Media Ethics and the Myth of “Newsworthiness”

With the new adhocracy of the blogosphere, the tired, overly dramatic legacy of professional journalists may be drawing to a close.

The Society of Professional Journalist’s code of ethics states in its preamble:

“Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty.”

But as a blog post to ProgressiveU.org points out,

“Bottom line, big news revolves around; sex, conflict, unusualness, and tragedy, all of which are part of the dramatic imperative.”

The dramatic imperative is no great surprise — most of us have realized at some point that some events get reported in the news and some events don’t.

So how does this dramatic imperative stand up to the SPJ’s code of ethics? Not very well, I would submit:

  • The code of ethics says something about “providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues”. It doesn’t say “providing a fair and comprehensive account of those events and issues deemed particularly dramatic”.
  • The code of ethics says something about “thoroughness and honesty”. The media tell us “here’s a thorough and honest report of today’s important events”. What they really mean is “here’s a report of the most dramatic of today’s events that we were able to produce without the cost cutting too much into our bottom line”. How is that thorough and honest?

So let’s hope the blogosphere can make sure that everything gets reported. Let our readers decide for themselves what they think is important.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: