re not just good journalism — they can be a competitive advantage, a differentiator.

Let’s be fair, lets be impartial

Ask the uncomfortable questions. Ask those with whom we often agree and with whom we often disagree; give them a chance. Ask corporations or nonprofits tough questions. Lets give those newly elected politicians a chance to succeed or mess up before we criticise them. If you ignore one side of the spectrum and fixate upon another this damages the credibility of your journalism.

Tip: Cover every angle, choose your sources wisely, get that full picture.

Let’s stop publishing rubbish

“When content is tied to clicks or traffic to a site, there’s more temptation to publish controversial content.”

The toxic combination of partisan journalism and social media results in outrage every single day.

Let’s reduce graphic images that serve the purposes of terrorists. “There was a time when people would call newspaper offices and threaten to cancel their subscriptions if offensive content was published. When people paid for content, editors were more cautious,” said Paulson who was formerly editor-in-chief of USA Today to thinkprogress.org. “When content is tied to clicks or traffic to a site, there’s more temptation to publish controversial content.”

Graphic content is good for internet traffic but bad for the health of our society.

While the First Amendment gives media the right to publish it also gives us the right not to publish.

Tip: The choice to not spread is also the exercise of free speech rights.

In order to make 2017 a better year it will take efforts from not only journalists but all citizens. We must all ask ourselves constantly if our behavior is promoting or detracting from the common good.

On that note — Happy 2017!