Sunday, January 23, 2005

Ethics in Journalism

The Associated Press has these guidelines for its reporters:
"AP has longstanding rules against News employees participating in political activities or taking sides on matters of public debate. These rules apply to electronic communication as well. Do not express opinions about products, companies or individuals. Non-news employees, who may be unaccustomed to these rules, should remember that Internet readers won't know whether a user from is a newsperson. Even what a non-News employee does can reflect on AP's newsgathering." (This rule as well as other Guidelines for Responsible Use of Electronic Services may be viewed here.)

This is an issue that we discussed in my Press Ethics class last semester. Working journalists are supposed to approach topics without bias and hence many companies do not allow their reporters to do any advocating or participate in demonstrations, even if they're reporters in an unrelated field. I understand why companies would have that concern; at the same time, I know that's not the type of journalism I want to be involved in.

One could argue that the very act of choosing which stories are important enough to appear in the paper is a demonstration of bias. I know there's a gray area there: a human-interest story about a family that suffered losses in the tsunami will be less controversial than a story about teenagers who have sought help at Planned Parenthood. Few general-interest publications would think the tsunami story irrelevant, but I can't imagine a publication with a pro-life "bias" would run a story on anything good that Planned Parenthood might have done.

I see journalism as a tool for advocacy, and there's definitely a niche for it. I guess it comes down to what each publication's management thinks is acceptable and what ethical rules they play by.

I was impressed to see the New York Times feature some articles by Nicholas D. Kristof about two prostitutes he freed from the sex trade in Cambodia. Though importantly, I just noticed that the newspaper grouped the articles in the Op-Ed section instead of say, the International section. The articles are interesting in that Kristof decided to get involved with his subjects. A year after he freed the two prostitutes, he follows up with the two prostitutes to find out where they are now. (Those not registered with the New York Times should use BugMeNot for a free login.)

On a lighter note, here are some pictures that I took today in the aftermath of yesterday's blizzard in New York City:
Cross-Country skiers in Prospect Park, 1/23/05

Sledders in Prospect Park, 1/23/05

It's nice to know that I'm not the only one around here who actually likes the snow. There were plenty of adults and children having fun in the park, not only skiing and sledding but building snowmen, building snowforts, walking dogs or playing ultimate frisbee. Sometimes I think I'm built for snowier winters because I don't think one foot of snow on the ground is that big of a deal. Then again, since I don't have a car, the only thing I have to worry about is delays on the train lines.

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