As digital media and their extend use evolve from just a trend and a medium to a stable communication and informative field, a need for an evolution to journalism ethics too becomes urgent. Since the beginning of 20th century the do’s and don’ts for every journalist have been quite clear. But what about now? Blogging, vlogging and even a simple share on a social media platform as Facebook, can be more popular than a professional article in a newspaper.
Journalism is transforming, fundamentally and irrevocably, its nature and its ethics. Now citizens have the right and the means to publish whatever they want, while the internet encourages new forms of journalism that are interactive and totally immediate. A question is emerged from this new journalistic tendency: to what extent existing media ethics are suitable for today’s and tomorrow’s news media use? Are those ethics enough to protect the idea and the meaning of journalism as a source of information or should be created new ethics, new unwritten laws of “healthy” journalism, more innovative and more to the point as it concerns social media platforms?
A first and very important principle, that should be protected in this evolutionary era is objectivity and accuracy. Newsrooms receive all the time information from anyone that has a clue about something but how effectively and fast could newsrooms verify content from citizens. We also have to rethink assumptions. How we can adjust ethics when we have to deal with a profession that must provide instant news and analysis, which is now expressed through much faster mediums.
Furthermore we could say that there is a debate between traditional journalism and online journalism. Traditional journalism has its own values of accuracy, pre-publication verification and gate-keeping. On the other hand the culture of online journalism emphasizes in immediacy, transparency, and as we can see through non-professional journalists and post-publication correction.
On another level, there is also an issue between the suitable ethics for local and global journalism. If journalism has global impact, we should think what its global responsibilities are and how important could be the content that a simple blogger uploads when it can be seen by anyone on the planet. Maybe media ethics need to recreate its aims as to guide a journalism that is now more global than ever in reach and impact.
The “democratization” of media which everyone talks about is nothing more and nothing less than the digital media themselves allowing citizens to participate in journalism and publication. In this way the identity of journalists and the idea of what constitutes journalism is becoming every day and a little more blurred.
In the previous decades, journalists were a clearly defined group and a difficult profession. Usually they were professionals who wrote for mainstream newspapers and broadcasters. The public had no great difficulty in identifying what was called the “press”. Today, citizens without journalistic education and experience and who do not work for the usual mass media behave like journalists, or tend to write as someone who regularly writes on public issues used to be criticized by the audience.Thus it is not always clear whether the term “journalist” begins or ends.
Last but not least anonymity is a major issue as it is accepted much more easier online than in mainstream news media. Newspapers require from all the writers of articles to identify themselves. Codes of mainstream media ethics caution journalists to use anonymous sources in specific cases only. But online many social platforms do not require something like this. Anonymity is now considered freedom of speech and sometimes helping to expose wrong doing but maybe it sometimes encourages irresponsible and harmful comments.
Taking all the above into consideration, I firmly believe that as new media evolves and journalism obtain a new dimension new ethics should be formed too. Only in this way a society of communication and information can be protected from misleading and dangerous content.
Friend, Cecilia and Jane Singer (2007). Online Journalism Ethics: Traditions and Transitions.
Ward, Stephen J. A. (2010). “Ethics for the New Mainstream” The New Journalist: Roles, Skills, and Critical Thinking.