21 Paige Vannarath – Harmful Modern Day Journalistic Integrity

Paige Vannarath

ENG 102

Harmful Modern Day Journalistic Integrity

The act of reading a newspaper should be regarded as truly precious nowadays. We’re all familiar with the traditional Sunday paper we often watch our parents read while sipping on a warm cup of coffee in the morning, but just how long have newspapers been around? The first ever newspaper publication in America was Publick Occurrences, which debuted in Boston in 1690. Although this newspaper only lasted through one issue, it began the basis for spreading news in the most effective and satisfactory fashion, where credit is due to the pioneers of journalism such as Benjamin Harris and John Campbell. Three hundred years later and golly, have we seen a seismic shift in news and journalism, just within the beginning of the 21st century. With the surge in media use and the impact it has had on the journalism industry, loss of appreciation and production for print journalism is evident. The negative impact that new media has had on the journalism industry is exemplified by the constant lack of credibility and fact checkers in the works of online media journalists that undermines the jobs of professional journalists and overshadows the underlying importance of printed works.

A continuous problem that is often seen across media platforms with journalism are the errors in credibility and increase in journalist’s carelessness, leading to misinformation that has a lost context. As talked about by Tom Price, writer for CQ Researcher,

The always-on nature of the Internet and cable news channels pressures traditional print and broadcast newsrooms — the so-called “legacy media” — to forgo the delays that can be caused by fact-checking. Internet users’ expectations that they can comment on the news strains the media’s ability to hold all their online content to traditional standards of accuracy and decency. So does the expectation that websites will provide links to outside sources of information. (Price)

The overwhelming rush to produce work that will then have a positive, well received outcome puts a lot of pressure on online journalists. With that being said, writers should still be fairly crediting their sources from which they base their facts from. Furthermore, Price discusses a study conducted in 2009 that proves the point of error head on, saying “In a Project for Excellence in Journalism survey last year, online journalists — most of whom worked for legacy media websites — said the Internet was changing journalism values for the worse, especially because an emphasis on speed was causing carelessness and inaccuracy” (Price). The pressure to release breaking news on social media has created this tendency among people who post to rush and thus, lacking the fact checking of their content. Maybe a writer forgets a chunk of the story or chooses to not include it because it doesn’t fit their beliefs, and that, in every way, is faulty. Being inattentive feeds an audience falsified information that obviously exemplifies the absence of credibility. Also clearly illustrated in Out of Print, “Consumers can coverage both platforms and content. The frontiers between audio-visual and text have dissolved: the internet platform can carry them all. That convergence allows immediate comparison and allows anyone with the time and a little skill to re-edit or mash-up content” (Brock 88). The power of editing online is nothing short of absurd because this means that anyone, from anywhere can add to a person’s written content at any time, regardless if what they are adding is correct or not. This leads to an audience being misled and given incorrect information, which should never slide in the realms of journalism. Why is preciseness so important exactly? As made clear in Credibility in Context: How Uncivil Online Commentary Affects News Credibility, “Credibility is of practical interest to journalists and news institutions because of the widespread belief that audiences are more likely to read, watch, or listen to news content provided by sources they trust. There is evidence to suggest that those who are relatively more trusting of mainstream news media are somewhat more likely to use these sources than those who are more skeptical of the media” (Thorson, Vraga, & Ekdale 4). Of course we can’t forget about readers because without them, journalism would serve no true purpose. Delivering the truth, in full, and relating to all parties is the strongest way to grow a bond with audiences. This is why great, big time newspaper companies are popular and known for being reputable. In the end, journalism should be pure and trustful, in every way possible, no matter what platform.

