New Media and Ethics

As the world of social media continues to grow and evolve, concern grows on how this interactive online community is affecting the way news is fundamentally distributed. ‘New Media’ consists of different platforms that enable users to share content that they consider news or important. Such platforms include blogs, online newspapers, Twitter, Facebook, online encyclopedias, and digital photojournalism. These platforms can be accessed through any handheld digital device and so people are able to share their information at any time and place. The Internet supports different forms of journalism along with an interactive and instantly responsive community; furthermore, it is a place for both professional journalists and citizens. This has led to increasing amounts of people coming to question the reliability of these ‘news’ platforms. The ongoing growth and expansion of these unreliable media platforms has led many professionals to question whether this new media is being misused, do people still follow traditional journalistic practices and ethical codes that were developed throughout the past century? Is new media compatible with old ethical codes practiced by many professional journalists?

In order to keep up with this constant development of media, below are new ethical codes that were reinvented and modernized to be compatible with both new and old forms of media, ranging from old journalistic practices in print media to new electronically-based media.

Accuracy

One of the principle values that most journalism associations agree on is accuracy. To attain accuracy, one must be committed and transparent in their work. Because most news distribution occur online and so rapidly, pressure and time should not result in speed distribution, which may cause inaccuracy in the content being distributed, failing to report information accurately results in the loss of credibility. When publishing information, one must make sure that the headlines used link directly with the content of the publication. Differentiating between opinions and facts (news material) helps prevent the dangers of spreading rumors or false information.

Sources

1. Use original sources whenever it is possible

2. The newspaper and journalist should always verify the sources before releasing any information

3. If possible, obtain documentation of the sources to increase reliability

4. Maintaining original context of the content being published such as quotations, clips

5. Mention details on how and whom the source collected their information from to increase the level of accuracy

6. Validate the identities of the sources

7. When using someone else’s story make sure you credit the source or rewrite the information before publicizing it

8. Failing to credit other sources and using their ideas or analysis maybe regarded as plagiarism

9. Prevent using unverified sources and their information as facts

Transparency

When obtaining information through social media, prevent hiding your identity. In some cases, journalists must go undercover when the information they seek is not obtainable; later on, this dishonesty is explained to the audience. As a journalist, the sources you use to gather the information must be identified as well. When there is an apparent reason for choosing anonymity, then sources should not be mentioned and an explanation is offered for this need of anonymity. When anonymity or unnamed sources are being used, giving the sources statuses helps increase the level of transparency. Some publishers are not comfortable with publishing their works under their real name; in this case an explanation is required on the reason behind this choice. Authors are also required to avoid using pseudonyms unless the topic of their story is of subtle context and they prefer to not have their personal names connected to the story. Any possible bias or underlying assumptions on the part of the named or unnamed source should be publicized. When other associations pay for the organization’s expenses or payments were made in the process of obtaining information, the audience must be aware of such actions and procedures.

It is common to make mistakes when publishing a story online, when this happens effort is put in to correct the mistake in the shortest period of time. If any content that has already been publicized or uploaded online and is removed for reasons that engages with the safety of the public, ethical violations or other valid reasons a clear explanation to the public is required to show the transparency of the publication site. Acknowledging such mistakes to the audiences increases the level of transparency and honesty but there must always be a clear and careful explanation behind such avoidable errors.

Fairness

Fairness is as important as accuracy is in the world of journalism; objectivity is also an essential aspect for publishing news and information across different media platforms. When telling a story, one must make sure to maintain objectivity by showing all the different sides of the story. Furthermore, a journalist can increase the accuracy of a story by being truthful when reporting and writing, thus increasing the fairness of it. Part of what makes a journalist professional is being able to prevent including personal biases within the content of the publication that influences the readers to understand the information or publication the way the journalist wants them to. If a source requests the publisher to not post or expose any of the information they provided, then the journalist is morally obligated to be fair and respectful of their wishes, even if the information is of public interest. Many critics argue that journalists fail at being fair in their publications, one way to avoid such critics is to make sure that the publication is completely honest and balanced in representing all sides of the story. To avoid the prioritization of commercial or political considerations is to follow the main journalistic values of honesty, fairness, reliability and courage. When covering all different sides of a story, sharing the voices of the unheard increases the fairness when at most times only those with the powerful opinions stand out. One method that helps balance problems and increase fairness in breaking news situations, is to see reader reactions and gather information from the audience to have their point of view on the story taken into consideration.

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