Ethics are an important part of journalism. From seeking the truth and reporting it to being accountable, there are ethical codes a journalist should follow when writing an article for publication.
“It is the duty of a newspaper to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” said Ron Johnson. Indiana University Director of Student Media, quoting humorist Finley Peter Dunne.
The first standard that journalists should follow is to be independent. Sometimes this can be difficult and Indiana Daily Student staff reporter Savannah Worley knows this from personal experience. Worley was doing a story about cutting back campus bus routes because of gas prices. While researching for this story she was put into a position where the two sides asked her to stand up for them and she couldn’t ethically do that.
“I’m giving you a voice, but you have to take your own soap box,” Worley said when she realized the people involved in the story wanted her to choose sides.
Johnson also had a close encounter with the code of ethics. The paper he worked for was covering a story on a victim of a tragic accident. When the photographer came back with the pictures, he had a very poignant shot. It was of the victim’s shoes that had flown off when the accident occurred. The editor allowed the shot to run in the paper, but the next day the victim’s father showed up, angry, because he felt it was wrong that they printed that picture.
Being ethical does not mean never making a mistake. Journalists are humans and humans make mistakes. The worst thing someone, journalist or otherwise, can do is to not be able to admit their mistakes.
“Just because you make a mistake does not mean you are unethical,” said Johnson.
Ethics have not always been around. In fact, they are a fairly new concept and came about in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Even though most journalists follow a code, there is a lot of freedom in journalism because of the first amendment. However, ethics were created in the journalism field because some people take those freedoms for granted.