Ethical reporting and news

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News is of immense value for people now more than ever. It is a right. A priority. Since the world has been squeezed into a tiny ‘global village’, it is simply bedside manner to be aware of everything before the day kicks off. The scope of ‘everything’ ranges from terrorism in Syria to the latest celebrity breakup. Hence, you see people updating themselves in a variety of preferred ways. Scrolling through a news site, getting the morning paper to go with the coffee, news on television and radio, magazines… even small talk, discussing state issues while waiting in the traffic; these are all diverse ways in how we quench the thirst of wanting to know.A piece of news can throw us into a deep seated discomfort or a fit of laughter in equal measure. It all comes down to how it has been presented. Reporting is the art of shedding light to those dark areas in a country, which aren’t easily addressed and prosecuted. Reporting is giving voice to the voiceless. Therefore following a code of ethics is mandatory.

A journalist should be constantly vigil, finding the perfect path to approach a story. Not too sour, not too sweet. The information should be garnered with wit; a reporter should never pay for information. Plagiarism is severely discouraged when a reporter seeks to adhere to ethical reporting. Other don’ts include

    • Confusing news with advertising
    • Undue intrusiveness into personal lives when looking for news
    • Aggressiveness/ threatening
    • Misuse of annonymity…etc.

Even though some deem news as just words… for some-if they are the subject of news-their life could literally be on the line if there’s glitch associated. As ethical reporters, it’s crucial to be highly sensitive and wise when granting annonymity and when dealing with people affected by news coverage (e.g.: rape victims, juveniles, witnesses)

Like so, the do’s and don’ts of ethical reporting goes on and on, covering all aspects related and affected by news coverage. Stagnating on them wholly will only make this essay a user manual. Thereby, moving on to current issues and the present state of Sri Lanka’s news reporting field, it is obvious that most reporters sport a very pessimistic view in general. Making them fall into ‘critical agent’ culture, who favours interventionist approaches and are critical towards the government and the elite but are politically avid. This culture is more prominent in countries like Turkey, Egypt, recently adopted by ours. The ‘Detached watchdog’ culture (watchful of the elite) is too famous along with a few exceptions of comparatively less opposing ‘Populist Disseminator’ and next to no ‘Opportunist facilitators’ who support the government.

Regardless of which Journalism culture followed, reporting ethically the news captured is a duty of all reporters. The power vested in a reporter to influence and alter the public perspectives and mind set should never be embezzled.

Manic pursue of news without so much as a thought of the possible consequences and shrugging them off as collateral damage is an unethical trend, but spreading at large worldwide today. Action should be taken to penalize such socially unacceptable behaviour from journalists. Professionalism and honesty should be protected and incentivized throughout news reporting field. Be it from a veteran or amateurs like us, the standard and value of ethical reporting should be shown through example.

Reporters should take pride in their profession. The ability to bring peoples’ grievances to the limelight, calling justice for those who’ve been deprived of it, acknowledging issues that are hidden, appreciating and celebrating phenomena of life…the life of a reporter could be bold and hectic. Albeit that, it is also empowering. It grows on you. So, it’s only right for reporting to be exercised as ethically as required.

Make ethical reporting the new ‘It’. And news a successful emanation.


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