Thousands of journalists all over world voluntarily embrace the journalist code of ethics as a critical set of values and guidelines required to be a professional and morally upright journalist. The Society of Journalists (SPJ) says that “the code is not intended as a set of ‘rules’ but as a resource for ethical decision making”. Because it is not legally enforced, it is up to the integrity of the journalist to uphold the code of ethics. It is not possible to ensure that all journalists abide by the code of ethics. There will be some, who could not stand by their codes, values and integrity when they are in the face of economic and social pressures, and choose to tread the grey areas instead.
People do not become bad journalists in a day. It’s a slow fade when black and white is turned to grey. We must be very careful not to give ourselves away to unethical acts, and disregard our morals in order to get a good story or some physical rewards. In Singapore, we are blessed to have good, ethical journalists, who present very transparent news. The same cannot be said for many journalists in other parts of the world. Breslin’s (1997) study found the following: In Japan, journalists voluntarily and regularly curtail their truth-telling through the practice of self-censorship -- not from coercion by the government, but by their own press organizations that cover government. In the People's Republic of China, journalists -- like all essential workers -- are in the employ of government and pay homage to the truth, but place a lower value on pursuing with any aggressiveness or perseverance. In Korea, journalists most often recognize truth as the word of government, and identify themselves with the elite ruling forces and identify their role as helping to ensure harmony between the rulers and the ruled. Their closeness to government is often measured by the amount of cash in the "white envelopes" they receive from their sources. Journalists cannot live in the clouds, doing what they think is right without pressures being put on them. Often, journalists face pressure from a variety of sources, all trying to make the journalist behave in a way which is not the way the journalist would choose. Journalists are imperfect and fallible. But we must attempt to resist the pressures and take a stand. As such, it is important to review the current journalism code of ethics, and find out whether it is still relevant and sufficient.
Indeed, the code of ethics should reflect values, challenges and realities of journalism. However, “too many of them are mostly lists of do’s and don’ts (usually more don’ts), rather than helpful guides to making ethical decisions in situations that aren’t as simple as the policies sometimes make them” (Buttry, 2010). Also, with much of the articles and stories done on digital social platforms, the current journalism code of ethics is lacking guidelines on the use of social media. The journalism code of ethics attempts to direct journalists from difficult situations but as the saying goes; it is easier said than done. The scenarios portrayed are too vague and unrealistic. A journalist may find himself in various situations where the code of ethics fails to address. As such, the code of ethics is insufficient.
I would recommend an update on the code of ethics with new rules to become more applicable to modern day journalism. When using social media as a platform for a story, be aware of the group who might be misrepresented because they do not use social media as often. For the section headlined protecting sources of information; if a journalist assures a source that he would keep the informant’s identity a secret, he must keep his word under all circumstances. I would like to add, do not publish critical opinions from people seeking confidentiality. The motives of sources should always be questioned. People who wish to express personal opinions in the media should always stand behind their opinion....
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