4-2 Blog: Mistakes, False News, and Errors

1.- Whether or not you think the modern trend of “report now, apologize later” by news agencies is a violation of the SPJ’s Code of Ethics.

The modern tendency towards choosing to report now and apologize later is clearly violating the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics; which function as our profession guide and is also an essential component that protects us from diverting our judgment and lose the central meaning of our role.

The main negatives issues that I see in this new tendency, “Report now, apologize later”, are:

  • The credibility of the media is negatively affected – Loss of credibility.
  • The harm caused by this action might be irreversible – To the families, friends, and communities.
  • Unverified reporting could have unintended consequences for its investigation (Carter, 2013) – Avoiding a transparent, objective and impartial investigation.

Certainly, about the called we have as a journalist who would be dismissed if we do the “Report now and apologize later” essentially are:

  • Verifies the information before releasing it.
  • Diligently seek out subjects of the news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

I believe it is also important, as Steve Buttry’s mentioned in “Journalists’ code of ethics: Time for an update”, we must seek for the truth, looking for fact-check, documentation, videos, eyewitnesses, etc. and not only “to balance the information” (Buttry, 2010) that might lead us to a “Parroting of dueling lies” (Buttry, 2010).

In the same way, in this particular issue and relating on Buttry’s recommendation, is important to highlight that a journalist must do its best to obtain a response to the allegations and if this is not possible the journalist should reflect it in its initial stories – the effort made to get a response (Buttry, 2010). In the end, the response should receive prominent play wherever it comes (Buttry, 2010).

2.- Should we expect (or demand) more evidence to verify information before it is reported to us?

As consumers we must demand accurate information all the time, and also, we should expect more proof than what once have from news organizations and other information sources claiming to serve the public (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2010); however, is essential remind that in the age we live, the one that we are our own editors in “show me” versus “trust me” age of information, the act of evaluating evidence falls more directly on us as consumer (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2010).

Of course, we must keep in mind that the nature of information and the context influence our level of skepticism (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2010); and therefore the amount of evidences we might require from each report. In this sense, is relevant knowing that the importance of evidence does not rely only on its amount but in its quality too; there is a relationship, a link, a direct relation between the evidence and the sources.

In the end, even if we demand more evidence to verify information before reporting us, we must look for our own ways of verification. Finally, it is critical recognizes that looking for and knowing how to understand the evidence is how we can distinguish more reliable information providers from those less reliable (Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2010).

3.-  Who is to blame for this trend? Should we, as citizens, demand more from our news agencies, or are we, with our desire for immediate knowledge, the culprit?

The main factor that has been a trigger for this trend is basically what is calling the “New era of information”, “the new Media”, primarily “social media”. Everything goes faster day by day, including the news; the media have less chance to verify the news before the spread of it by others. The need of immediate information by us the consumer is undeniable, we have a share of responsibility for this situation.

But, none of these are excuse to spread unverified news or what the same is, “report now and apologize later”. As the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethic establishes “Neither the speed nor format excuses inaccuracy” (Society of Professional Journalists, 2014).

It is a fact that times are changing, the urgency of news is one of them; but, regardless this reality the accuracy of news can’t be the one suffering these changes. We, as media, need to adapt our processes, improve them in a way that serves the urge of immediacy of the “New area of information”. This is a challenge we have as a medium; our credibility is not in the game, so we must find an appropriate, smart, creative and different response to this new and challenging tendency.

Reference:

Buttry, S. (2010, November). The Buttry Diary. Retrieved December 2014, from The Buttry Diary: http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/journalists-code-of-ethics-time-for-an-update/

Carter, B. (2013, April). The New York Times. Retrieved December 2014, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/media/fbi-criticizes-false-reports-of-a-bombing-arrest.html?_r=1&

Kovach, B., & Rosenstiel, T. (2010). Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information overload. In B. Kovach, & T. Rosenstiel, Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information overload (p. 207). New York: Bloomsbury.

Society of Professional Journalists. (2014, September). Society of Professional Journalists. Retrieved December 2014, from Society of Professional Journalists: http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

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