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Worldwide Ace » Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone

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Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone

15 April, 2010 (09:13) | Media

“Ethics” by political cartoonist Clay Bennett.

For several years now, journalism has been slowly decaying into a ghostly semblance of its former self. Some claim the internet is to blame, providing instant access to information faster and more effectively than the media ever did. Others claim that the wealth of air time has watered down the news into puff pieces and tidbits of useless information. A third theory is that the people simply don’t care enough anymore. All are valid to an extent, but there’s one thing that has degraded the power of the media more than any of these: ethics.

Last week, Time magazine published an article about a French journalist who turned over his sources after writing an article about pedophilia. While it’s true that his sources were despicable people who preyed on children, there simply is no excuse for taking a tradition that allows reporters entry into very secretive arenas and dashing it for a small moral victory.

Journalism is often referred to as the fourth branch of the government, overseeing those in power and disseminating their wrongdoing and corruption so that the people can have a more perfect knowledge of what’s in their best interest. Without the trust of those they cover reporters are helpless to do their job. The next time a reporter wants to do an expose on pedophilia and the ways its attacks on society are perpetrated the reporter may find a far less willing community.  This lapse in ethics by a single person can seemingly cost everyone the knowledge that could help thousands, all for the arrest of a few.

It’s not as though journalists are perfect or have been in the past. Pulitzer and Hearst perpetrated the same sort of evils that Rupert Murdoch has for the last three decades, fixing news, applying spin, and utilizing that power for personal gain. On an individual level, many journalists have sunk to new lows, falsifying stories and photos and seeking acclaim and success for lies. Combine this with the same puff pieces filling in the gaps and media-savvy spin masters who continue to supply journalists with the easy white lies that public relations relies on and it’s no wonder journalism isn’t half the institution it once was.

Though some might call it a stretch, but journalists are quickly suffering the same fate that the clergy is. Much like child molestation charges withering the level of trust priests enjoy, the lack of ethical journalists have whittled the trust writers enjoy. Now, more than ever, journalists and those aspiring to the profession must be held to a higher standard, right along side the standard that judges and priests should be held to.

Whether it’s protecting sources or merely grunting through the legwork of a story, the media, properly functioning as a social and political check, requires a moral and ethical basis that goes above and beyond that of the average person. How to instill such a strong ethos remains a question, but its need is clear. The media will live and die by the ethics and actions of its participants.