Thursday, October 06, 2005

Media Ethics

Ordinarily, I try to avoid talking about myself too much on this thing. Mostly because it's none of anybody's damned business, but also because we all have our little personal stories, and they're not all that interesting.

I'm a freelance journalist on sabbatical from publishing and reporting. My work has been published in the Times of Trenton, mainly feature articles but there were some worth reading. At the moment I'm back in school finishing up my long-overdrawn college career. In order to graduate, I had to enroll in a class called Media Ethics & Law.

Let me tell you what I know about Media Ethics. We make them up as we go along. Why? Because they're ethics, the professional equivalent to morals. Any decent moral or ethical judgment is situational. Any intelligent person knows that. Blanket rules are occasionally valid, but only so long as you can see where the exceptions are. It's the way it is. Discussing the ethical connundrums of printing corrections annoys me, not because it's a stupid topic, but because it's a pointless topic. Folks, here's how it works: every professional service you have provided is provided by a person. They can make mistakes. They can be corrupt. Now, as a journalist, I try my damnedest to provide accurate, grammatically correct and up-to-date information, just as any good journalist does. But if I fuck up, I fuck up. I can promise that I work my ass off to avoid it, but I'm still human. If you expect more from me, from your local doctor, or from the Pope you're delusional, or at the very least have an unrealistic faith in your fellow man.

That's the point, right there. That's where I err with all this ethical yammering. There are two types of fuckups in any profession: the deliberate and the accidental. The ones that'll screw up an honest account deliberately you have to pinpoint as soon as possible, preferably before you HIRE THEM (Jayson Blair, you little cocksucker, I know you're out there!). And in respect to the accidental screwups, here's a simple guide:

1) They weren't paying attention--Give them another chance, depending on the magnitude of the error. If it was minor, let them make amends. If they repeat their mistakes, warn them again. The inattentive can be changed with enough yelling. There's nothing wrong with them that a swift kick in the ass won't fix.
2) The sloppy--Can them if they can't figure it out after the first warning.
3) The indifferent--"Oh, fuck it, I'll put in whatever. No one cares about this anyway". Fire him and the editor who hired him!

The first and foremost sign of a person who shouldn't be tolerated is someone who can't ADMIT to their mistakes. I'm not expecting you to listen to everything I say as the gospel truth. THe gospels aren't accredited or backed up by REAL information. What I say is. I expect you to listen to me because it's true and in any available case, verifiable. This is the advantage that Internet media has provided us all.

I don't worry about being an Ethical Journalist...because I know I am. Because Bill O'Reilly and Jayson Blair are out there to remind me what unethical media usage is. But for what it's worth, I am at least familiar with the debate. It's just a debate I settled with myself a long time ago.

More on this topic when der mediated man has some actual genuine free time...

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