Why News Journalists are Legally Allowed to Report Real News Along With Fake News
All my life I relied on news journalists to feed honest and unbiased news to the public. But, for the past couple of years I have been noticing troubling conduct and conflicts between various news journalists and notable political figures. Today, I am suspicious of the "news” being reported by various news outlets. It appears that some news journalists are spreading malicious propaganda which leads me to develop a distrust of news journalists in today's world. Sadly, people I believe to be highly intelligent people rely on fake news. When they share this news they unknowingly spew more lies and rumors into the world.
Recently, I heard the president of the United States call news reporters, “The enemy of the people!” Later, he clarified that he was referring to fake news journalists, not all news journalists.
There are no legal rules for journalism. In fact, journalists have free reign to lie to the people at will. If they want to lie and spread rumors to the public, they can do so without any legal or professional ramifications. It is this fact that gives some journalists the moral freedom to spread the kind of fake news that feeds into their personal agenda.
I took it upon myself to investigate what attributes are required to be a journalist and what activities constitute journalistic professionalism. During my investigation I discovered the fact that journalists do not need a license to practice journalism. However, while there is a code of ethics outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists, there is no governing source that regulates journalists. They are free to do what they want to do. They are legally allowed to report what they want to report whether it is true or not. This led me to realize how little I, an ordinary person, can rely on news journalists to report the truth.
Unlike many public service professionals who are bound by an industry prescribed code of ethics, news reporters are not required to be held to any type of formal standard.
Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
While there are no legal organizations that monitor news journalists, there is an organization that provides a set of guidelines encouraging news journalists to be fair, honest, and balanced when reporting the news to the public. The guidelines are not enforceable, but they suggest a minimal effort that news journalists can rely on to be formidable, upright professionals in the business of serving the public to the best of their ability.
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.
The Society declares these four principles as the foundation of ethical journalism and encourages their use in its practice by all people in all media.— Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics Preamble
Professional Journalists Code of Ethics
Journalists who subscribe to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics agree to these four set of guidelines summarized here:
- Seek Truth and Report It
Journalists should be responsible with the information they release, not distorting the truth and using original sources whenever possible.
- Minimize Harm
Consider the public’s need for the information they report and choose not to report harmful and intrusive stories, especially when such stories are for the purpose of satisfying mere curiosity.
- Act Independently
Journalists’ primary obligation is to serve the people, not themselves or political interests.
- Be Accountable and Transparent
Journalists should take responsibility for the news they report. They should acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently.
Should News Journalists be Licensed?
Because I am a private citizen with limited means to determine real news from fake news, I would like to see news journalists be licensed. I would like to see a legal entity created to monitor news journalists who report the news to the public. I would like to see licensed news journalists held to a certain set of news journalist industry standards. Then, I would like to see licensed news journalists who are found to be dishonest or who veer from prescribed journalistic standards be held criminally liable or fined whenever they are found to fall short of industry standards. In addition, according to the level of harm caused by dishonest news reporting, dishonest news reporters should fear revocation of their news journalist license.
Freedom of Speech
In America, we take pride in our First Amendment right to free speech.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.— The First Amendment
I believe in the First Amendment. I believe all Americans should be free to say what we want to say. I believe the press should be free to share the news at will. At the same time, I believe that the American people benefit best by having press that, along with being free, is honest and unbiased.
What About Opinion Writers?
Opinions are different. If writers want to speak freely, they should speak freely. They do not need to check facts. Writers who simply write about how they feel about a subject are not credible news sources. Instead, properly, they are referred to as opinion writers. Opinion writers are free speech writers who, truth or not, present their opinions. Opinions are merely opinions. Readers can either agree or disagree with the writer. Readers typically don’t rely on opinion writers to speak the truth.
Unlike with opinion writers, today's readers lamely rely on news journalists to report the truth.
The Fourth Estate
The idea of media reporting stems from the establishment of what is called the Fourth Estate, a term used as far back as the late 1700s. News reporters were held in high esteem and charged with keeping an eye upon our government and to report their findings to the people so that we could elect the proper officials. Some of today’s media entities seem to fall short of the ideals of journalism with regard to the Fourth Estate.
Be Conscientious About Your News Source
While some news mediums are honest and provide a balanced environment for delivery of the news, many news mediums operate from a platform that spews propaganda that supports a biased agenda. I no longer rely upon them as my ultimate news source.
Now, whenever possible, I go straight to the source. The media has become so untrustworthy that our current president, Donald Trump, bypasses the media, delivering his messages straight to the people by posting comments on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. In my opinion, it is a smart solution to making sure the public receives the pure, unadulterated truth straight from the source.
When President Trump won the election, a senior citizen friend called concerned that our social security benefits would be stripped. I encouraged my friend to stop listening to news reporters and get her news straight from the source. I recorded a sound bite of the president stating that he would NOT be eliminating social security benefits. I played the soundbite to my friend and she was humbly relieved.
The following video is endorsed by the American Association of Retired People (AARP). In this video, President Donald Trump states that he will not cut social security benefits. Listen to what he says during his campaign…
Donald Trump on Social Security
At the time my friend called me, news journalists were reporting that Donald Trump was going to cut social security benefits. It is clear from this video that Donald Trump has no intention of cutting benefits, but that does not stop unscrupulous reporters from lying and falsifying what he actually said.
Fake News is Propaganda
Although news journalists are not legally bound to tell the truth, it is not their job to spread rumors. It is not their job to tell biased stories that cater to their self-serving agendas. When news journalists are unreliable, our lives are placed in jeopardy and sometimes destroyed.
Fake news is the equivalence of propaganda which feeds into people’s paranoia and distorts their views about issues that are personal to them. They fear their needs are not going to be fulfilled by officials in authority.
When people hear and believe fake news and propaganda, in other words, when news journalists spin a story to their own false narrative without verifying the facts first, understandably, some (not all) people become disgruntled. Some people are so disgruntled they become aggressive and destructive to themselves and society. Some people relieve their aggression by engaging in rallies that sometimes lead to violent rioting. They set fires to buildings and vehicles, terrorizing the local inhabitants, and possibly destroying their livelihood.
The Source for Real News
Today, I rely only upon what I actually see and hear directly from the source. If I don't see and hear the words coming directly from someone's own mouth, I don't rely on the story being reported about it. This allows me to develop my own opinion and make decisions that work to benefit my family and me.
Society of Professional Journalists:https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp
Pew Research Center U.S. Politics & Policy/Section 1. The Core Principles of Journalism:http://www.people-press.org/1999/03/30/section-i-the-core-principles-of-journalism/
Poynter’s News University: http://www.newsu.org/courses/ethics-journalism
Dictionary.com – The Fourth Estate: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/fourth-estate
© 2017 Marlene Bertrand