CP Editorial: Journalists must follow ethical codes to ensure press freedom continues

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a celebrity. I wanted the photographers and paparazzi to capture my every move. I fantasized about seeing myself in newspapers and magazines. Once I got a little older, though, I started to get annoyed with paparazzi and reporters always putting microphones in people’s faces. I hated the idea of reporters not respecting privacy or personal space. The irony of this story is now I actually am a reporter.

As a child, I never would have dreamed of coming to college to seek a degree in journalism. The decision, however, has been worthwhile. Now that I am studying journalism, I see that this career is more than just writing and pushing to get a story out by the deadline. Journalism is about truth, getting the details correct, grabbing readers’ attention, and most importantly, telling a story. Journalism is something I am passionate about. There are stories lurking around every corner, no matter where you are, just waiting to be told. I love the idea of uncovering details, giving the public a voice and telling the stories of new ideas and research.

Even though I have a deep passion for journalism, some of what I see in today’s journalism pains me. It really does. I have learned so much in my first semester of college about practicing journalism, and I have realized the ethical code of journalism is not being followed by all who call themselves journalists. A recent poll taken by USA Today/CNN/Gallup showed that only 36 percent of Americans believe what they read in daily newspapers. People assume that journalists are spreading incorrect information just to make a story more interesting. While that may be the case for some, real journalists hold themselves accountable to the ethical code of journalism.

Yes, journalism has a code of ethics. Yes, those reporters who are always poking their noses in business that’s not theirs have ethics. We actually have a comprehensive set of ethical guidelines written by members of the Society of Professional Journalists that, when followed, keep us unbiased, fair and accountable. Some of the SPJ guidelines include: testing accuracy, fact checking, never plagiarizing, showing compassion, being cautious, being sensitive, avoiding conflicts of interest, clarifying news coverage and admitting mistakes.

To me, journalism is not just about “being nosey.” It’s about being passionate about the people of our society using our ethics. The First Amendment gives us this amazing freedom of speech and press, and it’s the reporter’s job to make sure that every person has a voice and report the truth about what the public is saying or doing.

A common misconception about journalism revolves around the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and press. Even though this freedom allows the journalist to have an endless amount of stories to tell, it also creates the idea that journalists are allowed to say whatever they want and get the information in any manner necessary. While to some extent that statement is correct (with a few exceptions of some legal issues), journalists’ reputations depend on them abiding by the code of ethics previously mentioned.

For me, journalism is about using compassion with my freedom of speech and press. It is recognizing the hard work an individual has exerted and letting his or her light shine in the community. It’s about reporting the events that benefit members of the community, and bringing awareness to an issue, so that maybe the problem will find a solution.

Examples of breaches to the code of ethics are numerous and easy to find with a quick Google search. It is up to media executives to enforce the ethical standards of the profession and remove those who do not follow the code.

While the duty of journalists is to report the news accurately and fairly, it is also their duty to protect, minimize harm, seek truth and be accountable.

Media rules today’s society. Our society needs more ethical journalists to accurately report the truth instead of harming others or their reputations in order to make a story. Minimize harm when given the opportunity, gather all of the details, seek truth, and above all else, show compassion to your sources and to the story.

Madison Byrd

About the Author Madison Byrd

Hey Tiger Fans! My name is Madison Byrd, and I come from the small town of Keytesville, Missouri. This town may not look like much to a stranger passing through town, but to me, this is where my roots are planted deep. Because of my passion for agriculture education, I decided that the science and agricultural journalism program at Mizzou was the place for me. Through my writings, I hope to give the agriculture industry a voice. Besides agriculture, I have a strange obsession for Harry Potter and the Missouri Tigers! My whole family came to the University of Missouri, and I am so blessed to say I get to follow in their footsteps and earn my stripes. I am very excited about my new beginning at Mizzou and I can’t wait to hit the ground running with CAFNR Corner Post! Go Tigers!