The Social Responsibility of Journalism Essay
The Social Responsibility of Journalism
The following research paper studies the role of journalism in mass madia nowadays and whether the same media holds it social responsibility in the face if its audience or not. Journalists take an important role in the life of all people. I dare say that journalism is one of the oldest and most important professions. It stands in the equal rank with the job of a doctor even. In my RP I put the stress on the role of good and bad journalists living and working around us. To make all the points clear and to have evidence for every single word of mine I bring various examples, quotations, citing them and analyzing at the same time. My RP consists of two parts, each of them touching upon the two aspects which are the main theme of the RP, i.e. the role of journalism and the social responsibility of the mass media.
In part one I present the basic part of the information of journalistic activity, covering both points set by law and the psychological aspects of this profession. Part one also includes the main characteristics of a good journalist and how the master of this profession should act. Through examples I study and present the ways how a journalist should never behave in any situation. The examples are taken from different mass media all over the world and are cited. Part two touches upon the role of media in the life of people. Here I present media as a power and of course bring examples justifying the fact that media is powerful. Both part one and part two discuss the role of new technologies in the life of mass media but this subject takes more significant role in part two of this RP.
The main centre of worry of part two is how media is used by people. Whether for people or against it, ruining the ideal that media is and must be responsible in the face of public. Both part one and part two end with a question which has some rhetorical coloring in it. I promise myself and my reader to be an honest and objective journalist and that is my approach in the whole RP and my conclusion is accordingly the same: to work only for public good in any situation. But as we are all free to make our choice I leave the choice of my readers to them, just helping with my ideas and my evidence.
GOOD AND BAD JOUNALISM, GOOD AND BAD JOUNALISTS: A FAIRY TALE BASED ON TRUE FACTS Over the years I have finally come to discover what my true passion is, and what I really want to become as an adult – a journalist. Many years have passed and right now I am a student a ready-made specialist with a rich journalistic experience. And now, only now I will permit myself to write this RP on the Role of Journalism and the Social Responsibility of the press based on the great part on my own experience. Press has always been treated as the most efficient tool to influence people. It is not surprising that politicians, authorities and others always used the power of the press and media in general to put their will on public. Their aim was the same and unique: to dictate their wishes to people and to cloud their judgment.
It’s a common knowledge that those who work as journalists should be or are usually good psychologist as the profession needs it as much as the skillful writing or objective reporting. I see several prominent aspects of psychology in the every day work of journalists. One of those aspects of psychology is persuasion. Persuasion has a large presence in journalism. A few key elements of persuasion are source, message, and audience – and the main purpose of persuasion is to seize and retain attention. While journalists aren’t necessarily aiming to persuade people to believe a particular opinion or belief, journalism is all about storytelling and getting out the message to the audience, and seizing and retaining the audience’s attention in doing so.
Another example of psychology I see in journalism is adjustment. Journalists who are having to constantly report bad news, or those who report from war zones, are constantly having to work with the everyday stress so they can form some kind of adjustment without loosing their sense of realism. The purpose of adjustment is to prevent one’s stress from becoming physically and emotionally debilitating, which some would be surprised to learn is a big factor for journalists that are put under such stress from their everyday work. A third, and big example of psychology involved in journalism is perception. Not only does journalism have an effect on how we viewers perceive things in the world, but it also has an effect on how journalists themselves look at the world. An example is a quote from one of my favorite journalists, Richard Engel of NBC News, who’s spent nearly twelve years living in the Middle East. He wrote the following after the five years he spent reporting in Iraq during the most active years during the war: “1As Iraq has changed, I have changed, it has changed my outlook.
Violence and cruelty now seem, to me, to come easily to mankind; a new belief that disturbs me. But I am also more appreciative of how quickly life can turn for the better, or for the worse.” Yes, I do agree with every single word of Richard Angel: all depends on people: we can create either cruelty and violence, or kindness and peace. I will also add to the above mentioned statement that much of how we see the world depends on how the journalist will present it on his article or report. To go on deeper with this idea I will say that the profession of journalist has a double nature. This can be justified by the fact that journalistic activity is like a boomerang you get back what you give. Suppose you broadcast a wrong or biased information today by deceiving people, tomorrow after retiring, let’s say, you will be among the same “vulnerable” and trustful audience whom you, yes, very you, once used to provide with wrong information.
