Ethics in Journalism, a Followup

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Whenever I delve into American politics I run the risk of alienating a segment of my audience. That’s how polarized we are as a Nation and a People. I am not a fan of Donald Trump or his former Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton—I was very vocal about not voting for either one of them.

But what concerns me even more is the degradation of American media news reporting. See my earlier post: How To Find Unbiased News Reporting. The Fourth Estate (the Press) has subordinated itself to the new Fifth Estate (the Blogosphere, Opinion Editorial and Entertainment).

Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, will bring about his own destruction (and he will do this sooner rather than later). The seeds of his destruction are sown deeply in his personality, character and psychology and they are rapidly germinating in the hothouse of the Presidency. This becomes obvious to any observer of daily events as they unfold.

However, if Hillary Clinton had been victorious in her bid for the White House I think we would be going through the same political convulsions—albeit at a less frenetic pace. As you can see I was very disturbed by the two choices presented to the American electorate and I acted accordingly. But back to the Press and its mishandling of the daily news cycle. Journalism has an historical ethical mandate to remain objective and unbiased much like a judge in a court of law.

Any casual observer of modern-day reporting by (most) news organizations will put the lie to that sacred mandate—it’s gone and probably forever. Interestingly enough, as a photojournalist, if I submit a photo to a news agency that has been altered in any way (i.e. Photoshop) no matter how minor the alteration I will be fired and discredited as a photographer. My career as a photojournalist would come to a screeching halt and I would be ostracized from the profession.

It is time (long overdue actually) for the American public to demand that our institutions and officials behave in an ethical professional way. Ethical behavior must start in our homes, schools, churches and public institutions. There must be consequences for unethical behavior and violators (especially those demanding public trust) must be held strictly accountable. Over the years public trust has eroded towards our institutions: government, courts, schools, churches, law enforcement, medical and others.

Maybe, like an alcoholic or drug addict, our country has to hit rock bottom before it can regain its moral compass. It’s certainly at the lowest ebb I’ve seen in my seventy years with the possible exception of the Nixon years. Our country will either reclaim its government and institutions or it won’t—the jury is still out. I find it ironic that as a photojournalist I am held strictly accountable for my actions but that the President of the United States, our elected officials and civic leaders and organizations are not. And that includes the Press.

To my fellow journalists: Your job is NOT political activism. Your job, simply stated, is to report the important events of the day factually, objectively and to the best of your ability. If you will stick to your job events will resolve themselves. Throwing red met to the masses only exacerbates an already untenable situation. The People need facts on which to base their decisions and their political activism; in our democracy the rest happens in the voting booth. DO YOUR JOB.

Note: This blog is mostly about photography, writing, travelling and lifestyle. Politics and Religion are pretty much taboo (although I will admit that Politics does occasionally creep in). I’m not out to provoke or antagonize anyone; I would rather stimulate some critical thinking and dialogue among my readers. Please feel free to comment at anytime with the proviso that you keep it civil and respectful. Name calling, profanity and bullying have no place on this blog. Thank you for your consideration. SFD 



5 responses to “Ethics in Journalism, a Followup

  1. I agree with your sentiments. If this past presidential election has taught us nothing else, we have been hit over the head with the need to have quality candidates. I too did not like the choices. I think we are seeing the result of the election of a narcissistic individual with questionable ethics. Unfortunately, this is the description for both choices. Hopefully, it has served as a wake up call.

    • You’re right, it is sad. And we’ve done it to ourselves. I thought we (as adults) were supposed to leave a better world for our kids . . . I think we’ve failed.

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