The noble field of journalism

Rachel Ankers , Copy Editor

When I decided to pursue a career in mass media, there were a lot of people who congratulated me for pursuing a noble profession. Yet, there were many others who frowned and asked me if I was sure or told me I was wasting my time working on a degree in a profession that was either horribly corrupt or dying a slow and painful death.

While mass communication and journalism aren’t the only fields that struggle with negative perceptions or are looked down upon, the horribly corrupt part really struck a blow.

Throughout the history of the media in the U.S., there have been ups and downs. For example, the public had very positive opinions toward the mass media when Walter Cronkite was the anchor for the “CBS Evening News.” Cronkite, was considered the most trusted man in the U.S. However, there have been many times over the years when public opinion of the news media has been less than flattering. Since the presidential election in 2016, trust in the media has declined drastically. A major contributor to this is President Donald Trump’s insistence that many news outlets are “fake news.”

I don’t want to bore anyone with another column either claiming journalists are fake or Trump is wrong. I do, however, believe that each side has some truth to it, even if that truth is hard to see.

For starters, Trump’s declaration that certain media outlets are fake is true. There are many news outlets producing and distributing false content. However, many of those outlets are blogs written by people who are not professional journalists. For example, an article that appears on a random website goes viral with no mention of that story on any other media platform is probably fake. The writers of those articles may not intentionally distribute false information, but they’re looking for sensationalized stories that will draw readers in and convince them to see a situation in a certain light. That is fake news.

However, when Trump calls major media outlets, such as CNN, “fake news” he is generally referring to news sources that do not agree with him. This is where I disagree with Trump.

Most credible journalists follow some code of ethics. Media professionals typically use the Code of Ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) unless their particular media outlet has a code for journalists to follow.

There are four main points associated with the SPJ Code of Ethics: 1) seek truth and report it; 2) minimize harm; 3) act independently; and 4) be accountable and transparent. Following those points eliminate many of the major ethical decisions facing journalists in the field.

While there are many situations in which journalists have not adhered to the code, as a whole, those who are professional journalists strive to be fair, honest and trustworthy when pursuing and writing a story.

I refuse to believe that major news outlets are fake and are horribly corrupt until there is solid evidence proving that the reporters and editors who work for those outlets are intentionally producing and distributing false information.

Until then, I will continue to pursue a noble career in communications with the understanding that there always have been and always will be corrupt journalists, just as there are corrupt doctors, corrupt lawyers and corrupt politicians.