Journalistic integrity

Table of Content

David Lawerence, publisher of the Miami Herald, emphasizes the crucial role of media in informing the public (quoted in Valente 4). It is worth noting that not all information is published, resulting in a distinction between reported, ignored, and false information with profound societal consequences. Furthermore, biased media professionals possess the ability to influence how facts are perceived by the public. Consequently, accuracy should be prioritized in journalism to enable informed decision-making.

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) emphasizes the importance of journalists following a professional code of ethics, which is widely recognized in the media industry. SPJ’s main ethical concern is holding journalists accountable to their audience and colleagues, ensuring accuracy by considering information from all sources and taking precautions to avoid unintended errors. SPJ strongly opposes the misuse of information and encourages exposing unethical practices by other journalists. However, SPJ stresses that a journalist’s primary focus should be on serving the public’s right to know. If there are any issues or misunderstandings between the public and journalists, SPJ urges individuals to express their grievances against the news media. Working alongside organizations like and, SPJ promotes accuracy and fairness in media while striving to uphold information integrity and maintain reputable journalism careers. While not all editors and journalists adhere to SPJ’s code of ethics, conservatives commonly believe there is a liberal bias in news media; conversely, liberals argue that news media has a conservative slant.Conservatives argue that the press fails to adequately address topics such as religion and family values, while giving excessive attention to liberal positions like abortion, feminism, gay rights, and the environment (“Media Bias” 157-158). Some journalists may dispute this claim, contending that the attention given to conservatives is unbalanced. However, there are those who believe that media bias tends to lean towards a liberal and democratic perspective. Nonetheless, conservative bias does exist and it can influence the public. The extent of this influence varies because consumers have different definitions of bias compared to journalists. Scholars suggest that over time, the American press has leaned more towards liberalism or conservatism in accordance with the prevailing climate of the country. One critic argues that journalistic bias itself is not necessarily problematic; instead, it is how journalists approach balance and fairness which may be misunderstood or rejected by news consumers. Therefore, it is crucial for journalists to satisfy their audience while maintaining an equilibrium of opinions in their work.

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In certain cases, false information is employed to manipulate story presentation, particularly in one-hour newsmagazines like NBC’s Dateline. The pressure to create sensational reporting has compromised accuracy and honesty. For instance, NBC staged two car crashes in order to demonstrate the supposed danger of GM trucks—it even planned a fake fire for added drama—which was later revealed as fraudulent (Hess 65). The exposure of NBC’s deceitful actions drew attention to the impact television has on people’s behaviorAccording to a survey conducted at the Roper Center, 71% of participants rely on news for making practical decisions regarding investments, purchases, voting, health, and education (Valente 4). Therefore, it is crucial for the general public to have access to dependable and honest information in order to make well-informed choices.

In his article “Most Journalists Are Ethical,” Lou Prato asserts that both irresponsible and responsible journalism have a significant societal impact (74). Recognizing the need for improvement in news coverage, journalist Richard Oppel advocates for media that fosters community building, inspiration, and solutions ( Valente 4). Despite the continued reliance of many Americans on traditional news sources such as Nightly Network News, local TV news, and newspapers (Newport 32), a staggering 90% of the public believes that profit-driven motives negatively affect news reporting by the media (Valente 5). This lack of trust further reinforces the pressure on journalists to enhance their reporting. The prevalence of inaccuracies, censorship, and bias within journalism underscores an important consideration: journalists play a crucial role in shaping current events through their work. Even within the news industry itself, a study conducted by found that approximately 90% of journalists agree that Nightly Network News falls short in terms of accuracy (“Examining the Liberal Media Claim” 3), demonstrating their awareness of this issue. However, what often goes unaddressed is how shoddy reporting impacts a journalist’s reputation and credibility. Stereotypes can tarnish the entire profession; nevertheless, there are numerous reputable individuals working diligently to improve the media’s standing.According to Prato, the commitment of local broadcasting and print media during Florida hurricanes and Midwest floods in 1992 and 1993 is evident. The text emphasizes the importance of evaluating individual irresponsible and unethical reporters rather than condemning the entire profession. The article highlights that criticizing all journalists’ work is unproductive. Both journalists and the public have responsibilities in improving media relationships. Alexandra Marks argues that the public must play their part in this process, which could potentially resolve media issues. Past experiences can provide valuable insights for future news writing and interpretation, influencing them. Despite society’s heightened awareness, previous inconsistencies illustrate the challenges faced by the public in determining whom to trust.

Media critic Howard Kurtz from the Washington Post has raised concerns about widespread plagiarism, embellishment, and other unethical practices in the past. These cases pose a risk to public well-being and have sparked controversy regarding their severity and the punishments given.

One current issue causing significant contention is the inclusion of gays in the military. In 1993, this matter generated substantial controversy with mainly negative reports. However, despite its influence on President Clinton’s 1993 Executive Order and costing $1.2 million for the Pentagon to conduct, an expensive study by RAND on this topic received minimal coverage.

The study revealed that 76% of military participants opposed discrimination based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, due to a lack of interest in printing controversial issues, RAND had to retract their support for the study when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was overturned.

As a result, valuable research information and facts that could have contributed to public debates on gays in the military were withheld from the American people as magazines, newspapers, and TV failed in their responsibility to disseminate this information.

Out of the 41 articles written by Stephen Glass, 27 of them contained inaccurate or fabricated information. This case of Glass, a former columnist for New Republic magazine, was particularly noteworthy and contentious as it severely impacted the field of journalism and tarnished its reputation (Koch 1129). The most surprising aspect was that Glass was never formally prosecuted; instead, he was discreetly fired.

