One cold morning in November 2020, I was running in Brooklyn with my friend James. We often talked about the various clubs that compose the competitive running scene we inhabit. Sometimes we shared gossip about who was switching to a new club, or which club was falling apart, or who was dating whom. On this particular run we wondered if one of New York’s most dominant clubs, West Side Runners, would still exist after the pandemic.
Many journalists try to be objective in their work, which means they don’t take sides or show bias. But there are renewed calls for journalists to stand up for what they believe is right rather than report from a position of neutrality.
Protect your sources. It’s the cardinal rule of journalism, and reporters hold this promise of confidentiality in the highest regard. Journalists will protect a source’s identity or withhold details of their conversations when revealing these truths would be morally objectionable or life-threatening to the source. Yet, some journalists have broken this sacred covenant when their own security or safety is on the line.
At the very least, journalists must strive to publish reports that are independently verified, accurate, and fair at the time of publication. As news breaks, it’s up to the reporter and editorial team to determine the best way to inform their audience. Significant developments are often shared as follow-up pieces with entirely new headlines and write-ups.
Ethical journalists act with integrity, seek the truth, and report on it. Telling a story of public interest requires transparency on who provided the information and how the reporter acquired it. Sometimes sources or experts will only speak with a journalist if the conversation is considered on background or deep background. The terms are part of a journalist’s reporting arsenal and should only be used when necessary. But some subjects, particularly those in positions of power, have used this type of attribution to their advantage.
It feels like a new conspiracy theory is popping up every day. Just look at the social media posts after Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin collapsed during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Doctors say the sudden hit to his chest caused a cardiac arrest, but within minutes, vaccine skeptics blamed the COVID-19 vaccine.
We’ve all heard the saying, “There are two sides to every story.” And sometimes, that’s true in journalism–and life. But balance is not an element of journalism and certainly not its goal. While reporters investigate both—or many—points of view to arrive at what Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel call “the most complete understanding of the facts,” giving equal time to both sides may not always be fair to the truth.
Representation is a huge challenge for newsrooms, and you’re right– they need to do better. When news outlets consult the same people, again and again, the audience is deprived of a full range of voices, perspectives and even facts. A lack of diversity and representation can also breed audience disengagement and mistrust.
America’s partisan divide is becoming more pronounced, and cable news is stoking these divisions even more than social media, according to a new study that tracked the news consumption of tens of thousands of people over four years.
With any human endeavor, there’s potential for error. While it is the responsibility of journalists and news organizations to deliver accurate and fair reporting, consumers should never assume that everything presented before them is the complete and final word.