As mentioned in class, many of the entries in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics are legal issues in addition to being ethical issues. Testing the accuracy of sources could save a journalist from being sued for libel. The code tells journalists to never plaguarize, which would be copyright infringement. Many of the entries relate to the main point of journalism — to accurately covey news stories to the public. There would be no point in journalism if journalists broke many of the rules in this code of ethics that remind writers to be honest and accurate in what they report. False information isn’t really news. Following the code helps journalists do their jobs correctly.
Al Tompkins’ “Social Media Guidelines” are important for journalists, but many of his comments extend to anyone in a professional field. Anyone in a professional field needs to be careful about posting personal information where it can be viewed by the public and potentially misinterpreted.
I would report the story on residential pot growers, but I would disguise the face and voice of the man in the interview. During the interview, the man said he was safe from robberies because no one knew he was growing marijuana in his basement, including his neighbors. This is no longer true. Everyone can clearly see his face and track him down and his interview could bring crime into the neighborhood. The carriers of the story have a responsibility to not put the neighborhood in danger by publishing the story. I would not publish the intersections of residential marijuana growers because that could also bring crime into the neighborhood, placing an additional burden on the growers’ neighbors who could be wrongfully targeted.
Though I believe that the story is certainly newsworthy, I would not post the video of the fatal luge crash. I believe that posting the video goes against several of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics. The first entry under “minimize harm” is “show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage.” The man who died during the Olympics has a family and friends. Showing the video of his death would be highly offensive to these people. The third entry under the same heading reminds journalists that private people have a right to control their information. “Only any overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.” I would consider showing a man’s death as intrusion into his privacy as well as his family’s. Yes, the story needed to be reported, including a description of the manner of death. That is highly newsworthy. But I do not think the public has an “overrriding need” to see the actual impact that caused this man’s death that would be needed to negate the dignity of a human life. Maybe my website wouldn’t get visited as much following the crash as someone who did post the video, but I believe that out of respect for the man killed and his family, the dignity of his life should not be compromised for a story. Why bother having a code of journalistic ethics if journalists are not going to seriously consider adhering to those ethics when a hot piece of highly sensitive news comes their way.