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.

Whose Fake News Is It Anyway?

“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” ~ Mark Twain
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You might not like what I’m about to say.  I will keep it short.

Confused about fake news?  Alternative facts?  Not sure who to trust anymore?

I have some answers.

Think you know who to trust?  Do you think you of all people in the world know what sources are reliable?

If so, you’re too comfortable.  Sit up straight in your computer chair when I talk to you.  Eyes on me.

Nobody is in charge of providing you with correct information except yourself.  Don’t worry – there is correct information out there.  A piece of correct information is called a “fact.”  A fact is a very special thing.  The top definition for “Fact” on Google is “a thing that is indisputably the case.”

Indisputable.  That means (I’m looking at you, Sean Spicer) we cannot just willy-nilly “disagree” with facts and call it good.  No fact is more true than another fact.  No fact is “alternative.”  No fact is a matter of opinion.

I’m not going to lecture you about facts and fact-checking; I’ll have plenty of that to talk about later.  Right now, my mission is to recommend a couple of websites for you to get started on finding the facts in this world.   This is the part you might not like.

You need to start with Breitbart News.

Yes, that Breitbart News.

If you want to figure out what is Fake News, you need to go to the source of the media companies that are pumping out the propaganda against the rest of the media, or at least anybody who says anything moderately unflattering about the penis size of the most recent man to become president (no offense to non-douchebags who have small penises, it’s really not about that, you know).

You need to read this site, or at least skim it, as often as you read anything else.

Once you are through with your daily perusal of Breitbart, it’s time for a cleanse.  Take it on over to Democracy Now!

Democracy Now!’s War and Peace Report provides our audience with access to people and perspectives rarely heard in the U.S.corporate-sponsored media, including independent and international journalists, ordinary people from around the world who are directly affected by U.S. foreign policy, grassroots leaders and peace activists, artists, academics and independent analysts.

The hosts, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales, are pretty much the only people in the media these days that I can fully trust to bring me nonbiased, bipartisan reporting on the big issues.  If you are rich, please give them money.

By following Breitbart (don’t let “giving them ratings” get in the way of your fact-poking), Democracy Now!, and all your other favorite news sources in-between, you can examine the differences: what is reported, and how and for what purpose it is reported.

Take these Breitbart New headlines (read them!):

And these Democracy Now! headlines (also read these!):

For further helpful reading, check out these NPR articles about Fake News and Fact-Checking:

 


Has your life been directly, negatively affected by fake news?  Here is a good place to start: NPR: What Legal Recourse Do Victims Of Fake News Have?

 

October Photo Project: Day 31 – Happy Halloween!!

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What a zany bunch!  My apologies to everyone else who was indeed at the party but left before I thought about getting the camera out. 😛

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Well, that’s the end of the project!  I did it!  A month is definitely much more realistic than doing a year-long project, at least for me.  Now, on to deciding whether to do NaNoWriMo or not.  I have…one hour to decide; although it wouldn’t hurt me too bad to sleep on it, I’m sure.

 

October Photo Project: Day 26 – Curtis the Trucker

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This sweet boy wandered up into our yard Sunday and ended up staying the night on the porch.  No tags, no collar, no nothing.  He looked well-fed and was very friendly (albeit he wasn’t sure what to do with cats), but we can’t figure out where he would have come from if he decided to make his temporary home in our yard.

We named him Curtis the Trucker.

Monday afternoon our neighbors took him to the Humane Society, which I was happy about (or trying to be happy about amidst the other range of emotions the situation brought up) – he had tried to leave with us when we got in the car to go to school that morning.

I hope he has found his parents or will soon.

Why does this keep happening to me??