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November 29, 2006

Ten Ways Media Leaders Can Keep Media Ethics from Becoming an Oxymoron

After reading a list of oxymorons, beginning with George Carlin’s famous “jumbo shrimp” and “military intelligence, I got a minor laugh in my college course on writing for public communication by introducing as the next oxymoron, Media Ethics. It introduced a section on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, and I suggested the following list of ten ways the national media could restore its reputation.

1. Accuracy: Attention to detail; accuracy at all costs.

2. Thoroughness: Emphasize thoroughness over speed; getting the story right is more important than getting it first.

3. Humility: demonstrate humility through preparation, broad and vigorous research, and by seeking out experts.

4. Real Affirmative Action in news operations: ideological, religious, regional, and socio-economic, as well as racial and ethnic.

5. Journalism not Opposition: Reaffirm journalists as reporters of news, not the opposition party.

6. Historic Values: Reflect traditional values of the nation—ethics, historic teachings of faith groups.

7. Thinking: Recover the serious and critical mind—beyond the sound bite.

8. Rediscover Shame: wrongdoers should not be honored, they should be dishonored.

9. Self Cleansing: Restore credibility by cleaning up your own house so that journalists are trusted to present news fairly and professionally.

10. Leave NYC: Build national media competence and presence outside New York City and Washington, D.C. It would be good if the major networks moved to Des Moines, or Kansas City, or perhaps Indianapolis.

These were my thoughts for one group of future journalists.

Posted by Jim at November 29, 2006 08:49 AM

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I'm right there with you on 1-4, also on 7 and 9.

I sort of hesitate on 5, depending upon what you mean - but I can certainly agree that they ought to be reporting the news, not merely in support or opposition to the targets of the stories, if that's what you mean.

On 6, I would have to question which traditional values of the nation - the values kept had minorities and women from voting? I know that's not what you mean. We are and have been a diverse nation, could you provide a list of traditional values to which you are thinking the news media should ascribe?

Also, the historic teachings of which faith group? The mormons? The anabaptists? The baptists, catholics, quakers?

Again, we are a diverse nation and I might need a list of those values.

I'm less sure of using the media to shame people? And - getting back to values - which people ought the media shame? The racists? The homophobes? The sexists? Polluters, greedy, corrupt politicians? Also, how do we go about shaming them? In our editorial cartoons?

Finally, if you're suggesting having news centers based across the US, from NY to Kansas to LA, I'm okay with the last one, too.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at November 29, 2006 10:03 AM

I totally agree with #10. Important topics like what to do with illegal aliens have a totally different meaning here in Texas than they do in New York.

There is too much of an east coast mentality in the creation of news broadcasts.

Unfortunately, news broadcasts, both national and local, deal with issues that are just not news. A great deal of the time what is considered news is nothing more than what we have good video of.

Here in the Houston area, the mess with former majority leader Tom DeLay was glossed over with press releases and screaming talking heads from both sides instead of reporting the facts and issues of what happened and why is this important, all because, how many times can you show Mr. DeLay walking to his office in Washington. Too little time is spent investigating the details and too much time is spent on what we can show. Sorry, but often times important issues cannot be brought into 45 seconds of sound bites or 15 to 20 seconds of video.

Please, less "stories" about house fires and car wrecks and more about issues that truly impact the ENTIRE community.

Posted by: Mark Triplett at November 29, 2006 11:19 AM