The modern trend of “report now, apologize later” by news agencies is in written standards a violation of SPJ’s Code of Ethics.
However, I question, if every news agency abided by SPJ’s Code of Ethics, would their even be news?
We should expect more evidence to be verified before it is reported. This allows for accuracy and validity of sources so individuals can view the content and not jump to conclusions. In addition, as citizens we should demand the news immediate coverage of an event. Our desire for immediate information and gathering of knowledge proceeds the Code of Ethics that SPJ inspired long ago. Unverified reporting as Carter (2013) discusses has indeed dangerous consequences when it comes to breaking news such as the Boston Marathon bombings.
As the F.B.I said in their statement to the press, all journalists should “exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting” (Carter, 2013). This statement alone abides by SPJ’s Code of Ethics: to take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
I find this issue a Catch-22. Although agencies and journalists should gather all facts before coming on national television or writing in a national newspaper a story, I agree with Steve Buttry (2010) blog post on SPJ’s Code of Ethics as in need of an update. Buttry (2010) writes that “the code should reflect the challenges, realities and values of good digital journalism.” SPJ’s Code of Ethics has not been revised since 1996, prior to the rapid development of the internet and social media platform communications.
Again, this increase in technology and desire for information quickly has provided the blame for the current trend viewers see, read and hear. As Kovach and Rosenstiel (2010) elaborate on in Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload, when both authors discuss the “we media,” seen today (7). If everyone has access to news stories and details by browsing the internet, then how can one determine what is factual and what is inaccurate?
The ability to become one’s own “self-corrects- a kind of pure information democracy” (7), it is difficult abide by SPJ’s Code of Ethics that was last validated 20 years ago. Buttry’s (2010) view on SPJ’s Code of Ethic agrees much with Kovach and Rosenstiel (2010) research. The lack of guidance for social media is present in the set of ethics.
Therefore, although the concept of “report now, apologize later” by news agencies is a violation of the SPJ’s Code of Ethics, it is still a part of the new content individuals see, read and hear today. How can SPJ’s Code of Ethics still be considered a code to be followed if it does not take into the account the age of information overload (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010) we find ourselves living in today.
Buttry, S. (2010, November, 7). Journalists’ Code of Ethics: Time for an update? [The Buttry Diary]. Retrieved from https://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/journalists-code-of-ethics-time-for-an-update/
Carter, B. (2013, April 17). The F.B.I. Criticizes the News Media After Several Mistaken Reports of an Arrest. The New York Times, p. A18. Retrieved October 1, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/media/fbi-criticizes-false-reports-of-a-bombing-arrest.html?_r=0
Kovach, B., & Rosenstiel, T. (2010). How to Know What to Believe Anymore. In Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload. New York: Bloomsbury.
Society of Professional Journalists (2014). Code of ethics. Society of Professional Journalists. Retrieved from http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp