Ferguson Riots And The Breakdown Of Journalistic Ethics


When I was just beginning college and considering a career in journalism, the almost universal motto of the profession wasprint the truth. I did not go into journalism but my younger brother did, and we had many interesting and enlightening conversations about this motto. When he left the profession, one of the main reasons was the devolution of journalistic ethics he had witnessed first-hand. In my brother’s words, “It was no longer about the truth—it was about the money.” He told me of pressure on him to sensationalize his stories and to look for angles that would stir up controversy. A favorite piece of advice given often by one of his editors was “look for an old wound and pick at the scab.” He was even given training in how to incite anger, frustration, and controversy when interviewing people.

Apparently there came a point in time when decision makers in journalism decided the truth does not sell. When the truth is not your standard, it follows logically that facts don’t matter. Under pressure to remain profitable, competitive, and relevant, many journalists—print and electronic—have jettisoned any semblance of the old journalistic ethic of print the truth and replaced it with a new motto: ignore the facts and create a narrative that will stir up the biases of your audience. When journalists apply this more recent motto, if there is no story they can just create one.

The advent of 24-hour news channels coupled with the Internet has magnified the competitive pressure and, in turn, the unethical practices that are rotting the soul of journalism as a profession. In today’s we-have-to-get-the-story-first news environment reporters may as well be novelists and storytellers. They certainly are not journalists. This is especially the case with the electronic media. Where journalists once prided themselves on getting the story right, their contemporaries are more concerned with getting the story on the air, and the facts be damned.   This is why so many so-called breakings stories on the news these days have a making-it-up-as-we-go feel to them.

Even worse than the media’s disregard for the facts when reporting the news is their tendency to report on stories in ways that comport with their preconceived notions and political biases. What they include in a news story and what they don’t is determined by their preconceived ideas concerning the narrative. It is the narrative that rules in the news today, not the facts. Media outlets that lean to the left—which is most of them—will advance a narrative that is anti-business, anti-America, anti-authority, and anti-conservative values. For the mainstream media, events such as those in Ferguson are just another opportunity to advance the cause of liberal orthodoxy.

Continues on PatriotUpdate

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