Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Journalists and Loyalty

Journalism, as far as reporters should be concerned, is not a business. A newspaper is not a product, and citizens are not customers.

Unfortunately, today’s economy is forcing some to make difficult decisions about where their loyalty lies—with their money, or with their readers. But a noble journalist bent on upholding those principals journalists have upheld and stood for since journalism began will always side with the citizens.

But of course, money is always tempting, and many have chosen to go the other way, giving the rest of us a rather bad name and leaving the public to fend for itself.

There is still hope, though. A group of journalists from created and posted online what they call a “Citizen’s Bill of Journalism Rights.” Among the six tenants of their bill of rights, the committee suggested the public not only has a right to be protected by loyal, truthful journalists, but that they have a right to see proof of that loyalty. To do this, journalists must demonstrate their intent to “understand and reflect the whole community” they represent though stories which address the community’s needs, even if doing so is financially detrimental to the community.

According to last week’s presenters, a news organization cannot be successful in these goals without an owner and managers who are committed to producing quality journalism, not just maintaining a 30 percent profit margin. They must create and uphold high journalistic standards communicated both to the journalists who work for them and to the public.

Ultimately, the responsibility to act ethically falls on the reporter. But while the responsibility for any given decision falls solely on the reporter who made that choice, it wouldn’t hurt if the public were to support those who choose to serve them, rather than the flashy tricks of those who serve greed.

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