David Dodd 2:53 a.m., May 21
I’m taking a summer school class at SDSU. Today we talked about journalism ethics and the perception of conflict of interest.
I say “perception” because a journalist may or may not actually have a bias or conflict of interest on a certain issue, but if the audience perceives that he or she does, it’s a problem.
Law is a more extreme example. For lawyers and judges, the “appearance” of bias is enough to exempt them from working on a case.
Recently, I wrote a blog about transparency. I explained my beliefs about writing opinion blogs vs. writing straight news pieces.
I said I recognize the difference between the two, but society often doesn’t. I also said that I love voicing my opinion, hence the name of my blog: “A little lady with a big voice.”
But the perceived problem lies in the fact that I also like writing straight news pieces. It occurred to me that people might think that because I have opinions (most normal people do), I’m going to include a bias or work my opinion somewhere into every news story.
Although I can see where those people are coming from, I still stand by my original notion.
I believe that stating my opinions or writing personal columns on a separate blog helps my transparency. The audience can see me as a living, breathing, thinking human being.
To clarify, I wouldn’t cover a piece for one publication and present it as “news” only to turn around and write an opinion on the same subject, but different publication, later on. Then, there’s a problem.
What I mean is if I have a blog where I will be presenting any form of biases or personal opinions, it’s important to label the blog as such so the audience knows what to expect.
Likewise, if I’m transparent in my blog, hopefully the audience will trust me more when I turn around and do news articles. Not only can society look up the sources and publication of the article, they can look up the writer too. In my opinion, it sets me up to act more honorably.
When I write news articles, I try to keep an open mind. If I feel too strongly about a topic, I simply won’t cover it. I like to present many perspectives and angles. And If I somehow begin my research with a subconsciously pre-conceived notion, I’m open to the possibility of being wrong. In fact, I embrace being wrong because I learn something from it. Society may learn something too.
So I’m going to make a promise right here, right now as a journalist and as a citizen who is also involved in the online community. My promise is to always present the news fairly, accurately and in a balanced manner to the best of my capabilities. If there’s an issue or bias that sneaks in now and again, I hope society points it out. Just don’t take away my voice, please. It’s what keeps my pulse thumping.
If society doesn’t trust journalists, maybe we’re not being transparent enough.