In the past few years, we have seen a trend in mass media where fair news reporting doesn’t hold value any more. This is especially obvious during this election year from all political camps.
Historically, the standard of fair news reporting has been to gather all ascertainable facts on an issue and then draw conclusions. Since around the early 1990s, I have noticed many reporters and researchers start with a thesis and then gather facts which support that thesis. (That is also about the time that I saw plagiarism become rampant in publishing. Wonder if there is a connection. . .)
If you begin, already knowing what you are going to say, and then find some fact to support your statements, you have probably distorted the truth.
If you gather facts first and look at them with an honest eye, they may not support your original thought. That being the case, you have to revise your thesis to fit the facts.
If you report anything as fact, you must have the research, then draw a logical conclusion from that research. Anything else is dishonest.
Code of Ethics
Every news reporting group has their own code of ethics. For example, the Society of Professional Journalism believes in four basic truths—all of which support fair and balanced reporting of information.
Today, our public is distrustful of any news reporting (September, 2015, Gallup poll). Over 60% of Americans don’t trust any news media reports. True or not, the perception is there and turning that perception around will take generations of reporters and researchers working to correct it.
Writing and Fair News Reporting
Fair news reporting is absolutely critical to the preservation of a free society. Truth, however painful, is necessary for us and our elected officials to make good decisions for our future and our country. If someone presents a half-truth as fact and we act upon that half-truth, we run a very real risk of destroying our fragile democracy.
Everything that we have built in our American nation is based upon trust. We trust that the civil engineer is building the bridge so that we can safely cross it. We trust that our teachers are creating independent critical thinkers in our student bodies so they grow up to be contributing members of society. We trust our doctors to have the training necessary to perform the correct health procedures.
We trust (or should trust) that our news outlets are presenting news honestly. We trust that any opinion is marked as such. How else can we be an informed electorate? (Or are they trying to dumb us down and control our votes? Or am I just a jaded news reader, tired of all sides trying to scam me?)
Sadly, I don’t think the current political news writing atmosphere is going to change. It is up to us writers and readers to sift through the chaff and find reality. Let’s demand fair news reporting and see who responds.