Here comes the part of this profession that attracts me the most: the power and the great responsibility. Yes I won’t scare that word, say it again even louder, power! Journalism is power and the journalist is a powerful magician who can work wonders or crush all around. He can create, establish, recreate peace and order in the country and at the same time bring chaos, lies, pain, and panic and so on. Journalism is a great responsibility. I will dare say that this profession is much more important that the jobs of an office manager or an instructor at a university, it is equal to the profession of that of a doctor as in both cases things are about safety, social opinion, and other important aspects of human life. A good example as a proof to my words will be the fact that journalists and doctors are sent to war alongside with soldiers, doctors for aid, journalists to keep being informed. A journalist born in very country, society should “get along” with the legislation of the state where he works.
The master of this profession writes for the society which trusts him. He should take into account the all the people forming this or that and belonging to different cultural and education levels, having various costumes and traditions, morals and values, religion, etc. While presenting any report of news, a journalist should be very careful and aware of his responsibilities towards audience. 2Any presentation or writing of a journalist should inflict no moral of physical damage to the beliefs, ideals, religion and well-being to an individual or a group. The writing of journalist should be inspiring not only in keeping ‘social harmony’ but also in achieving social development at the same time. And according to this there are there basic responsibilities that any not should but must have: social, legal and professional. Social Responsibility: Press reflects the social images or pictures of our society. All the activities of the press impart many events of our society with a view to present them later on, in decent manner to the society people. The intention behind such approaches and activities, is to make the society people to well-informed as well as well-aware of round about happenings. So, every presentation of any journalist should be fair, balance, truthful, inspiring and meeting the needs of common.
A journalist can highlight so many unsolved areas of the society by seeking solution for the same through the activity of journalism and must not overlook or avoid this great part of responsibility towards the society. 3The presentation of journalist should, initiate an environment of understanding within the society and continue the same in sustained manner to uphold it satisfactorily. Development of any society mostly depending upon the imparting of creative and objective journalistic activities. Legal Responsibility: While working as a journalist, one should be well conversant with all legal clutches those may generate complicacy or bring trouble any way. For this reason, a journalist must not intervene or inflict to someone’s privacy or confidential matter until it is required to be brought to the notice of public. 4Any libelous or defamatory presentation taking with someone, any organization or group is not allowed and should strictly be avoided by the journalist.
Libelous and defamatory writings or pictures may instantly resound or remark among the public with larger acceptance, but it is not pertinent as well as not complying with the standard of professionalism. Professional Responsibility: 6A journalist should have sincerity and commitment towards its profession. The news of any event that is going to be published for the audience should be delineated very clearly and fairly. A very good homework in this regard for every event, should be done by the journalist with a view to present to the audience confidently and satisfactorily. 7The presentation must be truthful and unbiased above all and shall never bring any embarrassment or complicacy to the organization anyway in future. The objective of any journalist is to disseminate the correct and fair report in undistorted manner, to the audience rather than crowding them intentionally or allegedly to meet the present challenging situation in the news world.
A news report should be created with greater care and responsibility as to maintain its degree of standard at higher level by avoiding any kinds of inclusion of undesirable and provocative part or portion. A journalist definitely, would require a high degree of professionalism in presenting any performances to the audience on behalf of any organization, and could be achieved so. 8By dint of die-hard efforts and searching ability, and being respectful to the works, understanding with the surroundings and accountability towards the society as well. A journalist must follow the newspaper editor’s deadlines. All the above mentioned are the characteristics that any good journalist should possess and the responsibilities that he should follow but the thing is whether this all is true in practice or they are just some beautiful words written on a peace of paper to be given and taught to starting students of journalism to inform them of the greatness of the profession without reveling the “dark” secrets of the inner kitchen.
Yes, our instructors would tell us all the time that we should be objective, responsible, blah, blah, blah… but they would also warn of the tricky aspects of the profession. The final choice is of course ours: to be a super honest journalist writing or reporting the truth and nothing but it, or just rushing to any unreliable information just to get that scoop and the fame of a night. Unfortunately nowadays the more journalists face this phase of free choice the greater number of those taking the wrong direction increases. Another problem is that media in most cases take it for granted as their only wish is quick information, the speed not the fact, the sensation not the truth and people have started to treat journalist the same way as journalist treat them and in most cases the treatment is only negative. Journalists are often perceived by the public as only interested in getting the “truth” and willing to do anything to get it.
Perhaps this perception comes from what the New York Times Chief of Staff, John Winton said when describing journalists. “The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tolls and the vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities, and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.” This is not how journalists wish to be perceived, and the role of the Journalist, according to the masters of this profession is to respect the truth and the public’s right to information. Journalists describe society to it. They convey information, ideas and opinions. They search, disclose, record, question, entertain, comment, and remember.
They inform citizens and animate democracy. They give a practical form of freedom of expression. They carry for public and their interest not for sensation. It is a bit funny how journalists themselves describe their own responsibilities and the greatness of the work they do without carrying out even the half of the above mentioned. As a justification I will count some examples from the journalistic practice all over the world of how a journalist should NOT act. (I have already written too much above of how a good and true journalist should be and now it is the time for vice verse). One of the troubles that people of all professions face today is plagiarism. This is due to technology and great access to information. Technology has changed the role of the journalist, cutting out the middle-man. No longer are they just the reporter, but often the photographer, and the editor too, not only may they now be expected to write an article for print but also for online, etc. Technology such as the Internet can be a good and a bad thing for a journalist.
One of the benefits of the Internet for a Journalist is being able to research quickly, conduct e-mail interviews and video-conferencing interviews. They can also use social mediums such as Twitter to get their voices and stories heard. Unfortunately it has also caused problems for journalists. There is the increasingly blurred line between the original piece of writing done by that very journalist and just one that has been copy pasted. Concerning the problem of plagiarism I will recall the 2003 Jayson Blair Scandal10, in which the New York Times was embroiled in plagiarism allegations. Jayson Blair, a reporter for the New York Times was charged with plagiarism. This led to the public asking how many more Journalists at the New York Times have plagiarized. And in actual fact another New York Times reporter, and Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg was also charged with plagiarism around the same time. Not only was this a legal issue that could tarnish the reputations of other journalists at the New York Times, but it also had the public asking how easy is it for a journalist to pull information off the Internet, and claim it as their own. Our world is day by day getting more and more industrialized.
This also comes to affect journalism. We all are in a hurry. Like people in the morning who miss their breakfast and fill their stomach with harmful fast food without thinking about the consequences, the same way media and journalists just report whatever comes to their hand and they do everything to get the news, even forgetting about the safety of people. As a protection they just hold their so called beliefs in the right of expression but it is well know that the rights of one person be it a journalist, politician or anyone else end when the rights of the other person are abused: 11The Channel Nine of the Australia’s Television reported a story relating to a gunman who was holding children hostage. A siege developed, with the house surrounded by police and special taskforce members. The Channel Nine directly disobeyed Police orders by telephoning the Gunman and Mike Wessel, the host of the Channel Nine, at the time, conducted an interview with the man, as well as one of the children being held hostage. The child was put at great risk, and the police operation was jeopardized, but the TV channel management thought it was a great idea for a story.
There was a lot of public outcry and debate following this situation. In Australia it resulted in adding to the 12Code of Ethics the protection of others, but also outlined that while journalists have the right to exercise the freedom of expression they also have a social responsibility to protect. Going on with the s industrialization of media I will say that even the treatment of journalist to the people has changed. It is a common knowledge the main part of their income mass media get from commercials and this brings to the industrialization and commercialization of journalists, their treatment to people and the nature of the news itself. While it is expected for journalists to report to the public, more and more so it’s becoming just as important for journalists to contribute profit to the newspaper they work for. And how far are they willing to go to gain profit? 13On 23rd August 2005 UK’s Channel Two found missing Alaskan fire-fighter Jim MacDonald who was lost in the Great Sandy Desert.
Instead of notifying authorities the crew waited 45 minutes so they could film him. Despite the fact he was badly in need of medical help, MacDonald was made to wear a Channel Two T-shirt and asked to walk around. He was then given a banana to eat, and left to vomit while the Channel Nine crew filmed him from their helicopter. These pictures were used as the ‘first sighting’. Those are the examples that project the image of the ruthless journalist, not thinking about anything but getting the scoop before the rest of the media. A journalist that only thinks about getting the money and the praise of the bully boss. To be or not to be a good journalist, that is the question?
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF MASS MEDIA AND JOURNALISTS
I think the key question for journalists today is the question whether or not journalism brings responsibility. There are many great schools for communication and journalism, on which journalist learn to write high quality articles on various subjects, there is a professional association for each part of the journalistic handcraft and journalists today can earn a good living from their work. With none of these there seem to be any problem. There is only that other question. Does a journalist have a social responsibility? Does a journalist have craft specified ethics? Can a journalist from one day on the other decide not to be a journalist any more? I think this is a question that we cannot escape. The press is often seen as the fourth power in the Trias Politica, the dividing between executive, legislature and judiciary power. As the word says, all these three, with journalism four, powers are in the first place political powers. Politics come with “social relations involving authority or power”, and with power comes responsibility.
If the press is indeed the fourth power, than that means it has an enormous power, and with that, a huge responsibility. That the press is that powerful is obvious, as an example of it will be the three great wars during last hundred years that started influenced by the press: the Spanish-American war, the Vietnam war and the second Gulf war. 14The Spanish-American war was greatly caused by the struggle between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst for popularity. Sensation in the papers let to improving sales, whether it was true or not. And the war certainly gave sensation in the papers, and there for, improving sales. 1516The Vietnam war was highly promoted by Nixon favored newspapers. With the second Gulf war the war was strongly promoted by Fox News in the US and other Rupert Murdoch press stations.
The powerful Murdoch enterprise is strongest in the US, Australia and England. We shouldn’t be surprised that these where the countries most willing to run into this war. Journalist like works in a great pyramid called mass media. It is a fact that very often journalists act not in accord with their wishes or for the public good, instead they are regulated by the media they work for. Now it is the time to speak about the responsibility of media in general without distinguishing editors or journalists they all together taken in the scope of mass media. Media empowerment is a sign of true democracy, a medium to communicate with the youth and the entire world. Media definitely has a responsibility on its shoulders, which is to guide the people. People have blind faith in the media and they are convinced that what they hear or what the media has declared is correct. The audience of media today is like my cat, it takes whatever is given, that’s why media now and at the course of time has been used as tool by dictators, tyrants and of course during war time.
Media with its intellectual vigor, analytical attitude and firm fore-sightedness can address, safeguard and resolve conflict between states, communities within the states in a multi-cultural society with ethnic diverse people, being a catalyst in the armed conflict and internal violence through mediation, negotiation and mutual consent providing energetic legislation against all form of discrimination and incitement to racial hatred and xenophobia of any organization, group, party, institution or state that threatens multi-cultural democracy and ethnic peace of just, rational and humane society.
Disasters like armed conflict and internal violence have often emanated from the unjust, irresponsible, deviated and propagandist winds and waves of media, be it imperial hegemony, secessionist warfare or conversely, unexpected drift of regional civil violence based on caste, creed and religion for liberty, justice, independence or fanatical terrorism: The blatantly biased reporting by media by and large has not shown a high degree of social responsibility during the recent international conflicts like Iraq Iran war, Kuwait crisis, 9/11, war on terrorism, war on Afghanistan and Iraq etc. Media today have assumed tremendous importance. Every bit of our activity is not only reflected but also regulated and governed through press (media). Freedom of press aims at the freedom of speech and expression, which are the basic tenets of society. To some all this up I will just write: 19Media and its lead actor journalist have the power of creation and destruction: which one will you choose?
Having studied all the information, books, examples, analyzing my thoughts and myself, sometimes agreeing with me, often contradicting, I reached the following conclusion: When I was a five-year-old girl my mom told me to choose to touch the hot oven or not. When approaching it I felt warmth but then it started to hurt me and I put my hand aside. From that day I decided for myself to do all with a free choice and I do advice it to everyone. Again coming to media and the role of journalist I would say that there are of course the good or bad, advantages and drawbacks in both cases like everything in our world, media as well is not ideal.
We the people create it. The journalists who think only about getting the scoop the soonest, forgetting all the rules of ethics once well-known, acting like the enemies of people. The journalist who write and report only the truth and nothing but it, follow all the rules of journalistic and human ethics, never forget they are not just journalist but the defenders of the rights of people, etc. I can enumerate both the good and the bad endlessly. Here the question is not which one prevails in our surrounding but which one we create and wish to see around us. To be or not be a good journalist? Of course to be. This out of question, at least for me, what will you choose…
To: S. Sahakyan
From: Anna Tamamyan
Subject: Writing Skills
Faculty: LIC, Journalism
Year: 4th year, 3rd group
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