“Report Now, Apologize Later”

After reviewing the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics, I do think today’s modern trend of “report now, apologize later” by news agencies is a violation of these professional guidelines.

However

I also understand that a story can evolve over time thus altering previously published news on a given situation. The problem is, I feel, some news sources try to use that to their advantage and tend to be more complacent with their reporting from the get-go, knowing that they can just type up a new document correcting information, redacting other information (with a note of “My bad! I fixed it…here’s the real story.”).

It’s strangely feeling like George Orwell’s ‘1984’! Why are people not more terrified by this!? <shudders as goosebumps appear>

According to the SPJ, journalists should: Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work, verify information before releasing it, and use original sources whenever possible. Journalists must also remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy, according to the Code of Ethics. By “reporting now” and “apologizing later” news agencies are fostering a reporting system based on urgency instead of truth.

The question that remains is as a society, should we expect, nay, demand more evidence to verify information before it is reported to us? Should we demand truth over urgency and immediacy?

I’ve always felt that responsibility is doing the right thing for the right reason, even when no one is looking. That’s not to say I haven’t made my fair share of oopsies! No one is perfect, but overall I feel we’ve lost sight of personal responsibility and accountability here in America. (Quite frankly, it’s a humanity-wide problem, not just culture based.)

Quantity vs. quality is unfortunately our current society trend, placing the highest value on ratings and number of followers generated above all else. With the Internet giving anyone with access the capability to be a “journalist” in some fashion, it has become a rat race to respond to accident scenes and report the footage as though second graders trying to compete for the first spot in line. It’s quite disappointing.

It seems the inclination of “first responders” now is to take pictures, tweet, instantly broadcast an accident scene (and other varying types of situations like live tweeting airplane shenanigans) instead of offering aid or calling for emergency assistance. It’s as though there is an absence of thought on the potential ramifications of hasty and/or negligent reporting and as a society we should expect more from ourselves, and one another, in order to alleviate this current trend.

There’s no one person at fault for this situation. In a sense, all who participate in media, whether creators or consumers, are to blame for this situation. <Raises hand incredulously> The beast [media] sets the bait , the bait hooks us, and we feed the beast. Technology has afforded us the opportunity to report in new and immediate ways and users have taken advantage (sounds Tronish), fostering an “immediate gratification” society with shortened attention spans. As citizens, we should demand more from our news agencies when reporting, but ourselves as well, as we have the power to influence one another. We’ve created a perpetual cycle of “report now, apologize later” and whether it’s due to desensitization or a failure to care, we’ve implicitly accepted this reality by feeding the frenzy.

References

Society of Professional Journalists. (2014, September 6). SPJ Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

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