Journalism within the 21st century

Are the ethics being corrupted?

Journalism has been around since man could write — it can be dated back to the 1700s with newspapers, and magazines added around the 18th century; radio and television in the 20th century and the Internet within the 21st century.

With all these changes throughout time, there have also been a lot of controversies surrounding the ethics of journalism and what it essentially means.

Politico.com reported that there have been at least ten journalists who have been caught fabricating stories — most of which stem from high profilers, as well as high profile newspapers and media industries.

Timeline of the top seven journalists who have corrupted media ethics

Does this mean that the ethics of the media industry is being corrupted? Is the public able to trust what the media and journalists have reported to be true? Have journalists and news correspondents alike not been abiding by their journalistic integrity and the journalistic codes?

What is Journalism?

According to Merriam-Webster, journalism is the activity or profession of writing for newspapers or magazines or of broadcasting news on radio or television.

What the definition failed to provide what that it is a passion, a passion to report the truth and say nothing but the truth — it is allowing the general public to be given the truth that government officials have failed to provide, it is not letting anyone stand in the way of what is right and what is wrong.

Difference between journalism and journalist

Traditional journalism may have changed overtime, but the burning passion of what a true journalist never will.

According to the News Manual: A professional resource for journalists and the media, a journalist has a multitude of jobs ranging anywhere from writing to print, television, radio, magazines, etc., it is they who hare relied upon to present news in a well-rounded manner.

There have been many speculations as to who can and cannot be portrayed as a journalist nowadays because the Internet is becoming more prevalent that more and more people are turning to blog sites for their news as well as their social media.

Evan Jones, editor-in-chief of the Southside Messenger, another newspaper company in Farmville, with their main office being in Dinwiddie County does not believe so.

“With the internet becoming prevalent, there is more commercial journalism than anything. One suddenly believes that because they have their own opinion, they are able to just go up to the Internet, make a blog post and people will believe them and that’s not what journalism is about.”

Commercial Journalism is the art of story-telling without having the factual evidence to back up your claim — because of this type of journalism, most journalists in the past and present have perceived the public and their own editors from their “story-telling” articles they have written until they were caught in the act.

Journalistic Ethics

Every different type of media outlet has a different type of journalistic ethics that they must abide by, but with the same type of ethical background of reporting the truth.

According to NPR’s mission statement:

“This mission of NPR, in partnership with its member stations, is to create a more informed public, one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas, and culture within the United States and across the globe. To this end, NPR reports, produces, acquires and distributes news, information and other content that meet the highest standards of public service and journalism and cultural expression.”
Video that entails what the journalism code of ethics is

The standard code of journalistic ethics stem from ten characteristics that every journalist must abide by:

1. Accuracy
2. Fairness
3. Completeness
4. Honesty
5. Independence
6. Impartiality
7. Transparency
8. Accountability
9. Respect
10. Excellence

Journalists are sworn to report nothing but the truth, and they are able to do so with these ten journalistic commandments. As reporters, we must seek the truth, and abide to what we believe is correct.

J. Kendrick Woodley III; courtesy of HSC.edu

Ken Woodley, the editor-in-chief at the Farmville Herald located in Farmville, Virginia just west of Richmond, Virginia mentioned that he had recently hired a graduate of Longwood University who graduated last year that showed him a guideline of journalism commandments.

“The first two are thou shalt be accurate, thou shalt be fair. These are the greatest commandments, the others are unto them if words are in quote marks; it means those words are what the person said exactly, never inject personal opinion or bias into news reporting and never let any editorial position affect your news reporting.”

He believed this was extremely important because journalists are supposed to know enough facts whilst going into the story.

“I told her [Longwood graduate] that you will make mistakes, we all do and when it happens we print corrections — it’s human nature, and no one is perfect; but there are only enough mistakes that we are able to make where it begins to become bad and then we aren’t able to forgive and forget.”

Woodley graduated from Hampden-Sydney College in 1979, and believes that writing is one of the greatest gifts we have been given, and some journalists have forgotten the importance of what it is able to bring to the public.

Why are journalists fabricating their stories?

Since the 1920s journalistic ethics have been corrupted, not just by the media but also by the print newspapers.

One of the very first high profile people to do so was Louis Seibold. Seibold was a reporter for the New York World during the early 1920s that conducted an interview with then President Woodrow Wilson — it was so compelling that he won one of the most profound Pulitzer Prize, the only problem was that Wilson was unable to meet with him due to being incapacitated because of a stroke.

There was no evidence or piece of information as to why he felt the need to infiltrate such a fabrication only for the pure purpose of trying to prove to his superiors and colleagues that he was talented — unfortunately it lead with a lie.

Woodley believes likewise. In an interview conducted at his office, he spoke passionately as to why he felt that the public might have a difficult time believing the media due to how journalists have conducted themselves in the past.

