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Ethics Class= Better Journalists?


After reading “Journalism ethics classes: Do they make better journalists?” I started thinking if this statement was true. After a semester of learning about ethics in journalism, I personally feel like I’ve learned a lot about ethics. But, I am still not sure if I will be able to confidently make decisions as a journalist and don’t know if that decision will be 100% correct. I am curious to see where everyone else stand after taking an ethics course.

Tom Bivans from the University of Oregon said, “I really believe working journalists are often blinded by the very routine of news gathering and the heavy socialization that takes place when they enter the field. They imagine they have no time to contemplate ethics.”

People believed that ethics was important in journalism, so they started requiring courses to be taken by journalists. However, the important questions I am curious is, “Does taking a couple of ethics course makes someone a better journalist?” “Just because a journalist holds firm beliefs and morals, is that what defines a good journalist?”

I believe that ethics courses open up journalists to different perspectives and have them think in various ways. However, I am not sure if it is the defining aspect that would make a better journalist. Knowing about the ethics and studying about the importance of it is good, but I am not sure if it will necessarily help the journalist in the end. This might just be me because after a class of journalism ethics, I am honestly a little more confused on where I should stand and how I would go about things.


How People of Color Should Be Covered

As you all obviously know, whether because you attended, you heard me speak of it in class, black student organizations within the Five College area gathered together in October for a Black Lives Matter vigil.  In the beginning it went well, but after there were complaints by black students about journalists from university publications taking photos of them without their permission.  Then one student of color asked out loud, “Why are white people even here?” After this, a significant amount of white people left the vigil.

Some friends of mine later told me that a professor then walked into their class in order to talk about how people of color should be covered in stories.  One friend, who is black, said this professor made her feel invisible, pretending she did not understand when the students of color would say something but would coincidentally wake up when a white student would say the same thing.  A packet was passed out in another friend’s (who is white) with instruction on how to effectively cover stories that feature people of color without implementing bias in the stories.  He said he felt the guidelines were restrictive, but rather, they were only teaching journalists how to be sensitive when it comes to marginalized groups in society.  The friend then brought the packet to a white male professor, who also felt it was “strange” for reasons of apparent limitation.

Not only does this make me upset, but this to me, clearly illustrates that the vulnerability   of marginalized people, particularly in media, is not only overlooked, but perceived as nonexistent.  And this makes me feel as though minority students are literally seen as not present in some discussions even when they’re very present and aware.

Should racial coverage be a required course in journalism departments?  If so, what elements should be taught?  How should students be made aware of why covering POC is so important and what history should we teach them to provide background on how negative images of certain groups of people have been created?

Also, should journalism professors be required to take training courses on how to interact with students of color?  It may sound ridiculous, but you would be surprised to learn how some professors are just as ignorant as students when it comes to race and what is not acceptable when discussing it.  A good example is the situation that happened with my friends, and another is that my sister recently told a white professor she was reading what she thought to be a good book by a Latino author, and he asked her if she only thought it was good because it was “ethnic.” The idea that only minorities have ethnicity (when, in reality, we all have an ethnicity) comes from an idea that having ethnicity means being “other” and in his view, apparently being “other” was synonymous with some form of inauthenticity.

Overall, should colleges and universities, particularly journalism departments, take the first measure in eradicating bias by teaching courses that acknowledge its existence?


Documenting Tragedy

At what point does a photojournalist say “No, this is too much to publish?”  How much should we show?

There are many factors that help us decide what was too much and what was okay.  First, if the image(s) is crucial to the story, most agree that it should be published.  But once the New York Post published a picture of a man stuck on the subway tracks with a train headed his way, people started questioning whether or not it should have been in the story.  The photojournalist was asked why he didn’t help the man out, which he responded, “If this thing happened again with the same circumstances, whether I had a camera or not, and I was running toward him, there was no way I could have rescued Mr. Han.”  This example was scary but not gory (well, it’s pre-gory) and was obviously showing that the man was hit by the train.

On the other hand, we have war photographers who risk their lives to take pictures that sometimes they can’t even post.  Joao Silva, a photographer who was in Iraq and Afghanistan many times, took pictures while he was being dragged by soldiers after he stepped on a land mine.  He wrote, “The reality is hard work and a lot of time alone. Firefights can be exciting, I’m not going to lie, but photographing the aftermath of a bomb, when there’s a dead child and the mother wailing over the corpse, isn’t fun. I’m intruding on the most intimate moments, but I force myself to do it because the world has to see those images.”

Another war photographer, Greg Marinovich, had much more gruesome photos.  He took pictures of a man who was set on fire.  Someone yelled no pictures, and Marinovich said, “I told them I’d stop shooting if they stopped killing him. They didn’t.”

So at what point do we not share photos? Silva said he took pictures because it was important to show the world the images, especially politicians who send young boys to war.  Marinovich was in a dangerous predicament where he was shot three times in South Africa alone.  He said, “You’re not just a journalist or a human being, you’re a mixture of both, and to try to separate the two is complicated.”  When do we say “okay, the world doesn’t need to see this?”  Is there a limit?

Interviewing Athlete Friends- Conflict of Interest?

When interviewing athletes it’s always a tricky business. Sometimes you have to go through an Sports Information Director or an Athletic Director. Other times you can simply walk up to a coach or athlete after the game and ask them a few questions either before or after a game. This gets tricky, however, when the athlete or coach is a friend, or even family friend. Can you go through with it? In my opinion, no, you can’t.

Why can’t you go through with it? The reasoning that I am using is the biggest ethical issue facing journalism today: conflict of interest. While they are not in direct relation to you you know the person before talking to them and they have the potential to give you slightly slanted answers and answers that will help you in your story.

