Journalism Standards

Defend core journalistic standards and values

What is essential to good reporting?   Accuracy, fairness, “balance” and the necessity of disclosing mistakes. These are the critical elements.

  • Class discussion: Telling the “Truth”: “Truth” is a problematic term for journalists. Why? Are there different “truths”?

  • Student exercise: Find a news story in any medium. Answer the following questions:

    1. Is a story accurate? How does the reporter convince his or her readers that the “facts” are correct?

    2. Is it fair? Has the reporter given proportionate attention to the details of the story that is covered—has he or she over-emphasized or under-emphasized important elements of the story? (Would political opponents agree that the story is fair?)

    3. Is it balanced? Talking about “balance” sometimes presupposes there are only two sides. What if there are far more than two sides? What is the value of hearing a diverse set of voices–people who hold different political opinions, people who are officials and people who are workers, women as well as men, etc.?

    4. What if there are at least two opinions but the great majority of people share one belief (i.e. the Earth is round, not flat)? Should journalists give equal time to opinions that are minority opinions? What about opinions that are minority political opinions? What if the opinions are hateful? What if the opinions are minority scientific opinions (such as those who believe in creationism or who do not believe in the science of climate change or do not believe in connections between the HIV virus and AIDS)? Should those opinions be treated by journalists as “neutrally” as the opinions held by the majority of scientists?

  • Class project: Select 6 different online news sites and look for how (and where) they post their corrections. Do all the outlets tell their readers about the mistakes they make? Do they all have ombudsmen (or public editors or readers’ editors)? How is the public served by the role of ombudsmen? (You might want to look at this recent study on transparency and how online media admit their mistakes.)