The First Amendment of the US Constitution clearly identifies the freedom of the Press. The Founding Fathers included this provision to ensure government would be scrutinized and the People had a means to accurately monitor their leaders. In the modern age, mass media from newspapers to the worldwide web provide a constant stream of information about political leader. While this transparency can improve government by helping to root out the bad behaviors of politicians, scandals over ill-spoken thoughts and trivial matters undermine the legitimacy of the political system and can destroy the careers of otherwise good leaders.
This is certainly no truer than when it comes to Presidential candidate Donald Trump and his collisions with so-called professional journalists. Since the Huffington Post decided to cover Trump’s campaign as entertainment, instead of politics, and the start of his feud with Fox Host Megyn Kelly, the media has clearly covered Trump’s campaign in a very antagonist fashion. In politics, people often take statements out of context and interpret them in the worst possible way in order to frame candidates in the worst possible light. With the introduction of Trump’s “American First” platform the potentially unethical coverage of Trump’s campaign now threatens US foreign policy.
In targeting Japan and South Korea, Trump expressed his concerns, which are widely shared, about US military spending and ally commitment. Focusing on America’s unsustainable defense budget, he chastised overall military spending by allied nations. Instead of trying to clarify Trump’s intent or holding a constructive debate, the media deflected the debate to the costs these allies do shoulder. US partners help alleviate the US military budget, but US military infrastructure is sized to help shield allies from threats and maintain global stability. Instead of US allies fully funding their own security needs, the US is subsidizing the majority of their security and not charging them for that service.
Donald Trump is clearly not an expert on foreign policy, but he is a businessman who seeks to gather expertise and facilitate the resolution of persistent problems. In short, he is a facilitator of problem-solvers and solution-builders. As a businessman, he seeks to use leverage in his negotiations to maximize his benefits. This is most likely why he suggested these allies either pay more to support US military infrastructure or consider building their own nuclear deterrent. The shallow coverage of Trump’s comments are stoking fears among US allies and helping frame a President Trump as a threat, which fosters division between US allies and Obama’s potential successor.
Greater transparency thanks to constant media access has given the general public and political experts greater opportunity to more accurately analyze the words and actions of leaders. While silvered-tongue politicians may be able to carefully craft political planks for constituents and spin little slipups, constant oversight means deceptive politicians will eventually betray their true selves to the attentive. The Press plays a pivotal role in politics as it is our window into the political world. The great democracies of the world would probably cease to function as democracies without mass media to inform all citizens, who live in so many geographic regions, of what is government is doing.
Thanks to a growing number of free sources of information from the internet continually increasing competition for diminishing ad and subscription revenue, however, news outlets need to draw larger audiences. Because news outlets need massive amounts of ad revenue to support their infrastructure and paid staff, they nationalize their coverage by catering to densely populated communities where readership and viewership are highest, and to special interests. They also sensationalize the news, as though it is entertainment, in order to hold the attention of consumers longer.
Unfortunately, journalist will, and do, abuse the power of the Press by scrutinizing the actions of leaders, who they dislike and whose policies they oppose, until they find something trivial to create scandal over. A journalist lacking ethics is a very dangerous person, especially if he, or she, is seen as a credible source. After all, a journalist, whose job is to improve communication between influencers and the general public, is capable of significantly altering how the world functions. A journalist must have integrity, a sense of responsibility, and a desire to offer transparent, constructive reports. It cannot be the goal of a journalist to cause harm for the sake of journalistic recognition.
Professional ethics exist to help minimize the negative effects of experts while ensuring a firm and its industry sustains healthy competition as well as socially responsible behavior in the long run. Put simply, professional ethics control costs that cannot be controlled directly or may not be known. Ethical considerations ensure journalists are truly credible sources of information while ethical conduct also determines if writers are assets or impediments to the world of politics as well as the rest of society. Ethics for such a pivotal source of analysis and reporting must be grounded in a sense of responsibility to one’s readers, the Public at large, and the community as a whole.
Journalists are expected to communicate relevant information to readers. It is, therefore, an ethical obligation for journalists to ask questions that their audiences might find relevant. The answers, at times, can be quite damaging to the people and institutions caught up in the stories. Although integrity requires writers to honestly report their findings, there is also need for balance. This means journalists must also present alternative interpretations of the data, especially when their coverage can be damaging. Facing potentially destructive findings, it is the responsibility of journalists to show a way forward as well as to facilitate the healing of the damage done by their coverage
Ethics for the journalists require these professionals show no favoritism toward or against a public figure for the sake of personal gain or other considerations. Clearly, everybody has their own bigotries. As such, transparency, when a potential conflict of interest arises, is a requirement. Much of the time, journalists must report nothing more than the facts; however, many stories oblige writers to interpret the facts to make them useful. This means journalists must also recognize when their personal views influence their analysis. Donald Trump might say offensive, controversial things, but ethics require journalists to cover his campaign in a more constructive manner.
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