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.
Journalists have a long history of putting citizens first and holding power to account–and that shouldn’t change just because there’s a new owner on the masthead. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel go even further and say in a Neiman Reports post that this responsibility is “social obligation that can actually override their employers’ immediate interests at times.”
To answer this question, you might go straight to the source. Since launching his HBO series Last Week Tonight in 2014, John Oliver has repeatedly shot down suggestions that his work is a form of journalism. “No, I’m not a journalist at all,” he told CBS News. “Obviously, I’m a comedian.”
Press freedom is under attack, and not just recently. It has been on a steady decline for the last decade, according to the World Press Freedom Index, which ranks 180 countries every year.
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.
That depends on whom you ask, but a lot of U.S. adults and lawmakers in Texas and Florida think so, setting up what could be a showdown at the Supreme Court.