Loyalty and Journalism

28 Feb

“Journalism’s first loyalty is to citizens”

As cheesy, or cliche as it may sound, I truly believe that journalism is the foundation of democracy. I believe that most of us entering the field of journalism are doing so because we believe in this ideal. We believe in the freedom of the press, and everything the first amendment implies. We believe that a free press is the core of a self-governing society, and that without it, democracy would fail. This is the journalistic ideal–to preserve democracy by serving the public interest through solid news reporting.

Ideals are interesting concepts, however, and the very word makes them seem out of reach and unattainable. I think journalists can serve the public. I think that despite the pressures from corporations, personal values, or political bias, that journalists are capable of being objective observers of history because we all believe in the same ideal. However, reaching for this ideal often requires a large amount of integrity and courage.

I found an article on digitaljournalist.org that specifically addresses what we talked about in class regarding patriotism. A journalist has many loyalties, such as loyalty to family or employers, but there is also loyalty to country. This is a tricky place for journalists, and has been since the beginning of the press in America. The article mentions Kevin Site who reported of a soldier shooting an unarmed Iraqi in a mosque. His story most definitely did not strike pride in the hearts of the American public, and he received hate mail for covering the story, but some recognized his courage and praised him for it.

Is Kevin Sites unpatriotic for showing the military in a bad light, or did he show his patriotism by displaying journalistic integrity? I would personally suggest the latter. I have strong feelings about the military. My family has a rich history of military service, and I am very proud of that. I support the troops completely, but I cannot support one soldier’s reckless and insensitive actions. War is cruel, but that doesn’t mean our soldiers need to be. By exposing these individuals, we remind our soldiers the standard the American public holds them to, and in doing so, stay loyal to the citizens. What’s the use of a free press if we don’t use it to expose corruption?

Another loyalty we discussed in class is a journalist’s loyalty to the corporation they work for. I have pretty strong opinions about this as well, believing that there is no valid argument for when corporate interest should ever outweigh the public interest in journalism. The way I see it, corporations are destroying the institution of news. They buy out news companies and put pressure on them to prioritize ratings and profits over the  journalistic duty to the citizens.

In my Comms 101 class, we’ve been watching videos from the PBS show “Frontline”,  and I found a clip from one we watched recently that I think illustrates how journalists and businessmen have very different views on what is news, and how the news should be treated. (The first few minutes are interesting, but a bit irrelevant. The main part I wanted to point out starts at 2:19 and goes pretty much to the end.)

Here’s a link to video if you have trouble viewing it on the blog.

I loved when Dan Rather talked about the CEO of CBS coming to him and telling him he doesn’t understand business, a very condescending statement, I might add. He replies by saying that the CEO didn’t understand this business, that this big shot who came in and took over the network may have been a brilliant businessman, but he didn’t understand what makes journalism great.

Ted Koppel also discussed what he termed “a great tragedy in American journalism” which is that the news is now judged on how entertaining it is, and how many people watch it rather than how good the reporting is, or how well the journalists have served the public in each newscast.

Journalism needs to return to the core of journalism by putting their first priority in reporting to serving the people of the United States. Most businessmen don’t understand journalism, and I think that is one of the downfalls of the industry. The feeling of public service in journalism has decreased, as has the trust the public puts in the news media, and I don’t think the two are unrelated. Christiane Amanpour said the she belives “good journalism is good buisness”, and I completely agree. People want to know they are getting the best news from reporters who are working in their interest, not the companies they work for, or the political parties they vote for. A return to the journalistic ideal is what the news needs now more than ever.

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2 Responses to “Loyalty and Journalism”

  1. Porter Ellett February 29, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    Great informative post, but I think your argument for objectivity might be a little weak. Not all journalists have the same Ideal, so it is hard to say journalists can be objective observers of history. We should have the same Ideal, but that just is not the way it is.

    • heymace March 1, 2012 at 10:34 am #

      I just want to say I appreciate how many links you’ve included- they are really helpful in their context and easy on the eye, i love it!

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