CNN and Time Magazine mishandled the issue by not addressing it promptly and with humility. They had been reporting that the U.S. military was using nerve gas to eliminate American defectors in Laos during the Vietnam War (Koch 1129). It was not until the U.S. government provided evidence contradicting the story that these “‘serious faults in reporting’” were acknowledged. Only at that point did the program and the magazine retract the article (1129).

Previously, there have been instances of more localized cases. Specifically, two columnists from the Boston Globe, including the renowned Mike Barnicle, were fired due to their involvement in creating fake individuals and quotes as well as committing plagiarism (Koch 1129). However, the Globe’s staff effectively addressed this issue and resolved it appropriately. The perpetrators were duly punished, and it was firmly established that such misconduct would not be acceptable.

The Cincinnati Enquirer retracted an 18-page investigative exposé of the Chiquita Brands Company, apologized, and agreed to pay $10 million in damages after discovering that the reporter had stolen information (1129). The intriguing aspect of the Chiquita case is that the paper has not disclosed whether any part of it was false, according to Kurtz (qtd. in Koch 1129). Kurtz questions, “It is disturbing that a paper would pay $10 million before the company even filed suit.” Nonetheless, the case has concluded, leaving the public unaware of the accuracy of the extensive report.

In the last half-century, there have been improvements in journalistic ethics (Koch 1129). Koch defends the media by claiming that recent scandals occur because journalists desire fame, particularly evident in Washington (1129). However, there are instances where exceptionally gruesome crimes may not be in the public’s best interest to be published. Hence, not all stories lacking full context aim to deceive the public. Previous cases of media inaccuracies have influenced the way journalism is currently reported. Consequently, some journalists are making efforts to improve their reporting, while others believe that negligent reporting has historically gone unpunished. Certain companies seek to challenge these journalists’ perceptions.

According to an article by Tim Jones titled “Gannett Unveils Rules for Ethical Reporting, Editing” from SIRS Researcher CD-ROM, Gannett Co., Inc., the largest paper company in America, has recently implemented new regulations for its newspapers. These rules explicitly forbid reporters from misrepresenting themselves and encourage editors to exercise caution when publishing questionable stories. This is considered a noteworthy initiative by Gannett because they own more than 50 global newspapers. Despite previous concerns about the company’s credibility resulting from issues with affiliated papers, Jones argues that Gannett remains unaffected by these concerns and is satisfied with its positive public image. Furthermore, Gannett aims to serve as a role model for others in the industry. In general, their efforts to enhance their reputation are seen as a favorable step towards improving the media landscape.

Gannett is a unique case, but other reporting situations prompt groups to seek change. Liberals are concerned about conservative biases in the media because “major segments of the media are run and owned by large corporations that tend to favor conservative viewpoints,” according to the article “Media Bias” (159). Liberals argue that breaking up existing mergers, where a few major companies own everything, could address bias and false reporting. Currently, this is problematic because it discourages reporters from covering potentially negative news about the parent companies of the networks (“Media Bias” 159). Republicans, on the other hand, oppose the breaking up of mergers, believing that they keep the media simple (158). David Broder notes that the editorial pages of the American Press have consistently leaned more Republican overall (quoted in “Media Bias” 158). The compromise proposed by liberals would also challenge the prevailing belief that society is plagued by liberal bias. Through this agreement, they are putting politics aside to improve the media industry.

Society always strives to improve the media, as it is a goal of ours to achieve perfection, which is a fundamental part of the American way. However, negative comments have a detrimental effect on society and its perspective. These comments hinder progress in journalism and prevent us from reaching higher standards. An article by Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr. on EBSCOHost highlights a comment from an anonymous journalist who suggests that media reform is pointless. In reality, reform and change are essential for success. Moving forward, we hope that journalists will aim to meet the standards they are held to.

According to a study conducted by American Journalism Review in Gallup (Newport, Saad 33), 46% of the public believes that conversations with family and friends are more reliable than local newspapers. Over time, distrust of the media has been increasing. CNN and Headline News both achieved a trust percentage of 59, making them the highest-ranked sources. Surprisingly, the nightly network news only received a net trust rating of 43%, which confused many journalists such as Carol Marin (Langone 238). Marin wonders how “trash TV can prosper in a climate that people profess to abhor.” Nevertheless, people are demonstrating their desire for change.

Thomas Rush, a senator from Illinois, is pushing for a congressional bill that seeks to strengthen the consequences for inaccuracies and laziness in the media. The main objective of the Rush bill is to combat the direct impact of inaccurate media on the public. Additionally, this legislation aims to tackle racism within media organizations, which leads to bias (Langone 238). Although there is considerable backing for the bill, it also aggravates the current tension between the media and society.

The media is often criticized for providing inaccurate or biased information to the public. However, it is important to understand the reasons behind these actions. Some journalists responsibly report news by selectively excluding certain details, while others engage in unethical journalism practices. It is crucial to differentiate between these two types of journalists in order to maintain the integrity of the profession. Society also plays a role in identifying and separating trustworthy reporters from those who act unethically. The media’s reputation has been damaged due to their inaccuracies, which affects decision-making in various areas of life. Rebuilding trust requires a commitment from the media to serious reporting, as highlighted by Andrew Kohut in his article “To the Public, the Press too Often Gets it Wrong.” This process will take time and necessitate changes within the news environment.

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Journalistic integrity. (2019, Apr 10). Retrieved from

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