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Ethics vs Emotions

The dos and don'ts of student journalism

Thu, Apr 27th 2017 09:35 pm

As a college newspaper there's doubt and criticism toward our legitimacy and our reliability. It's only fair to be skeptical about how we approach things since after all, none of us are considered professionals. Even though we are a college newspaper we still want to remain credible; if we don't do what we are supposed to do then what's really our purpose? Some of the things we do in order to remain credible include: having at least two sources in each article, we don't report on things that are considered a conflict of interest for each individual journalist and we keep our emotions out of the news-based articles, because credibility involves more than just citing our sources.

The credibility we carry over to our publications is taught to us by our professors. Our journalism professors (Monica Brasted, Marsha Ducey, Mary McCrank, Kim Young and many others) instill hardcore media ethics in us. In classes we always need at least three sources. Our journalism professors emphasize the importance of fact checking, accuracy and sourcing.

However, not everyone understands that. In our classes, if we get one fact wrong in an article, we get a zero on the whole paper. All journalism and broadcasting professors emphasize on taking each story seriously even if it's only for a class; that way we can get the feel of writing as a true journalist. 

It's important that we remain truthful in the stories we cover. Especially if they're being published because that's where people get their information from. The Stylus is still Brockport's main source of local knowledge and information and holds power that strengthens the community. It's important that we remain as credible as we are taught to be. 

Earlier in the academic year we covered a story on an event of racism here on campus. We received criticism as to why the picture of the graffiti was not on the front page. If you need to know, the racist graffiti that happened earlier in the academic year wasn't on the front page for a reason: student writers have rules and we have guidelines that we have to follow as well. Not only would it sensationalize the story, but it would be an advertisement for the hate message. 

We here at The Stylus try to follow our instilled guidlines to the best of our abilities which makes us great storytellers but, unfortunately, poor people pleasers. Frankly, as a student journalist - when the majority of your audience doesn't care about current events anyways - we don't even try to please the ones that do. There's a reason that journalists are not well-liked. People-pleasing is not in our job description, even if we, as students, have emotions of our own. We can't put our emotions on paper.

We also get clubs and other organizations that want their events to be "front page stories" because they believe that their event(s) are important headliners. We have learned that clubs don't want to be covered; clubs want to be promoted. They don't want unbiased and/or unfiltered news, but rather they want opinions that reaffirm their own. 

Simply put, sometimes we can't put certain things on the front page not just for our sake of credibility, but for your own sake of security. The audience deserves truthful stories unclouded by sensationalism and marketing. Some stories, like the racist graffitti are horrific enough on their own. You don't need us to horrify it or others more by throwing the picture on the front page. We have to do what is ethically correct over what is emotionally correct and sometimes that becomes an issue for the public and the audiences that don't really know about or understand our structures and guidelines. 

What about publications outside the school? The core value of journalism is the responsibility to be credible and reliable.

As a journalist it is impossible to please everyone. As an important part of the community we choose to take pride in our work and make ethical decisions rather than emotional ones. It truly impacts people's perception of us (as journalists) and ideas about things when we choose to lead with emotion versus ethics. Therefore, it should be understood that ethics are essential to a journalist's reputation. Without a strict and well-followed set of ethics there would be little reason to believe or trust any reporter/journalist.

Journalism is a game of trust. Remaining trustworthy is essential to the future of journalism because those who don't trust the news will not consume it and in effect, too many people will rely on headlines for their information. If the public can't trust reporters, the news won't work, therefore it serves no purpose. 

That being said, there are certain things that we as journalists have to do to maintain that trust such as staying factual and remaining as unbiased as we can. Though at times it may seem like the things we do make no sense, what we do is almost always done in order to stay objectively reliable and credible to the general public. 

Now more than ever we have to be factual so people know we're credible and they can trust us, because even though journalists do their best to remain ethical and trustworthy, there are still people who will tell you otherwise, particularly people in positions of power. It is important in today's society that we make sure the protection of journalists' reputations are emphasized, because without journalists who would "watch the watchmen"? 

So yeah, we are all about ethics and following the rules. If we aren't, then no one will hire us.