Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Core Principles of Ethical Journalism Remain the Same

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Core Principles of Ethical Journalism Remain the Same

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Clark, Times-Union Reader Advocate

Despite the changes in technology, the core principles of ethical journalism do not change:

Seek the truth. Act independently. Minimize harm.

Here are some interesting observations on the state of journalism.

-- From Michael Gartner, ombudsman of Brill's Content magazine, who describes what "no comment" really means: "If the story is fair and balanced and sourced, you can bet a 'no comment' means, 'You've got me -- anything I say will simply confirm I'm a jerk or a crook or something in between. Nothing I say will help my case.' If the story is unfair and hyped and anonymous, you can bet a 'no comment' means 'You've already made up your mind about me and nothing I say will change that, so I'm not going to waste my time talking to you.' "

My comments: We rely too much on readers making these judgments when more explanation could be easily provided. Brill's Content has another commonsense suggestion. When saying a source was not available for comment, explain how many tries were made. One phone call? A visit to his house?

-- From Tom Rosenstiel in Neiman Reports, explaining why sources are granted anonymity, called the "rule of transparency": "It would mean that if you are granting somebody anonymity, you have to write in the story why. And it's an interesting little device because you discover that if it looks ridiculous -- if your reasoning looks like you just couldn't think of anybody else to call -- then don't do it."

My comment: Sometimes the reason for anonymity is more interesting than the quote. For instance, the source did not comment for fear of retribution or the source was ashamed.

-- From Carol Guzy, Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer who was arrested while covering a demonstration, in News Photographer magazine: "There is a delicate dance that occurs between the power of authority and the power of the people, with journalists squarely in the middle. …

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