To reiterate what Ken Doctor said in his Nieman Lab article: as journalists, alternative reporting doesn’t mean we throw our values out the window; it means they are now more important than ever before. I liked how he brought up the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, as I recently learned more about these in my journalism law and ethics class with Professor Bob Gould. Here is why I think each of these four principles is important in a time of “alt” (with some of the Doctor’s ideas as well):
Seek truth and report it: Everyone says there are different forms of the truth. Every side has its story, every line is blurry and every bit of gossip is exaggerated. In times of uncertainty however, every scenario I mentioned above is not acceptable. As media creators and distributors, our values and ethics are the pieces that are going to hold us above competitors. Our credibility is withheld in extreme scrutiny right now, and if we want to make our mark on the mediascape, we have to be prepared that our integrity will be questioned and we must have no problem proving transparency, as Doctor also points out.
Minimize harm: Although this seems fairly obvious, sometimes when our own agenda is on the line, it’s hard to see past the fog. And as Doctor points out, it’s not knowing these values that’s important, it’s acting on them. Highlighting a certain group, culture, party, what have you, is appropriate and necessary at times, but on deadline, our knowledge of minimizing harm can easily be passed over for a quick turnaround.
Act independently: With this principle, I think of two things. First, acting independently as a media outlet, group or freelancer. Own your style, own your values and work together as a team to produce the most good. Second, speak up when you don’t think something is right. Would you rather have your news organization or media distributing company be mistrusted or would you rather speak up before something blows up in your face? I think most would choose the latter. This also makes me think back to the Pew Research Center article we read the first week. While users are constantly refreshing their social channels, it is important to own your values. One wrong tweet, one wrong word, can last in viewers’ minds forever.
Be accountable and transparent: Part of being transparent, is knowing the audience you are serving. This relates to the article we read from the Tom-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, specifically the section about nonprofits. This section in particular discusses the audiences of nonprofit news coverage, the journalists who cover nonprofit news, and even the markets and geographic areas that see the most interest. This transparency is important, because as we learned in The PMARCA Guide to Startups, the market is a key aspect to the success of the product. If the market doesn’t think you are being transparent with them about their needs and values, then you don’t exactly have a market anymore; do you?