Mike Barnicle was better known as MSNBC as “Morning Joe” throughout the early 90s. He’s always had trouble with the media and the courtroom even though he was involved within the media. After “Morning Joe” he worked for the Boston Globe, and during the end of the 90s he was forced to resign. The reasoning for this was because he plagiarized a column about comedian George Carlin that resulted with the Globe to pick up the damages and paying at least $75,000 in damages.

Another infamous journalist was Jayson Blair. Blair worked for The New York Times writing stories, traveling and interviewing people — or so he would say — some of his famous stories contained wounded Iraq war veterans, and the infamous Washington sniper shooting. The only problem was that he fabricated scenes and filled his content with places and people that were untrue. He was forced to resign in 2002.

In the past recent months, the one who has made the headlines is Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News who was recently suspended for falsely claiming an event that “supposedly occurred” involving an army helicopter that he traveled in during the 2003 invasion of Iraq where he reported it was shot down by a rocket propelled grenade.

Scenes of Williams from 2003 NBC report.

The question now remains, why did these high profile people feel the need to lie about their events in order to advance to the next round? The answer, there is none — at least in my opinion I don’t think there is.

How are you going to sit there and be a journalist when you have no integrity and self-deprecation? A journalist’s job is to help provide the public with the truth and these individuals have failed to do so.

“All we have in this business is our integrity and our pursuit of the truth and we can’t bring anything of ourselves” — J. Kendrick Woodley III

Woodley goes into further detail as to why he thinks that journalists have a tendency to fabricate stories.

“There is vanity, ego, somebody wants to get a headline over someone else — enhance their career.”

Should journalists be forgiven?

As far as their careers go, each of these journalists’ credibility is shot — Brian Williams has been suspended since February of 2015 and has yet to come back to NBC Nightly News, but according to several reports “his stay in purgatory won’t be for long.”

According to NPR.org, “many journalists say they cannot see how he can return, in light of the damage to his credibility in the scandal.”

Brian Williams hosting Lincoln Awards Jan 7. Courtesy of Getty Images Entertainment

In my opinion, he should at least not return for six months to one year because it’s still too soon — granted he’s already suspended for six months with no pay, but if he comes back sooner than expected the public will not be able to take him seriously or his media outlet wherever he decides to go to.

Some reports have speculated that he was moving to CNN, others have said that he is going to stay with NBC Nightly News. The New York Daily news wrote within their article that Andrew Lack, who is the new chairman, is “eager to return Williams to his rightful place as the anchor man.”

Williams did however apologize for his behalf and the lie he gave to everyone, the public, his colleagues, and his boss.

Andy Levy of Fox News wrote on his twitter, “Brian Williams will be fine, if he can survive being hit by an R.P.G, he can survive this.”

It almost goes back to the whole Alex Rodriguez scandal about how he used enhancement drugs to better himself during his season.

Rodriguez was suspended for at least one full season, so what makes Williams any better than Rodriguez when they were both accused of a crime that both of them didn’t admit to in the beginning.

Journalists make mistakes, they have a code of ethics that they must abide by and if they don’t follow that then they’re in the wrong business.

Woodley from the Farmville Herald thinks that journalists themselves don’t get enough credit for what they do.

“I think that most people can abide by the code of ethics, it’s like anything — there’s so much bad news in the world we don’t see many stories broadcast in the news or written in the newspaper about the good things going on,” said Woodley. “Life somebody hurting someone else or somebody shooting someone else and while that’s news [worthy] I think we focus too much on the dark side, so I think we lose track of the fact that [al] most everybody in any profession is doing it honorably and to the best of their ability, but yet hope and high profile cases get a lot of public attention and go back to that stream in the river from the public’s perception, the river or the media’s polluted by the lack of credibility by some high profile people.”

The question still remains, should journalists be forgiven for what they have done?

According to the Columbia Journal Review, “Journalists shall not lie, doing so will diminish their credibility and that of the entire profession.”

Edward Wasserman the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley said, “We regard lying as having different moral weights depending on what our expectations are of the person involved, depending on the motives for the lie, and depending on the consequences of the lie.”

He continued to say, “All of these things have important bearing on how much moral weight and how much condemnation we bring to the liar.”

NBC Universal president Steve Burke said, “By his actions, Brian has jeopardized the trust millions of Americans place in NBC News. His actions are inexcusable and this suspension is severe and appropriate.”

According to NPR.org, The Society of Professional Journalists lists several reasons as to why the journalism ethics is important: “seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable and transparent.”

In a 2013 Gallup poll, 21 percent of Americans have said that newspaper reporters have “a high or very high honestly and ethical standards” as well as an additional 20 percent said the same for television reporting.

These journalists have lost their credibility and if they ever want to get back in the business, they need to prove themselves to the public, the media industry and themselves.

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