Ethics in Journalism? Read Here Caribbean Reporters

Following a social media discussion on the recent phenomenon of journalists in the Caribbean appearing to show political bias in their reporting, I thought I’d dig out my old Society of Journalists Code of Ethics. Instead of having to riffle through boxes, I dug with my fingers. A google search and a couple clicks and there they were, the 4 basic principles all reporters should follow.

Now for the Caribbean translation:

Talk Your Talk (Speak the Truth): Unlike the 3 canal song which states “Talk your talk you roarin’ pretender”, journalists, should always report facts – not views and opinions. Indeed, it is this very ethical code that so distinctly allows announcers and talk show hosts to fall OUT of the realm of the journalistic profession (no offense meant and none taken – I once hosted a talk show). The truth, (dare I say) “my dear friends” is not dotted or coloured with the tone of opinion or the potential stench of a personal view. The truth is what is it – facts, supported by research and reported with additional frills of ACCURATE quotations and the image (or two) that support same.

“What happens in the Dark, always Comes to Light” (Act Independently): True journalists “owe” no favours. Acting independently means reporting facts without the influence of an outside entity – whether it be a sponsor or worse, a person offering financial reward for a story slant. As a reporter, your facts should be able to stand up to queries and your dealings should be above board.

Minimize Harm: This one SO important, no colloquial phrase to go with same.  SHOW COMPASSION! Consider the families of the murder victim and how THEY will feel to see the body on the front page of the paper. Consider the harm of publishing the names of two school children found with underage pornography for all to see and read. Consider the impact of a slanted or poorly reported story about race relations in an already race sensitive nation.

Who Doh Hear, Does Feel (Be Accountable): A journalist that does not welcome feedback is not a journalist. Criticism can be hard and corrections can feel worse but the willingness to accept same is what separates the sheep from the goats. Shutting out feedback just makes you, as a friend once told me, a goat (LOL) and while you may not always agree with what your audience says, you always grow from the experience and we need some grown up reporters!

So journalists, budding journalists, rogue announcers and fellow bloggers, spread the Code and more importantly, use it. Would love to say I had a hand in helping the media improve – but even I not so bold!

 Hugs

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One Response to “Ethics in Journalism? Read Here Caribbean Reporters”

  1. Kevin Says:

    I endorse everything said here. The press are our so-called 4th Estate, and freedom of the press is an enshrined right in our constitution. (section 4(k)), which basically means that the state cannot interfere with the operation of the press.

    For this reason, the press but exercise their function responsibly. Not to go all Spider-man on you, but with great power comes great responsibility. I would add to your section on reporting the truth, the maxim “audi alterem partem”- hear the other side, so that if you are reporting on a matter in which allegations are being made, and I use allegations here in a very wide sense, then it is incumbent on the responsible reporter to attempt to get aw response from the other side… something which is not observed enough in my view.

    Also, the use of quotations can be dangerous. One can easily take one or 2 quotations out of context, and give a story a completely different slant from what happened.

    I would also say that unfortunately, the trend around the world is for journalists to colour their stories with their biases, especially political biases (observe the coverage of the UK elections by the Conservative sun and the Labour Daily Mirror)

    Of course, I would also say that opinion shows, columns etc have an important role to play as well, but they should always be recognised and acknowledged as such and not passed off as news, or worse yet ought not to colour their news presentation.

    IS my experience that journalists are yet to come on board with accepting or even encouraging feedback, but I think that this attitue is changing and hopefully we will see more acceptance of this later down the road.

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