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CBS News anchor Scott Pelley on Friday scolded the news media for what he said has been “a bad few months for journalism.”
“Our house is on fire,” Pelley told an audience at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. “These have been a bad few months for journalism. We’re getting the big stories wrong over and over again.”
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been studying the ethics behind Journalism – the high principles that journalists hold themselves to in order to establish trust with their readers. However, at the same time, we are surrounded by examples of unethical journalism and tabloid sensationalism.
The worst part about it is that the least ethical journalism or the stories that have the least impact on us are the ones that get the most click. We saw this ourselves in the Hoofprint.net story about the dress code. People clicked on the story because of a racy photograph rather than for a discussion about the dress code at the school.
News sources need to make money. They make money by people reading their stories, which means their readers see advertisements. It costs a lot of money to provide in-depth stories and stories about big events on-location. It’s easy to fire of opinion pieces, reactions to other people’s work, and gossip. It’s much harder to provide powerful journalism that people will also want to click on.
At the same time as much of the media is providing us with sensationalism and reporting that doesn’t really scratch the surface of big issues, it’s been discovered that the Department of Justice has been spying on Associated Press reporters (and other journalists) who have been trying to report on major news stories. The US Attorney General says the spying was to protect Americans. Journalists say it’s a clear violation of the First Amendment.
So, are we doomed? Is your generation destined to be uninformed and misled? Are you condemned to a lifetime of bad journalism? Is your own attention span preventing you from becoming well-informed people with knowledge of the events, people, and issues that matter the most? You already have to do more work than your parents did just to make sure what you see everyday is real, accurate, and trustworthy.
What’s the point of ethics if newspapers go out of business anyway? Are we really going to have the same ethical guidelines on the web? We already know that bloggers, Twitter users, and other people we trust to give us information every day don’t have special training in Journalism. Who are we going to trust?
What do you think? Are we doomed? If not, why not?