By Taryn Champion

Digital journalism, which partially consists of online blogging, instant news updates, live feeds and discussions has blurred the line between ethical and unethical journalism, leaving consumers dissatisfied and sceptical. News consumers now need to use critical thinking in order to compare credible and dumbfounding sources. As columnist Linda Bowles notes, “Unfortunately, the media have trouble distinguishing between real science and propaganda cross-dressed as science.”

The possibility of the world having the Internet at its fingertips makes way for every single individual being able to write articles and post them on the Web. The mass use of the Internet has thus distorted the definition of journalism. In such a world, ethics is just as important.

The digital age can/has influenced journalists

To simplify why journalism ethics are so crucial, let’s look at a comparison: the human muscle. When not exercised or simply used, the human muscle is weak, less noticeable and lazy. However when exercised, the human muscle grows, becomes strong and much more prominent and noticeable. When looking at unethical journalism, articles are usually weak, as they lack evidence, the correct information, grammar and facts. They exist, but are not so noticeable by the consumer.

Ethical journalism entails factual information, hard evidence, opinions from all parties involved, objective information steered away from subjectivity and outstanding grammar, spelling and punctuation. Ethical journalism, just like an exercised muscle, is strong in content, endures and does not go unnoticed.

The consumer is so overwhelmed with unethical content provided for by the internet that they crave a good piece of factual work.

Why ethical journalism is important

As a journalist you have the responsibility towards society to provide truthful, balanced, factual and objective information while steering away from conflicts of interest and taking society’s privacy into account. “However, with the power of the pen in a business that revolves around revealing the shortcomings of others comes an inherent responsibility to act honestly and ethically” states Nick Craddock on PolicyMic. Journalists have the power to influence what society believes and should, as a result provide objective information allowing society to interpret what is being said and done using their own discretion.

Sensationalism should never enter a factual article in order to avoid rumour and speculation.

The consumer has a right to truthful and factual information. Without this the profession of journalism would not exist. “Journalists who take on the often thankless task of developing guidelines should ignore the sceptics and push on with this remarkable reinvention of journalism ethics. The future of responsible journalism depends on it,” writes Stephen Ward, founding director of the Center for Journalism Ethics.

The smallest things count

The smallest of factors can determine whether a journalist is ethical or unethical. Double checking facts, having first hand sources, checking grammar, punctuation and spelling and validating material are all key ethics that should not be overlooked.

Journalists at times can be hasty in order to get their story out first, which may result in ethics being overlooked. However, being first and wrong is not ideal. Those who know your work and trust you will wait for your version. As noted above ‘the consumer is so overwhelmed with unethical content provided for by the internet that they crave a good piece of factual work’.

What are your thoughts about the role of ethics in journalism today? Tell us below.