Fake news, especially the propagation of fake news by the so-called professional media, has blossomed into a full-blown crisis that only promises to grow. Although inaccuracies and propaganda have always plagued the news, search engines results based on popularity, social media, and the manner in which the Press shares under-verified stories on a national level to save money at the expense of much needed investigative journalism have transformed an ongoing issue into a crisis of credibility. The issue of fake news adds to an already growing distrust of media outlets that cater to the political bias of their owners as they rely more on often-biased “analysis” and “commentary.”
Unfortunately, journalist will, and do, abuse the power of the Press by scrutinizing the actions of those they dislike and those whose views 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 society. Ethics for such pivotal sources 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 a 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.
Furthermore, the rise of the internet means the world no longer needs the Press to amass and share easily available information as it has traditionally done. What the world needs from professional media outlets is investigative journalism that uncovers and verifies information that escapes the view of the public. The world also needs journalism that filters, sorts, and verifies the massive amount of data available in order to help identify what is fact and what is not. As for analysis and commentary, the professional media cannot simply be a platform for experts to share their professional views. The Press must provide scrutiny of the thinking and practices of alleged experts.
When watching the news or reading a newspaper article, we are often expected to trust the validity of the opinions and other assertions that the professionals featured in these news reports make without understanding the assumptions and methodology that resulted in their conclusions. Just consider how two people might look at the exact same facts and come up with two opposing conclusions that are both correct to some degree. This apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that every individual has his or her own perspective, which has been developed over a lifetime of personal, educational, and professional experiences.
Analysts do not simply rely on their own perspectives or even the facts. What analysts learn to do is view information through different perspectives and best-fit models that allow them to interpret information in a more consistent, accurate manner. This “intellectual architecture,” which might be called many things including a philosophy, worldview, etc., comes from the shaping of one’s thinking through training and other experiences as an individual learns how new information relates to already known information. Using intellectual architectures, analysts are able to more effectively acquire, process, and utilize vast amounts of new information.
The primary education system of the West actually gives students the intellectual architecture necessary to comprehend the world with varying degrees of objectivity and function in our globalized society. When individuals are lacking the intellectual architecture needed to understand complex issues or two individuals are utilizing two incompatible worldviews, they cannot effectively comprehend and address issues that affect them or come to a viable resolution. Unfortunately, outdated worldviews among paid analysts and the failure to recruit innovative minds into all relevant fields has created a deficient of the intellectually architecture needed craft novel solutions to prevailing crisis. It is the role of analysts and journalists to overcome this deficit.
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