Professional Ethics: Journalism

By | March 19, 2019

[March 19, 2019] Modern journalism is at a crossroads. Will those in the profession follow the difficult path that made them so essential to freedom or will they chose the easier path by surrendering to ideological or dogmatic by-products? Leadership in journalism is failing and the repercussions are far-reaching.

“Fake news” is a derogatory term used to describe what journalism produces. When ethical standards are ignored for profit or for advancing a cause, any profession will suffer. That is truer today in journalism than since the yellow journalism era of the late 19th century.

For those journalists who are dedicated, open, and honest, there is some good news. First, ethical journalism is acknowledged to be based on five principles. They provide a solid foundation from which to work; truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity, and accountability.1.2 Second, many in the profession openly admit these principles being ignored and have stood up and are helping bring other journalists back into the fold.3

Sadly, the credibility of Western journalists has fallen and continues to fall; most precipitously in the last decade. Criticism of the profession is that journalists are politically active and allow those biases to influence their work. This is often so egregious that only the ignorant cannot see it. Journalists now just make up “facts” out of thin air to support their viewpoint.

Leaders in journalism are quick to point out that many pressures are difficult to overcome. Profits have fallen, competition from deceitful media outlets and violence against journalists is increasing. Layoffs and good people are leaving; a consequence that is demoralizing.

The problem, in my opinion, is that there is a lack of courage to admit journalism has a serious problem. I was part of the U.S. military in the 1970s when the profession suffered from consequences of the Vietnam War. It took decades to recover. If only we had seen our principles being thrown aside. We wanted to achieve the defeat of a communist government when our political leaders didn’t want victory. No one likes to look closely at our defects, but we did so. The U.S. military emerged stronger than ever.

Journalism is lacking that courage to find what is wrong with the profession and begin to fix it. Denial is usually an early symptom that a profession is going down the wrong path. Leaders in journalism have an opportunity today. Will they take it and begin to rid themselves of a sickness that is destroying the body of journalism as a profession?

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  1. Five Core Principles of Journalism – https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/who-we-are/5-principles-of-journalism
  2. The Society of Professional Journalism also has a ‘code of ethics’ – https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp
  3. http://www.coastreportonline.com/views/editorials/article_81df403c-4d9f-11e8-8fb4-2764c0d112ea.html
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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

24 thoughts on “Professional Ethics: Journalism

    1. Joe the Aussie

      US Pres Trump has been pushing back on fake news since he was elected. He is to be commended for it.

  1. Fred Weber

    There could be a lot said about how journalism has failed as a profession. In fact, most people today don’t want to have anything to do with people who are employed as journalists because they are emotionally driven by a leftist ideology. They are so engulfed in their agendas that they read it in everything they report on. No one can say it’s a problem unless they know what is really happening. We find the real world often shown here at this leadership blog.

    1. Scotty Bush

      Journalists “see” the world thru their rose-colored ideological glasses. Everything is tainted and they not only don’t care but actively promote their personal agenda. If you don’t adhere to it, then you are evil.

  2. Willie Shrumburger

    This is one of the hot topics today and it should be in any really vibrant democracy. The problem is that socialism has raised again its ugly head when the fight for truth and justice is waining.

  3. JT Patterson

    “Tell the truth, at least don’t lie.” quote of Professor Jordan Peterson.
    That is the solution.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Journalists are so blinded by their political ideology that they cannot see that they are not telling the truth.

      1. JT Patterson

        I disagree. I think that the first step in lying is to convince yourself that it is okay to lie. The path of self-deception is a deception in itself.

    2. Max Foster

      If only! If only folks were taught that it is okay to lie, cheat, and steel. I find it common that ordinary folks are told that a little “white lie” or taking a little item from the store without paying is acceptable as long as you don’t “hurt” anybody. How stupid can you get. We start by the little things and grow into the bigger things. Little lies turn into big lies. Etc.

    3. Ronny Fisher

      Dr. Peterson is a breath of fresh air. He tells it like it is. If you don’t like being laid bare, then don’t listen to him. But if you want to be a better person and a free person, then listen and change.

  4. Nick Lighthouse

    FAKE NEWS is not just a derogatory term but is also highly descriptive. I know that here in General Satterfield’s blog he has, in the past, referred to it as BIAS. These are almost one and the same. For those who’ve not read this blog very long, just search for ‘bias’ and you will find his articles on it. He recognized, like so many others, that this is hurting our institutions that have necessary missions to help.

    1. Otto Z. Zuckermann

      I’m not sure who thought of the term ‘fake news’ but it is so much better than ‘biased’ news. The former implies that what they do is done purposefully.

  5. Army Captain

    None of us in the US military can get away from journalists and their bias. No matter how clearly you explain and show them what is happening, their stories are always slanted against us. The shortterm solution is to ignore them but I know that is no real means of fixing the problem.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      I agree and have personal experience with them also. It may be sad but it is up to those in the profession to fix their own problems, not us.

      1. Bryan Lee

        True, Tracey but we are the ones that keep getting kicked in the nuts by them. So, how do you fight back while they are ‘fake news”?

        1. Delf A. "Jelly" Bryce

          You tell the truth. And ….. you must the courage to do so.

    2. Eddie Ray Anderson, Jr.

      Thanks for your observation Army Captain.

  6. Andrew Dooley

    The bias of Western media – which is highly anti-Western democracy – is surprising as it is virulent. I’m less intrigued by bias however than by the degree and speed to which this has occurred.

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