American journalism’s code of ethics
Published 10:50 am Saturday, July 29, 2017
Following a corporate career arm-wrestling with Kentucky media, working with our local paper has been a breath of fresh air. Over the past 16 years it has been a privilege to be invited to write columns, sit with its editor and meet the publisher. Likewise, it has been gratifying to submit countless Letters to the Editor for publication.
Compare and contrast what we read daily here in Danville to that which permeates our state and national news. The perpetual onslaught of biased, often acerbic “reporting” is disturbing at the very least. At its worst, modern media often run contrary to our Founding Fathers’ design: a First Amendment to assure a properly informed public on vital issues, be they business, cultural or governmental – locally, in Frankfort and Washington!
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While a graduate student at UK, then later as an English and American History teacher, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics became a sacred standard. What we all too often witness today pales against its lofty tenets:
Would most major papers and evening reporting meet this “short list” of measures?
Accuracy from all sources and avoidance of inadvertent errors
Deliberate distortion is never permissible
Seek out subjects of stories to respond to allegations of wrongdoing
Identify sources whenever feasible [to assure] reliability
Always question sources’ motives before assuring anonymity
Make sure that headlines and quotations do not misrepresent
Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events
Media should examine their own cultural values
Support the open exchange of views, even when found repugnant
Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting
While this is a summary of significant components of fair and honest journalism, we gain a window into the “ideal” that all professionals should strive to achieve. For the sake of the Liberty and Freedoms we all cherish, just as we hold officials accountable, it is time to do likewise with all forms of media.