Ethical News Values Need to Remain Constant

Schools.com created this infographic about how social media is replacing traditional journalism as a news source.

I still subscribe to the daily newspaper. I enjoy reading local news and getting an in-depth look at trending topics.

When it comes to getting breaking news, though, I often learn the latest on a social media site. Stories such as the Hudson River plane landing and Whitney Houston’s death broke on Twitter before they did in traditional media.

However, even when I learn of a breaking story on social media, I still need to have it confirmed by a traditional source before I believe it. That’s mainly because I’m not convinced that those who are reporting on social media sites understand news values and, more importantly, ethical news values.

For several years I taught media ethics and among the ethical news values I taught were accuracy, confirmation and sufficiency to name a few. Specifically,

Accuracy:  Journalists need to put what they report in context. They also need to use the correct facts.

Confirmation: A news article needs to withstand scrutiny inside and outside the newsroom, write Philip Patterson and Lee Wilkins in Media Ethics: Issues & Cases. The Washington Post coverage of Watergate is a classic example of stories withstanding scrutiny.

Sufficiency: Adequate resources need to be allocated to important issues. Unfortunately, with staff cutbacks, many news organizations aren’t able to do this. Reporters also should thoroughly review materials before publishing.

Our news sources may be changing, but the ethical news values should remain the same.

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