Friday, November 12, 2010

Are media ethics passe?

Hamilton Nolan at the website suggests that media ethics are outdated.

His proposal for replacements: 1) disclose, 2) vote, 3) realize the category "analyst" exists only in the mind of journalists themselves, 4) hire whomever you want, just don't let their investments color their coverage, 5) you can be friends with someone, or you can cover them, but not both, and 6) know that "opinion" is not a dirty word.

My view, as a journalist of many years who followed a strong ethics code: Hogwash!

A more reasoned approach is that, yes, it's very hard to remain objective, and I have nothing against most of his suggestions. I just would work harder. Journalism depends on verification, and that doesn't mean getting an extremist from both sides to weigh in on a subject and then calling it "balanced." It means finding out the facts as best you can, and presenting it in a fair manner. It means not mixing analysis with reporting without clearly labeling it. The problem comes, I believe, often with new media and television, both areas where analysis and commentary are often combined. That doesn't absolve print, but the problem is less there.