Ethical News Values

For news, there is a basic book of guidelines they follow that ensures they have written a well-rounded news story, but most have never read it. They probably skimmed a couple pages to get the gist of it. Among these guidelines are a list of words or qualities that define the news. We’ve heard them all before : Proximity, Timeliness, Conflict, Consequence, Prominence, Rarity, Change, Action, Personality and so on. In these things that are deemed newsworthy, it is up to the reporter to decide the ethics of the situation. The book covers that, too.

As a Communication major, I understand that the traditional way of covering news has become a joke. Covering news in general has become something we joke about when discussing paparazzi, or the way people gather news. ImageImageImage

But it’s news and writing about what is happening is essential as long as there is someone to read it, and its valuable.

Ethical Values are Accuracy, Confirmation, Tenacity, Dignity (don’t worry, I’ll explain), Reciprocity, Sufficiency, Equity, Community, and Diversity. Some of these values overlap but the way society has changed, these values have changed to. So lets get down to each one.

Accuracy

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Accuracy obviously means to gather the correct information for your story. How successful has that been?

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Ever heard of the phrase, “Act now, apologize later?” Or how about, “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission?” These aren’t just phrases. These are policies for journalists. When has covering the news turned into bias, lies and following it up with “whoops” been considered a professional media? That answer is today. Does that make it any less valuable to us as consumers? No.

Confirmation

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This means to write articles that are able to withstand scrutiny inside and outside the newsroom. The fact that most stories don’t today in itself has become newsworthy.

Reciprocity

This means that the reporter will take a “do unto others as you would have done to you” approach. In the end, we are all human and we should treat each other as humans. Its pretty simple, if you don’t want this to be said about you if you were in this situation, then don’t say it about them. This is a hard concept today because people think, “I’m not in this situation, I will never be and that news.” If journalists don’t report these things, they miss out. As sad as it may seem, our society is attracted to bad things happening to bad people and to good people for that matter. We hate seeing good things happen to bad guys, but not every story in the news be about good things happening to good guys. That’s not very newsworthy. Reciprocity is almost dead in journalism because we think we are simply covering a story, no more no less and people shouldn’t take it personally.

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Equity

This is probably my least favorite news value. Unfortunately when these were designed, they were made with the best ideas in mind. Equity means to be on a level playing field of equal opportunity. All sides of the story have been told. It’s the quality of being fair and impartial. This is not in our society anymore unless its used negatively. Most people will fight and put all their words out there and worse case scenario, they publicly apologize. Equity is thrown in to make sure that they have an equal chance. It brings people on the lowest level so people who work hard will have to sink down to those who don’t to make a level field. These two pictures describe our society best.

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Community

How does the community benefit from this story? The community benefits from the phenomena of “twerking” because….. it doesn’t. Mainstream media has almost ruined each and every one of these news values. Most stories as far as hard news goes, benefits the community. We need to know if Tyson chicken had an outbreak in e coli or if a person kidnapped a child near your house. But mainstream media has a way of saying that is everyday news and it is.  We have weird standards now.

 

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Diversity

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Diversity is something in our society that I think has gotten better, but for another reason why we suck, see my last post. America is the most diversified nation in the world, in most people’s opinion. We have come a long way to being a nation of equality although we still have to fight everyday for people’s rights. As a reporter, Diversity means to have all parts of the audience in the story which sounds very hard to do, but not impossible.

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Tenacity

Is there depth to a story? Have they gone the extra effort. Again, this concept has become few and far between but there are some news stories, blogs, and articles that go in depth and deep thought. These intellectual and beautiful stories are my favorite and even ones that go into why people are the way that they are in mainstream media. Its a good break from the generic stories we hear all the time.

 

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Dignity

Has the reporter treated the story and people in it with respect? Respect is a term used loosely or just a concept most fail to grasp. It goes hand in hand with reciprocity.

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Sufficiency

Does a reporter have enough sources to cover this story? This is one of the most important elements of a story and its good that it is still important today. This is a good message for all journalists.

 

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In the end, as long as you stay true to yourself, you will be fine. I wish reporters today would stay true to more of these values, at least in mainstream media. But then it wouldn’t be much of a story in most standards today. What do you think?

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