The staff and I recently spent some time in Louisville, KY for the 2018 Associated College Press/College Media Association Fall National College Media Convention. The convention is a real who’s who of professional journalists and it was wonderful to be able to represent Pierce College Puyallup with other staff members. While we were in Kentucky, there were so many workshops to attend. I really wanted to get some sightseeing in, but the free time was vastly underestimated. It was actually rather saddening, as I had planned on going to Mammoth Caves, but work comes first, and work we did.
For the most part, nothing in the workshops left me feeling as though I had stumbled upon an epiphany and simply had to express it. One workshop that stuck out more than any other was Press Freedom Challenges in an Era of “Fake News.” Ah the quote marks – they’re worth noting because they’re actually against Associated Press Style guidelines, yet they’re part of the title of the workshop at this media convention. I like to think it was a minor form of rebellion; it was as if the speakers were saying they refused to acknowledge that the term even existed at all. I can understand that sentiment. I find it frustrating that we live in an era where no one appears to require any kind of credentials or qualifications to be able to disseminate their versions of the truth.
I had to work hard just to be in charge of a paper at the college level, and even then I am constantly challenged, as I should be, to ensure that what I’m putting out is fair and accurate. So why does Joe Shmoe get to spout off at the mouth and affect the credibility of journalists everywhere? Oh, what’s that? Reasons? Okay, it’s time to digress.
The workshop speakers were Andrea Frantz and Andrew Seaman; the latter is apparently regarded as the Ethics Maven. The duo spoke about journalism as if it was a medical patient in critical condition.
We reached a point in the session where the audience was asked whether they think the media is more biased now than at any other point in its history. An audience full of journalists, myself included, all felt media was more biased. For a moment, Frantz and Seaman seemed disappointed; the two speakers then told us that media is actually less biased now than it’s ever been.
I can hear the questions now as I type away on my keyboard; many of you likely doubt my words right now. I challenge you to consider what was told to me in Kentucky for a moment. The birth of journalism came about in the 1690s, but journalism as it is known today didn’t come around for quite a while thereafter. Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick was the first example of what people think of when they think of the modern newspaper in the United States. The paper was actually shut down after its first issue due to lack of approval from the good ol’ government and a corrupt standard was put in place. Journalism became synonymous with propaganda as its platform was utilized to lend to whatever argument the government deemed necessary at the time.
The next century was a pretty bleak period for independent journalism, but lo and behold, soon came the 1920s.
The 1920s were when the Society of Professional Journalists first crafted its code of ethics. For those who don’t know, these ethics are the commandments by which journalists are meant to conduct themselves. There’s a lot to the code, but for time’s sake, I’m going to focus on the four cornerstones: seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable and transparent. I really like that last part — transparency. In a world where people can just post whatever they wish and no one seems to know who to believe anymore, transparency is the solution to fake news.
When journalists do their due diligence, there can be no inkling of fake news. We investigate a lead, we pull on the proverbial thread, we find out what the facts are, we back up those facts with verifiable sources and we put it all on display for the people to see. In spite of what others will say, it is asinine to call fake news on a story that holds a reader’s hand and takes them directly to the truth. Many will argue about the purpose of a newspaper. If you want my opinion though, and I take your reading this as a sign that you do, a newspaper is put into place to put out information to the masses. We aren’t here to point you toward a specific political party, we aren’t here to help you find religion and we aren’t here to push our own agenda. All journalists should do is offer readers the bonafide truth. No more and no less.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost