In the olden days it was once believed that journalists had ethics. Those days are over. The primary purpose of any decent modern journalist today is to create a sensation and sell papers.
If you need a lesson in modern journalistic ethics you need look no further than our own Josh Kendall. The man is a true artist at tricking college football players into putting their feet into their mouths.
What can a The State reporter do to create the most raucous and rowdy Kentucky crowd possible? The answer is to trick the Gamecock player into agreeing with you that a game at Big Blue is quiet. Next, doctor the player’s quote to make it seem like saying the Kentucky crowds are “quiet” was the player’s idea. Then, send it one of your reporter buddies in Kentucky. With luck you can get her to tweet it out to the Kentucky fans before checking for accuracy. Mission accomplished.
USC safety Chris Moody on UK:”It’s a weird place to play. I can’t tell you why. It’s just a weird place to go line up and play. It’s quiet.”
— Jen Smith (@jenheraldleader) September 20, 2016
Of course you publish your own story with the doctored quote. South Carolina-Kentucky series takes a weird, blue turn It would be dumb to admit it was your idea to say the Kentucky crowd was quiet and the player just agreed. Who cares if the quote is slanted and twists the truth a bit? The key here is getting a great quote for your story. It sells papers, right?
Now the really tricky part is getting a Gamecock player who was at the 2014 Kentucky game and experienced that to say it was quiet. It might have been the loudest road game of the season.
How do you do it? Easy peasy. First, you get the young Gamecocks players to trust you. Then, surprise them with a leading question. It doesn’t matter if the factual assertion you make is completely false and outrageous. These nervous young guys might agree with it! This is how a skilled modern day journalist gets a sensational quote. This is how you create bulletin board material. This is how a master works!
Don’t listen to any naysayers! Every now and then you’ll run into an out-of-touch old reporter. They might want to talk about ethics in the “professsion.” They’ll say that truth ought to be a priority. The old fuddy duddies! Can you believe those idiotic old-timers? Every one of us up-and-comers knows that getting a great quote, stirring up a sensation, impressing your buddies, and selling papers are the first priorities!
I get what the old guys are saying. If you look real hard in the the cracks and crevices of the Internet you can even uncover remnants of their old backward thinking.
Journalism is a form of cartography: it creates a map for citizens to navigate society. Inflating events for sensation, neglecting others, stereotyping or being disproportionately negative all make a less reliable map.
Society of Professional Journalists, Code of Ethics, Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
1. Be truthful.
Quotes should be faithful to the words and intended meaning of the speaker. My goal is not to trap a source into making a mistake. It is to make public a meaningful statement.
Proper use of quotations is a matter of being accurate and fair, and not misleading the public about the views of the person quoted. All responsible journalists should care about accurate quotations.
Don’t listen to the old guys spouting off about professionalism. We’re journalists! Ethics in journalism? Pffffttt!!! That’s an oxymoron like military intelligence.