Ethics in Journalism – The Public Deserves the Truth


“If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.”

― Mark Twain

To paraphrase a rather crude phrase, “Opinions are like (blankety blank blank), everyone has one,” but when the public is denied access to the facts, opinions are a worthless use of air and print.  People have nothing upon which to base their opinions other than the rantings of mainstream media hacks.  There are people in this nation who have realized the supposed “facts” in the mainstream media are unfounded rubbish and went looking for truth and facts elsewhere.   The deceptions in the mainstream media are so prevalent now that it has become cliché.  A large part of the public is either misinformed or not informed at all.

How do you converse with someone or respect their opinions when their opinions are based on what you know to be lies?  Impossible.  The trigger used on such people is an emotional response to fiction.  Well, we all have emotional responses, but you would hope you are responding to something attached to reality.  (That is, unless you buy into Freddie Kruger movies and love to entertain yourself with horror stories.) Reading the newspapers or listening to the news can trigger all kinds of emotional responses, but what if what you are reading and hearing is pure fiction, deliberately intended to yank your emotions into high gear?  This is where Madison Avenue and the government meet the press room.

A drug company wants to sell more of its product. The drug company advertises in the newspaper, magazine, or on the TV network.  The next thing you know, there is some news story that says your physical well-being depends on taking that drug or one like it.  The news reporter will tell the public that some affliction is so predominant in the human race that everyone should be tested for whatever that drug will cure.  Uh huh. 

An energy sector company wants to sell wind turbines to the public.  The wind turbine manufacturer advertises the benefits of their new system on the news station. The next thing you know, there is a news story on how we are running out of fossil fuels, and the nation must switch to alternative power sources.   Uh huh.  You never see a news story that shows the detrimental effects of that wind turbine farm on the channels who sold the advertising to the wind turbine manufacturer.  Never.  Sadly, your neighbors and friends saw the news stories about peak fossil fuels and swallowed the whole fiction.  They didn’t connect the dots between advertising and the news reports.

The government is an advertiser, too.  How many public service announcements from the government do you hear and see?  Every one of those is a tax deduction for the news provider.  The radio station or TV station sets a rate per second or per minute for air time.  The government then grants them a tax break based on those rates for every public service announcement aired.  The broadcaster doesn’t want to jeopardize that tax break, now does it?  The next thing you know there is a news story on the benefits of X, Y, or Z government program.  But you never hear anything to the contrary.  Ah….The benefits of depending on the government.  “Big Gov will take care of me,” is the message that gets through to those emotional wrecks who want the government to take care of them. Or maybe the response is, “Look at what great things the government is doing with my tax dollars! What a great thing!”  The poor consumer of that message never connects the dots – that their tax dollars were just used to convince them, subsidizing the broadcaster at the same time.

The mainstream media is making up stories and choosing stories to hit triggers of emotional response.  That may sound naive.  Editors have always chosen the stories to feed to the public.  They need consumers. They also need advertisers to pay the bills. But advertising used to be separate from the news.  I’m good with advertising, branding, and Madison Avenue.  I am not good with Madison Avenue buying out the truth and having the mainstream media print and broadcast lies to the public.  And I am not good with the government using my tax dollars to advertise itself and dupe the public.  

Years ago, when I was in high school, I thought I would pursue a career in journalism.  I was fairly proficient in English and writing.  Between my Junior and Senior years I was offered a summer program for two weeks at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  One of the classes I recall was a class on journalistic ethics.  Seems like a hundred years ago now, but there was such a thing as journalistic ethics taught at a State university in this country.  The major lesson of that particular class was to never let anything get between your writing and the facts.  Do research to verify what you are saying.  Check your sources.  At the least, do all you can in those efforts.  If you fail at that, print retractions and caveats that correct the mistakes.  Don’t fail the public’s need for truth.  This is the responsibility of journalists.

The public still needs the truth, but is starving for it.  The case for journalistic ethics has been tossed aside for a different agenda, purposely manipulating the public with lies and deception. 

Ted Cruz and a few other Republicans did the other day what journalists have failed to do.  He spent 20+ hours on the floor of the Senate telling the truth about the so-called “Affordable Care Act.”  The mainstream media and sycophantic pundits have mocked him for his efforts.  If we had ethics in journalism, or ethics in government, we would not be suffering through the worst presidency of our lifetimes or the consequences of it.  Our nation is suffering from a lack of truth.

Kudos to my blogger friends and Facebook friends who are exposing the deceptions.  You are doing what my journalism class instructed.  We are all citizen journalists now.

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