Objectivity and the ethical issues regarding new media journalism is an ever growing issue commonly addressed among biases and plagiarism. Discussing the subject of objectivity, Price shares the opinion of the director of the University of Minnesota’s Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law, Jane Kirtley. She expresses, “When critics argue a reader needs to know a journalist’s point of view in order to evaluate his work, they are assuming the reporter can’t set aside his personal opinions when doing his job. But that’s not a view I share. Part of being a professional is being able to do that” (qtd by Price). Due to the normality of biases in Journalism, which has been ever so heightened thanks to the internet, Kirtley defends the careers of those journalists who dedicate their practices to staying neutral. Being a proficient journalist should mean reporting the facts and only what is certain, leaving partiality separate from that. After all, journalism communicates true happenings and events and regardless of the circumstances surrounding those happenings, people are always going to have an opinion. However, opinion does not sway the truth. Additionally, it is fair to argue that copyright should pertain to media in the same sense that it does with print, with an analysis by Diane Rowland,

Does copyright apply to newspapers in exactly the same way as to other literary works? The straightforward answer is clearly ‘yes’. Although news reports are based on facts that by themselves cannot be copyrighted, there will be copyright in the way those facts are expressed by a particular journalist and additional copyrights in the total compilation of the newspaper and the typographical layout. (Rowland 4)

Copyrights protect the interior works of print publications such as newspapers and magazines, as well as the designs of these hard copies. With new media in the mix, plagiarism becomes more and more common as we progress into the technological age, as it is very easy to copy someone else’s work and thrive on. It is a difficult process to try and maintain all of this because the internet is more immense than imaginable and thus, the amount of people who plagiarize is not necessarily measurable. The basis of ethics is an evolving concept in media journalism, overall, and should be respected by anyone who wishes to publish their work, whether they are highly skilled or sitting on their couch from home.

Now that the media has taken such a detrimental hold on the world of journalism, professional reporters and writers commonly witness underappreciation for their craft and what they work so hard to perfect. Another problem that professionals in the journalism field often face is competition with amateurity. As talked about in Hosting The Public Discourse, Hosting the Public, “Users can be invited not just to comment, but to provide leads, information, photos, and other content. Outspoken users publicly challenge journalists and their sources, at times questioning their facts or engaging in harsh, ad hominem attacks..” (Braun, Gillespie 2). As if competition wasn’t steep enough in flourishing cities around the world; we now have an entirely different entity to confront: online media. People don’t necessarily need to be skilled in writing, reporting, or even investigating to publish works of their own. White collared journalists recognize an unfair circle of criticism and incompetence among the growing industry. Stephen Ward, certified director of the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Journalism Ethics commented on the controversy, stating that, “Journalists themselves are sitting in newsrooms and they’re starting to worry about their own ability to be accurate informers, because advertisers, business interests and the publishers themselves are threatening [the journalists’] independence” (qtd by Price). Ward highlights the way that sponsors have a direct impact on the news and specifically, the content that journalists speak upon. The power that advertisers hold is quite intimidating because they have the supreme control to leverage what the news reports on. Another concern for professionally trained journalists is that, “Journalists may worry that amateur-quality contributions from users will undercut the professional sheen of their own work; news organizations may find they must work harder to protect their brand as they incorporate user-generated content. Journalism scholars have begun to document these shifts, the ambivalence news professionals feel about this expansion of interactivity, and how journalists justify both the involvement of users and the curtailment of their participation” (Braun, Gillespie 384). User-generated content, otherwise known as citizen journalism, conflicts with the business of practiced journalists and how their pieces of work are perceived. Professionals waste time challenging uneducated, naive journalist imposters who frequently sensationalize their content in order to grab the attention of the public. It is no longer shocking to witness incompetent people attempting to outshine the artistry of a true journalist.

The concept of print journalism has been around for such a long time, it’s impossible to imagine journalism without newspapers, magazines, and other forms of hard copies. This is why we must push to support these publications. The New York Tribune, which reigned all newspapers during its time and was led by arguably, one of the most inspirational and driven editors of all time, Horace Greeley, represents the heart of journalism. Greeley’s vision was examined in Brock’s book, explaining, “The Tribune would have its own correspondents, and not just in the United States but all over the world… This new form of editorial organization, Greeley assured his readers, would make the newspaper a “Great Moral Organ”. In his editorial organization and research, Greeley was ahead of his time” (Brock 33). Greeley wanted his journalists to make an impact on the population and not only that, but grow to be more immense than one could ever imagine. The idea of newspapers changing how the world understood news was a prevalent one, indeed. Then, Henry Raymond founded the famous New York Times. Although his goals were less daring compared to Greeley’s, he implanted a crucial scheme of balance, centering more so on the importance of consistency for the public. “Historically newspapers have always played a significant role in both forming and influencing public opinion that is not played to any appreciable extent by other types of literary work. This is partly due to the innate curiosity of humans to know about events and individuals in both their immediate and not so immediate environments but is also a consequence of the prevalence and accessibility of newspapers” (Rowland 3). Newspapers appeal to the public and give people their independence.