The only exception to this is if they become a friend after the fact. If they become a friend afterwards that can help you in getting interviews with them and the person will recognize you in the future. Plus they can be a source for you for information in the future when you need to report on the team. The only thing to be careful of is that they don’t start bribing you so that you write the story a certain way.

Interviewing athletes/coach friends/family friends is a no-go when it comes to journalism. It’s a conflict of interest. End of story.

ESPN and their Conflict of Interest with the NFL


I have a lot of problems with ESPN, and the more and more digging I do, the more I wonder why ESPN is still around. To me, ESPN is not journalism, it’s a business. They go around pretending to be an outlet for journalism when in reality the only thing that matters to them is money and the relationships they have with the people giving them money.

Take the NFL, for granted, a league that struck a deal with ESPN for over $15 Billion, which to me seems like a major conflict of interest.

How can a company that says they want to report on sports news do so to the best of their journalistic abilities when such a big sports organization is in a financial contract with them? Isn’t this unethical? There have been a lot of cases of ESPN favoring the NFL’s side on an issue, and you know that’s because of the money. They’re scared if they bad talk the league and the many obvious issues the league has (concussions, corruption of power, labor disputes), they’ll lose the right to broadcast games, which is the only reason ESPN is in business.

Everyone has heard about “Deflategate,” the ‘scandal’ that the NFL refused to lose in an attempt to downplay Tom Brady and the Patriots and all the success they’ve had. A Boston-based journalist by the name of Michael Corcoran reported that in the first seven months after the Deflategate scandal began, ESPN referenced the word “Deflategate” in 844 articles or videos, including Chris Mortensen’s erroneous report about the PSI in the footballs. They refused to let the story die.

Compare this to another scandal, one in which Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam was cited by the FBI in a 120 page affidavit of a five-year-long “conspiracy to scheme” and “defraud its customers” out of millions in rebates for his company Pilot Flying J. During the first seven months of THIS scandal, ESPN only referred to this report 23 times.

That is ridiculous! Haslam is an NFL owner, so anything that he were to do wrong would look bad on the league. Brady and the Patriots have been good for too long, and the NFL wants parity in their league so they thought they could bring the dynasty down. ESPN refused to let Deflategate die, refused, and it seems pretty obvious why.

The conflict of interest grows more and more every time you dig a little further into the topic.

It is believed that the NFL gave ESPN an awful Monday Night Football schedule last year as a punishment. Punishment for what, you may ask? Two ESPN employees, Keith Olbermann and Bill Simmons were outspoken in their criticism of the league and commissioner Roger Goodell.

These two employees are no longer with the company. Coincidence? I’m not so sure.

Comment below with any comments or opinions you may have on ESPN, there’s plenty to discuss.

Did the Media sway voters?

In a recent panel, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison center for Journalism Ethics, a panel of three discussed the role of the media in the recent election. The Panel was composed of Molly Ball, Craig Gilbert, and Michael Wagner. Gilbert started by introducing a question he hears often, “how can the media let this happen?”

Today, in the era of Fake News and Post-truth, many believe that fake news articles are  the reason why Donald Trump won the election. Some even believe that today society is destined for a moral panic, after the influence of Fake News in America.

Gilbert answers this question, addressing the great concern of bias in the media by saying, it is not the job of a journalist to guarantee an outcome and that the blame cannot be solely on the Media. He credits the electorate and the candidates.

Of course, there are many factors of that contribute to this issue.

Wagner says that often people are “biased animals,” and once a conclusion is made, readers tend to stick with articles that reinforce their beliefs. This also leads them to distrust any opposing arguments. He went on to explain that today, people have gone on to trust the news outlet more than the content.

I have to agree with Wagner on this… people always want to believe that they are right and reading articles that are biased in a certain direction gives the reader a sense of credibility of their beliefs. That being said, a question arises…

Are the readers just as much to blame as the news outlets?

Has satirical news gone too far?

The 2016 election has been over for a little over a month now but on Facebook, the same videos keep popping up of people like Trevor Noah or John Oliver talking about Donald Trump and his campaign. The videos usually consist of the host verbally bashing the candidate while the audience cheers until it’s decided that Trevor Noah “eviscerated” someone. My question is, does this help news? These comedians/news anchors get everyone on one side of the aisle riled up calling the other side idiots and then sharing it all over social media for everyone to see.

If I recall correctly one of the reasons Clinton lost the election is because it was believed her fan base stretched farther than it actually did. Is this because of videos like John Oliver or Seth Myers talking about how terrible a person Donald Trump is? I’d like to argue that videos like these are spread through social media to convince everyone that this is the proper way to think and if you don’t think like that you’re an idiot.

In the debate between Trevor Noah and Tomi Lahren on the Daily Show the internet freaked out because Trevor Noah “murdered” Tomi Lahren on his TV show. Is this necessary? The show doesn’t really change anything and if anything, just causes those on one side to dig in deeper. In the interview between the two Noah asks Lahren several rhetorical questions that Lahren responds to causing the audience to laugh at someone from the opposing view. This is not to say Tomi Lahren is a good journalist, she satiates those that are afraid and causes them to come out of the woodwork just as much as someone like Trevor Noah. Both create media firestorms that rack up views, are these views ethical? Do they deliver the actual news? Or do they just cause those on one side of the aisle angrier? By treating someone on the other side like an idiot it just separates people more. It’s funny television, but is it helping us move forward as a country? Do we need more upfront journalism and less satire with someone like Donald Trump as president? Do we need more satirical news?