Monthly Archives: April 2017

Journalism Ethics Question – 01

If I were a theatre critic for a news organization and a producer were to offer me free tickets to an upcoming premiere performance, should I accept the tickets?

On the surface this seems relatively harmless – I’m sure it would be a nice weight off the shoulders of my employers if I could conjure up tickets to some shows myself, and it sure would be nice to afford for my family to go along sometimes. Besides, I like to think I’m a pretty unbiased person when it comes to the arts – my pride would be hurt too much if I let people buy me out like that.

However, I know that I am definitely not as objective and unbiased as I tend to think; and I know that no matter how good I think I am at objectivity there is just no way that would look good on me or my paper if the word got out. There is just no guarantee we could keep it hush-hush – and if word also got out that we were being extra-sneaky, I’m pretty sure there would be a lot of angry people.

But besides my overly high opinion of myself and the fact that to do so would look slimy, taking the free tickets would violate several foundational ethics of journalism. Particularly at stake are the last two sets of principles in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics:

Act Independently” which reads “Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” and “Refuse gifts, favors, fees…” and “Be Accountable and Transparent” which says to “Abide by the same high standards [you] expect of others.” To be an honorable person and journalist, I must uphold myself to these standards.

“Spotlight” mini-review

I just watched the movie ‘Spotlight’ for the second time and a few things really stuck out,  now that I’m an official journalism student:

It is realistic while maintaining a suspenseful story line: when professions are represented in the movies or TV, I’m skeptical as to how faithful they’ve been to the real thing; even if details are basically right, most jobs look really cool in movies – it’s a movie, they only show the interesting parts. In this movie, sitting around reading and writing has never looked so intense and awesome (this is a huge win for nerds). But this is perhaps as far as the dramatization of journalism careers goes. The rest of the movie is sitting around having slightly uncomfortable conversations, face-palming, and outright rage.

The story unfolds like a mystery: it shows the whole reporting process, all the weeks and months slogging away through texts, finding sources, convincing those sources to actually talk to you, convincing the higher-ups that your story is important and you don’t need to find a better one.

The whole of the investigation the Spotlight team undertakes: I grew up in a very legalistic Christian world and the hypocrisy was all around me, every day. That these four people took the time and effort to expose that, to bring it out into the open for ‘God and everybody to see’ is beautiful enough; that Hollywood made a movie about it – a HUGE, award-winning film – is vindication.

I feel the same the second time around as I did the first: I want to go into the field of journalism. I have to. I might not ever be a part of something as big as the Catholic Priest scandal, but there are endless stories someone needs to write, because people need to speak and people need to hear.