Week 13 – Journalism News Theory & Ethics: Critical Thinking

1) Should reporters tell interviewees all the ways the interview may be used?

Although interviews may take on a conversational or casual tone, they are held in order to gather information on a person or subject. Regardless of the type of interview that is being held, it is imperative that the interviewee is informed that you are a journalist a sit is unethical should you not inform the person unless the interview could not be obtained in any other way and the matter is in the public interest (Resource, 2016).

Furthermore, it should be stated to the interviewee that the interview is going to be published before you begin the interview even if you are unaware of where it may be published (e.g. Freelance journalism.) The interviewee should also have your contact details and should you change your mind on where or how the information is published, the person should be informed.

As I highlighted previously, there is only one way around not telling an interviewee all the ways in which the interview may be used and that is via public interest. However, this comes with risks and must be proved as the only way of accessing material. To be able to pass the public interest test, according to the Editors Code, the reporter must demonstrate that they reasonably believed that the publication would serve the public interest and have an explanation how they reached that decision. According to John Wilson (1996), public interest isn’t inferred as what interests the public but instead has a more serious matter of informing the public on what they ought to have legitimate interest or concern in.

References:

Resource, J. (2016) Interviewing a source: Rules of the road; Talking with officials and experts – journalist’s resource. Available at: http://journalistsresource.org/tip-sheets/reporting/interviewing-a-source

Wilson, J., 1996. Understanding journalism: A guide to issues. London: Routledge

 

2) How should we handle the biases of sources and avoid skewing the range of viewpoints?

One of the main ethical codes of journalism is that a journalist must remain unbiased and impartial when reporting. In turn, this means showing both sides of to a story and avoiding bias through making sure that both sources and any information that is used is correct. It is imperative that sources are checked as information that may be speculations or rumours.

If a journalist only gives one side to a story, this can have consequences of being misleading their audience. By restricting their view to both sides of the story, their judgment on a topic will be swayed by the reporting. Should this then reflect the views of the journalist, this leads to a bigger ethical implication of influencing the audience with your personal judgment. Kieran (2002) supports this view in his argument that ‘the media have a fundamental duty to be impartial in order to achieve the goal of an objective report or analysis of current events.’

When collecting evidence for a story, the information and facts should be checked to be true and fair and the journalist but be considerate in how this information is reported to make sure there is no harmful affect the audience. By giving an unbiased report, the journalist lessens the possibility of there being any ethical issues within their article.’ Harcup (2007) argues that a journalist’s role is to act in accordance to their ethical standards, with impartiality and unbiased reporting being key.

References:

Harcup, T., 2006. The Ethical Journalist. New Edition edition. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Kieran, M., 2002. Media Ethics [online]. Oxford, UK: Routledge.

 

3) What do fairness and balance mean in the journalistic context?

Journalists should strive to be as fair and balanced in their work as possible. This entails being truthful and accurate in their reporting, along with avoiding an easily inferable report that may allow a reader to read between the lines and therefore create a biased or imbalanced article. “It means a reasonable but not necessarily total distinction between reporting and comment… It means not being swayed by your own highly personal likes and dislikes of individuals.” Gratten (1998)

These are crucial in all reporting but are emphasised when reporting on political affairs as the media acts as a watchdog for the public and must therefore show them both sides of a campaign in order for them to make their own decision without being swayed in a particular direction. This is supported by Section 7.1 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code states ‘Broadcasters must avoid unjust or unfair treatment of individuals or organisations in programmes’

Where impartiality is key in journalism as stated in the BBC Editorial Guidelines, as well as the Neil Report of 2004, it is made up of fairness and balance. ‘Imagine twelve bottles on the alchemist’s shelf, with the following labels: Accuracy, Balance, Context, Distance, Even-handedness, Fairness, Objectivity, Open-mindedness, Rigour, Self Awareness, Transparency and Truth. None of these on its own could legitimately be re-labelled Impartiality. But all the bottles are essential elements in the Impartiality compound, and it is the task of the alchemist, the programme-maker, to mix them in a complex cocktail.’(BBC Trust, Seesaw To Wagon wheel)

References:

Gratten, M. 1998. Richards, I. (2005) Quagmires and Quandaries: Exploring Journalism Ethics. Australia: University of new south wales press ltd. p29

The Ofcom Broadcasting Code. Ofcom. 2015. Web.

Tait, Richard. “From Seesaw To Wagon Wheel. Safeguarding Impartiality In The 21st Century”. BBC Trust. N.p., 2007. Web.

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