I recently joined the Society of Professional Journalists. Though Raw Travel is not a “news” show and veers closer to opinion, I do base my views on what I observe and journalistic integrity… AKA the truth as I am experiencing it.
Among SPJ’s code of ethics, I agreed to:
1) Minimize Harm
2) Act Independently
3) Be Accountable & Transparent.
All are pretty straightforward and reasonable, in my opinion. SPJ also has an ethics hotline, should one find oneself in a grey area with questions. And they have this cool newsletter called Quill with some insightful articles (written by actual journalists).
For those who scream “fake news” for any info that challenges their ideological world view, and for those who support folks in power who rage “enemy of the people” because the media are doing their job, and even for those who just those take freedom of an independent press for granted, please consider where we’d be if the only news we received were from the government.
In the US, we not only choose our government (thus getting what we deserve, as opposed to say the Chinese or Cuban people), we have a mind-numbing choice of media. Perhaps too much so. China, Russia, Cuba, and many other countries that don’t have a free press ALSO don’t have a difference of opinion. It’s all very harmonious, at least outwardly. There’s only one opinion, the one that’s handed down from the government—no dissent, no complaining or protesting to create a better society. You have to live with the one you have or risk the considerable consequences (two doctors that complained about lack of PPE during the COVID outbreak in Moscow “fell” out of hospital windows, just a day apart. What a crazy coincidence?)!
If you think THAT just one opinion is a good thing, might I suggest YOU be the one who needs to move to Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, or China? That’s not how the USA has ever rolled since its founding. The fact that one can complain that one doesn’t like people protesting is a protest itself. Freedom of speech, while absolutely NOT absolute, is not dependent on who is saying it, or the popularity of the opinion.
That said, any institution, including the press or “the media,” is made up of tens of thousands of individuals, and individuals are imperfect, and there are some very valid frustrations with some members of the press. What I like about large “mainstream” organizations is that there are layers of people with checks and balances and lawyers to fact check and guard against libel or defamation. What I dislike about large organizations is that there is a lack of independence, and there are layers of people with checks, balances, and lawyers. (What I hate about the word “mainstream media” is that the people screaming it loudest, Fox News Channel, is part of a media conglomerate and is as “mainstream” as they come).
I often share frustrations with the media, an industry I’m intimately involved in, especially of outlets that don’t adhere to the code of ethics mentioned above, which I will also argue are NOT legitimate “press” in the first place. Any outlet blatantly choosing ideology over facts, is simply practicing the art of propaganda.
Facts should be presented by the media openly, honestly, fairly, and without apparent bias. Now that doesn’t mean you won’t perceive bias, especially if the facts being presented make you uncomfortable and challenge your current beliefs. That is only our human nature (“my son would never hurt anyone,” says almost every murderer’s mother).
Opinions, however, are different, and they should never be disguised as fact, as they, unfortunately, are so often these days. They should be transparent and should hopefully be formed based on an independent, careful analysis of observed facts. That too doesn’t happen much these days (see the latest libel lawsuit against Tucker Carlson”, who’s lawyers claim Mr. Carlson is not beholden to facts. Wow.)
And alas, when (not if) it all just becomes too much to bear, we have the joyous choice of turning off the TV or computer and not reading the paper, etc. Blaming the media for “too much information” is like blaming the local Shoneys, Bonanza, Cracker Barrel, or Tad’s for a “too big buffet” if you overindulge repeatedly and are grotesquely obese. Many of us eat at the buffet of information, but we have to be mindful not to overindulge or to consume a healthier, more varied media diet.
This post is a long, meandering way of saying the article below sheds some light on mistakes journalists have made and how they could do a better job covering COVID 19. I found it useful and enlightening and thought I’d share it for both the media skeptics and the media fans to consider.