Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where the Ethics Lay

It was sophomore year when citizen journalism and blogging were deprecated for their lack of ethics, editorial accuracy and objectivity. It is now one year later, junior year, and it is the mainstream media conglomerates that we are criticizing for their slanted news coverage, profit-seeking intentions, and conscious efforts to influence public opinion. So, at which point am I, the student, suppose to fully understand where to draw the line between mainstream media and grassroots media?

In Dan Kennedy's article, "Is internet populism destined for corporate ruin?" he poses the question, "if everyone is shouting, can anyone be heard?" This is true of the direction the media is going large in part to the internet—no longer do readers and listeners sit back and passively receive whatever the media is feeding them. The internet has activated the people formally know as the audience, and it is enabling them to contribute to the online blog-o-sphere. They now have the opportunity, and are using it to their advantage, to talk back and participate in the news.

As a result of mobilizing the intelligence of the audience, more and more content producers are added to the mix. Being a 'content producer' has become sort of a vague term due to the effects of the internet.  The role of a 'content producer' nowadays doesn't require an office or a title. As Hagit Limor, President of the Society of Professional Journalists, said, content no longer just comes from corporate headquarters, you can get story ideas and content from your next door neighbor.

Limor discussed the ethics of the online blog-o-sphere and how you need to be able to weed out the good from the bad. As president of one of the nations leading journalism organizations dedicated to free practice of journalism and high standards of ethical behavior, she herself considers citizen journalists and independent media outlets as equals in the professional world of journalism. The organization aims to protect the First Amendment right to the freedom of speech and of the press, but ironically it is more often than not that large media conglomerates fail to uphold this right. Instead, it is the independent outlets that adhere to the true role of the Fourth Estate and not only act as the gatekeepers of information, but serve the public interest by taking advantage of all journalists rights. As Limor said, it takes going that extra mile to deliver the information that other sources aren't (or won't) give to the public. Independent media outlets go this extra mile.

But, how do you decipher the truth when there is such a huge influx of information? The fact of the matter is, the public doesn't trust journalism anymore and sadly, who can blame them? Large media conglomerates are starving for revenue, so they withhold information that ultimately, the public has a right to know. It is the independent media sources that are going outside of the box to leak, deliver and report on real content that the large media outlets aren't telling us.

So, in contradiction to last year's ethics class, my skepticism is no longer of citizen journalists, online bloggers or other indy outlets, but instead is aimed at the intentions of the mainstream media. After all, there is no room for checkbook journalism in honest journalism, and its the 'big guys' like CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and others who are cashing in the biggest checks.

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