Journalism Code of Ethics – Quality vs. Speed
We live in a world where speed means everything- the faster you can go, the more you get to accomplish. Think for a second of all the activities you do in a day: you wake up, take a shower, blow dry your hair, do your makeup (well some of us), listen to some tunes, listen to the morning radio, eat your breakfast, grab a coffee at Tim’s, go to class, hang out with friends, listen to your iPod, watch television, go to work. Therefore, it’s obvious why we want our news NOW, not later.
A lot of news rooms go to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to find news, some look at blogs and Youtube to find leads. When we rely on news from our viewers, some can be good- others bad. We have to realize that our viewers are not professionals and not every story is worthy a voice. Due to 24/7 news channels like CNN and CBC News World, we rely on almost ANY story to fill in space. These stories includes a lot of entertainment news such as Charlie Sheen going crazy, Lindsay Lohan is crazy and allegedly a thief, and Justin Bieber has a new haircut. To think we have all of this time to cover genocides and rape in Africa, young girls prostituting themselves in order to afford Scientology, and we don’t do it. If I were to write the Code of Ethics for Journalism, I would include more time for international news rather than infotainment. We have the speed and technology to do so, so I don’t understand why we don’t? Our job is to inform the public, especially about human rights and injustice.
However, when we speed up the process, fact can be blurred with fiction or opinion. Journalists must always, ALWAYS, verify their stories and facts. When looking at Twitter, for example, people are constantly updating their statuses and can do so in seconds. It is hard to add any background context to a story with only 140 characters to do your status. For example, when the “roof collapsed” at Regent Mall, everyone tweeted it- however, when you looked at the background and context, only ten ceiling tiles fell and broke. The worst to see is journalists reporting on “fake deaths”- like Gordon Lightfoot. He’s not dead but a journalist in Toronto wrote an article for online stating that he was after reading Twitter. This reporter could have EASILY called up Lightfoot’s agent, family member, or even old Gordon himself! In my Code of Ethics book, I would create a policy where reporters who choose story ideas from any blog, social network, or online must verify with the editor, all facts, and find at least 3 contacts who can verify that it’s true and to comment.