It’s called Eth-ics.

Posted: April 20, 2011 by Leanne Osmond in #7 Ethics

The media landscape now, compared to how it was the “good old days”, is very different.  I wasn’t even alive in the good old days, and I can see it the change that’s taken place. I grew up in the transition zone — where everything slowly became digital until what’s left is the vast expanse that is the internet. It’s overflowing with information — both correct and incorrect — and journalists are now faced with having to explore and make sense of online media.

Social media tools like Twitter create problems for journalists and news organizations alike.  The demand for news now has placed the requirement on journalists to be fast. And not just fast, but correct. To me, this hardly makes any sense. How can anyone expect to increase the speed without making the accuracy of the content suffer? At some point in time, mistakes will be made.

By now just about everyone should understand the information on the internet needs be taken with a grain of salt until somehow, it can be verified. Unfortunately this isn’t as widely known as it should be. The reality is the publication of the written word simply doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to — with the click of a button literally anyone can publish anything. Obviously, this will, and has, brought several ethical issues to light. One of which revolves entirely around Twitter — is it a trustworthy news source?

In a nutshell, my response is No, but it all hangs on one word — trustworthy. Should that word be removed and my knee-jerk reaction is to say yes, twitter IS a source for news. I get a lot of my news there, however the difference is I’m skeptical of everything posted on the site until I can be sure it’s true. The need for fast news is where the problems creep in. With little time to check sources, some journalists have fallen into the habit of not properly checking the facts, taking the accuracy of a post for granted.

And this is where the ethics come in. What can be classified as a trusted news source? Sure, not everything on Twitter is bogus, but often found are variations of the truth which are just as dangerous – albeit a journalist or a news organization would look much better making a correction on a half-truth than a rumour.

It is simply good practice to verify facts from three credible sources before publishing anything, and to my knowledge this is the practice of many news organizations. Whether or not this is still the case, is another story. I feel the majority of [online] stories are turned with one, possibly two sources to verify the facts and the rest is taken for granted. This can lead to a number of problems, namely publishing false news and the many corrections that come along with it.

Were an issue like up to me, my instinct is to say it’s important to be able to verify stories from more than one source, and thus I would try to enforce the need to prove a stories credibility before it’s fully pursued. The key word in that sentence is try because I feel like that’s probably as good as it can get in a world that’s as fast-paced as this one. The demand for fast news isn’t going away and in reality there isn’t always enough time to triple-check the facts.

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