As society dives deeper and deeper into the world of regularly receiving news online, there’s no denying that they also pull further away from reading tangible print copies and coming to understand the essence of traditional outlets. In Out of Print, the author’s take on this change is explicitly stated.

As digital communications become the quickest and simplest ways of getting and sending information, the conventions of 20th-century print will fade in importance. The rules and conventions of fairness, impartiality, objectivity and accuracy are relevant for news organizations anywhere and are imperatives for news outlets such as news agencies or public service broadcasters. (Brock 233)

Brock is making a point that as the popularity of technological outlets are outshining print in this day and age, new developments and ways of reporting news are also overcoming long-established principles in print. While aiming to stay fair, neutral and accurate are all goals of journalists around the spectrum (as they should be), claiming that the foundations that print journalism was created on are insignificant by comparison is a clear blow to the journalists that came before us. Disregarding the values of the print industry, the proper and detailed ways in which journalists write their stories and strive to impact, is not a strong way to defend new digital platforms. These ideas and elements that were formed by print led us to where we are today, so claiming that they will become irrelevant is quite intolerant towards those who worked so hard to perfect that craft. We truly owe all that we have learned, developed and even modified to the start of print journalism. Like the writers of Credibility in Context exemplified and appreciated, “In a print newspaper, care is taken to visually separate and identify different genres of news content. Opinion pieces are clearly labeled as such, and ‘‘news analysis’’ stories are distinguished from other news content in the ‘‘A’’ section of the paper” (Thorson, et al., 5). Attention to detail grew within the creation of the newspaper and the goal from the very beginning has been to give people a perspective on real, accurate, daily occurrences. Therefore, without print, journalism wouldn’t be known for its integrity, as its dependency wouldn’t be so high either. Print has given journalism it’s repute and in every way, its symbol of reliance and trust. As expressed by Brock, “Human beings like reading words from paper. For many, paper is both optically more attractive and carries greater authority” (231). Not only is print journalism classic and original, but it is also regarded as highly intellectual and valuable, especially in modern day where media often overshadows it. For without the creation of the newspaper, wouldn’t we all be going crazy not knowing what’s going on in the world around us?

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing,” the influential Benjamin Franklin once preached. This quote can pertain to the world of journalism in a number of ways, but first and foremost, in that it should inspire journalists across all spectrums to write to the best of their ability. This means that journalists should be double checking their work, making sure that they give credit where it’s due and understanding the challenges that come along with new media journalism. Secondly, regardless of the fact that partiality has always existed, doesn’t mean that opinions hold the same virtue as reality. The internet can be a very illusional realm that makes it difficult to navigate the truth. Media is hurting journalism tremendously by threatening the very foundation that it was built on: delivering news to the people. In the end, appreciation for the written word is righteous. It started a revolution for news telling and now, it is taken for granted thanks to degenerates on the web and a lack of respect to those who have worked so hard.






















Works Cited

Braun, Joshua, and Tarleton Gillespie. “Hosting the Public Discourse, Hosting the Public.” Journalism Practice, 2011, pp. 1-16.

Brock, George. Out of Print: Newspapers, Journalism and the Business of News in the Digital Age. Kogan Page Limited, London;Philadelphia;, 2013.

Price, Tom. Journalism Standards in the Internet Age: Are the News Media Sacrificing Ethics Online? vol. 20, CQ Press, 2010.

Rowland, Diane. “Whose News? Copyright and the Dissemination of News on the Internet.” International Review of Law, Computers & Technology, vol. 17, no. 2, 2003, pp. 163-174.

Thorson, Kjerstin, Emily Vraga, and Brian Ekdale. “Credibility in Context: How Uncivil Online Commentary Affects News Credibility.” Mass Communication and Society, vol. 13, no. 3, 2010, pp. 289-313.


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