Integrity in the News, Based on a Code of Ethics

Integrity in the News,

Based on a Code of Ethics

It’s no secret. I’ve been appalled by the way the media has been covering the U.S. Presidential Election. It seems as though there is a mind numbing Obama love fest going on whenever and wherever the news is playing. The reality is, even at this late date, there has been only a cursory examination regarding many aspects of who Sen. Obama is. What makes up his character? Who are the people in his life? Where does he want to take the country? What’s the deal with his birth certificate? Is he faithful to his family? What does he believe? What events in his past might reflect the kind of man he is? My question is -Why is that?

Most of the other elections I’ve witnessed, you could get a sense of who the media favored if you paid attention. In this election, the bias is so blatant; it’s like a slap in the face. Again I asked the question, why is that?

It has been my understanding that most professional fields have a Code of Professional Ethics that governs their work. My gut has always told me that it is the job of the Press to investigate and report the news in a fair and balanced manner, setting aside personal biases. Now, I’m now forced to rethink the accuracy of my gut’s communication. It turns out the Press also has Credo of Ethics of a sort. I went to The National Press Club website and found Walter William’s Journalist’s Creed. Let’s go through it together, shall we, to see how they’re doing in reporting the news.

“This creed was written by Walter Williams (1864-1935), the man who founded the world’s first school of journalism at the University of Missouri and perhaps contributed more toward the promotion of professional journalism than any other person of his time.”

I believe in the profession of Journalism.

Okay so far.

I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust.

That sounds good.

I believe that clear thinking, clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism.

This “clear thinking” part must refer to the reporter’s duty to recognize his or her bias and put it aside. “Accuracy and fairness”, seems pretty basic. Again, okay so far.

I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true.

Oh my. It’s getting a little slippery here. A reporter should only write “what he holds in his heart to be true.” Hmmm. Let’s go on a bit.

I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.

“Danger Will Robinson!” So the reporter gets to determine what “the welfare of society” means. If a reporter holds in their heart that one person (say their candidate) should be believed when confronted by the accusations of any ordinary citizen; and/or the reporter believes that only people of their own mindset should be in charge because the rest of us don’t “really” know what’s good or bad regarding “the welfare of society”, then they can suppress the news without violating any ethics whatsoever. This is a major loophole as far as I can tell.

I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one’s own pocket book is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another’s instructions or another’s dividends.

“…he would not say as a gentleman…” What? Well who gets to determine that? Let me guess – the reporter. Sure looks like another loophole.

I believe that advertising, news and editorial columns should alike serve the best interests of readers; that a single standard of helpful truth and cleanness should prevail for all; that supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public ser vice.

Holy cow, Batman. Who determines “the best interests of readers”, the meaning of “helpful truth”, and the “measure of its public service”? The reporter, the reporter, the reporter.

I believe that the journalism which succeeds the best-and best deserves success-fears God and honors man; is stoutly independent; unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power; constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of the privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance, and as far as law, an honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship, is a journalism of humanity, of and for today’s world.

Well most of this paragraph read in the light of the preceding tenants is just literary fodder. “Fears God and honors man” must be written in invisible ink the average reporter’s version. It (Journalism) is “constructive” as determined by the reporter/editor. Is “unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power” only if it is different than what is held in their own heart. It is “always respectful of its readers but always unafraid” to suppress the news when necessary for the “welfare of society”. It is “profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship”. So is this also part of the definition of the “welfare of society?” COMRADE Let’s have a shot of vodka.

If this really is the only thing that governs the American reporter’s conscience, we have very little hope of fair and balanced reporting. Regrettably, it may be the case that Larry Sinclair’s allegations that he and Senator Obama did cocaine and had gay sex in 1999 will have to wait until the press decides by their on volition to turn on Senator Obama. You know, the way they did this year to Hillary Clinton. Wasn’t the most glaring example in a Vogue article about Bill Clinton?

Under these rules of ethics, the two men pictured below could both be found to have actually lived up to the Ethics of Journalism. Amazing! However, in my book, only one of them did and the other a tingling problem in his leg.

I leave you with a few quotes:

We cannot make good news out of bad practice.
Edward R. Murrow

If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed.
Mark Twain

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.
Thomas Jefferson

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