Journalism’s Paradigm Shift?

Paradigms are long held beliefs that become truths in our lives.  This week I have been considering some of the paradigms that have been shattered, cracked, replaced, or altered.  One really disturbs me this week and that is the definition or JOURNALISM.

Trained as a journalist at the University of Missouri graduating in 1976 with a BJ in news ed, I am offended by what has evolved in the profession.  This week, I have become incensed enough to speak out.

Journalism is–now was–a profession that served as a watchdog for the public.  The journalist was trained to maintain objectivity, honesty, and fair play.  In the past 15 years, the profession has deteriorated.

This week one of the oldest programs in journalism sent its entire anchor team to attend the Golden Globes.  The amount of time and money this production commanded may seem appropriate but I disagree.

The emphasis professional journalists now place on following the Hollywood characters now places them into an entirely different career category.  The journalists are now part of the paparazzi.  Journalists are even being marketed as Hollywood personalities themselves becoming part of the story they are suppose to be covering.

The pride I had in earning my journalism degree from MU has now dwindled as I witness the deterioration of the profession.  At a time when the political parties are failing the constituents and the government is seldom a unifying factor for the people, journalism needs to serve as the fourth branch of the government once again.

The journalism profession must repair its image.  The journalists must check themselves that they are maintaining the Canons of Journalism rather than destroying the integrity of the profession.

During the Spanish-American War, the term yellow journalism described the less ethical  behaviors of journalists.  During early 20th century, many journalists formed the paradigm of journalism that established a trust between the public and the reporters.  Now, what does the public do?  Who can the public trust?  Can the profession rebuild its character and regain public trust?

A challenge:  Journalism schools must evaluate how thoroughly the canons are taught.  Checking sources must be required.  Professors and Editors must accept the responsibility to require veracity, check sources, and insist on quality final products.

I long to tout the journalism profession once again.  I need to find reasons to proudly declare myself as a trained journalist, a trained educator, and now a UMC local pastor.  These three professions can co-exist as long as the foundation is ethically maintained and the purpose is to maintain the democratic culture which birthed journalism.  The paradigm needs to be maintained even though the methods of communicating the news continue to improve so everybody has

The Canons of Journalism:  [Accessed on January 13, 2016 at http://ethics.iit.edu/ecodes/node/4457.%5D

American Society of Newspaper Editors (1923)

The primary function of newspapers is to communicate to the human race what its members do, feel and think. Journalism, therefore, demands of its practitioners the widest range of intelligence, or knowledge, and of experience, as well as natural and trained powers of observation and reasoning. To its opportunities as a chronicle are indissolubly linked its obligations as teacher and interpreter.

To the end of finding some means of codifying sound practice and just aspirations of American journalism, these canons are set forth:

I. RESPONSIBILITY: The right of a newspaper to attract and hold readers is restricted by nothing but considerations of public welfare. The use a newspaper makes of the share of public attention it gains serves to determine its sense of responsibility, which it shares with every member of its staff. A journalist who uses his power for any selfish or otherwise unworthy purpose is faithless to a high trust.

II. FREEDOM OF THE PRESS: Freedom of the press is to be guarded as a vital right of mankind. It is the unquestionable right to discuss whatever is not explicitly forbidden by law, including the wisdom of any restrictive statute.

III. INDEPENDENCE: Freedom from all obligations except that of fidelity to the public interest is vital.

1. Promotion of any private interest contrary to the general welfare, for whatever reason, is not compatible with honest journalism. So-called news communications from private sources should not be published without public notice of their source or else substantiation of their claims to value as news, both in form and substance.

2. Partisanship, in editorial comment which knowingly departs from the truth, does violence to the best spirit of American journalism; in the news columns it is subversive of a fundamental principle of the profession.

IV. SINCERITY, TRUTHFULNESS, ACCURACY: Good faith with the reader is the foundation of all journalism worthy of the name.

1. By every consideration of good faith a newspaper is constrained to be truthful. It is not to be excused for lack of thoroughness or accuracy within its control, or failure to obtain command of these essential qualifies.

2. Headlines should be fully warranted by the contents of the articles which they surmount.

V. IMPARTIALITY: Sound practice makes clear distinction between news reports and expressions of opinion. News reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind.

1. This rule does not apply to so-called special articles unmistakably devoted to advocacy or characterized by a signature authorizing the writer’s own conclusions and interpretation.

VI. FAIR PLAY: A newspaper should not publish unofficial charges affecting reputation or moral character without opportunity given to the accused to be heard ; right practice demands the giving of such opportunity in all cases of serious accusation outside judicial proceedings.

1. A newspaper should not involve private rights or feeling without sure warrant of public right as distinguished from public curiosity.

2. It is the privilege, as it is the duty, of a newspaper to make prompt and complete correction of its own serious mistakes of fact or opinion, whatever their origin.

DECENCY: A newspaper cannot escape conviction of insincerity if while professing high moral purpose it supplies incentives to base conduct, such as are to be found in details of crime and vice, publication of which is not demonstrably for the general good- Lacking authority to enforce its canons the journalism here represented can but express the hope that deliberate pandering to vicious instincts will encounter effective public disapproval or yield to the influence of a preponderant professional condemnation.

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