Journalistic integrity

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Roger Hicks, May 25, 2006.

  1. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    What do other forum members understand by the term 'journalistic integrity'?

    I am understandably interested because of what I do for a living...

    Cheers,

    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
     
  2. George Papantoniou

    George Papantoniou Member

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    So what do you so for a living ? Are you an Integritor ? :smile:

    Well, all I know about "journalistic integrity" is that when I was writing tech articles about photography in a magazine, there was huge pressure from the importers (camera, other) to the Editor so that he would take care not to show their products to be "bad" in the tests. I was a good guy, though and things happened with my articles, sometimes. Like the once I did the test for Hasselblad's H-1 and wrote that it's an OK camera, but too pricey (compared it to the other 6x4,5s and to the Rollei 6008 that also takes a 6x4,5 back)... The importer wanted to kill me and stopped giving ads to the magazine for a long time... Well, as you can imagine the magazine kissed good-bye the journalistic integrity and I stopped (by my own free will) writing camera tests.
     
  3. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear George,

    That's my feeling too. Integrity is specific to the journalist. It consists of telling the truth as you see it -- and refusing to allow your material to be published if the editor is trying to make you lie in order to please the advertisers, publisher, or anyone else who doesn't agree with you.

    Magazines and newspapers have no inherent integrity: only what they can pass on from their journalists. An editor with integrity may decide to kill a story if it would be commercial suicide to run it, but will never change a story just to pander to people.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  4. Jim_in_Kyiv

    Jim_in_Kyiv Member

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    'Journalistic integrity'?

    I had a beautiful, long answer that included everything on the topic. Let me try to crop it.

    I'm a business writer and I crop to present a wanted image. Editors want me to show that the emerging markets I cover need proper study or investments are basically doomed, but they also want me to show the opportunities for those who do their homework. It fits my basic message - Eastern Europe is worthwhile for those with a capacity for attention to detail.

    They don't want to know that I'm sure the Transport Minister I just interviewed is a regional hoodlum with blood on his hands and a need to dominate everyone to cover his Soviet-era psychological scars. So I crop out that part, important as it is.

    Judgement calls, such as 'that Holga is too expensive', 'that Holga is priced just right' or 'Lower Slobovia has too many problems to be a good investment site' is something I show as someone else's opinion, and I quote them. And if I can find a contrary opinion, I include it. Whether the topic is Azerbaijan or a employment for expats, or an anti-(name your favorite dictator here) news service, if there's a possible slant, I try to agree with the editor on the direction I'm taking before I start. It eliminates surprises, and sometimes is what convinces the editor to go ahead with the assignment.

    Just wait until I cover foreign trade in Belarus this summer!

    There's a difference between outright lies such as "The new for 2006 Burke & James D-Grover will always give you fantastic results" and showing a facet of a story, which involves editing to fit a complete picture into 1200 or 2000 words. I have turned down work that I thought was aggressively partisan.

    In the end, I try to hold to 'the truth and nothing but the truth (with opinions shown as such)' and leave 'the whole truth' for another day.
     
  5. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Jim,

    Thanks for an excellent and illuminating reply. 'Facet' in a superb image of the nature of journalism as is 'the truth...' versus 'the whole truth'.

    Initially I was thinking that there's quite a difference between what you do and what George and I do, but then I reflected that financial investment and photography are at least as much matters of opinion as of fact. There's probably more opinion in finance!

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  6. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Roger

    Journalistic Integrity once meant telling the truth.

    It has no meaning today.

    .
     
  7. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Subscriber

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    I would take journalistic integrity to refer to respect. Repsect for jourmalism in that you don't abuse your position and leave your profession cleaner than when you got there, kinda like in camping. Respect for others. Your wife and kids just died at the hands of another and your being framed for it, do you want a papparazzi camera being jammed in YOUR face? And respect for yourself. 'Nough said there.
     
  8. Jim_in_Kyiv

    Jim_in_Kyiv Member

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    If you could tell me when that time was, it would be news indeed. It wasn't:

    in 1932, when Walter Duranty won his Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Soviet Union, coverage which went on to deny the artificially engineered famine that killed millions of Ukrainians.

    in 1960's Vietnam, when Adam's photo of then-Saigon police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing the VC told only half of the truth - too much cropping below the photo, where the caption is.

    I don't have the OED available at this terminal - maybe someone else can tell me how old the term 'yellow journalism' is.

    It seems to me that there has pretty much always been a market for hack writers, as well as for dodgy construction companies, financial schemers and even crap photographers. They just don't stand the test of time and thus memory, unless they do something spectacularly awful.

    Not that Adams wasn't a good shooter, or Duranty unable to write. They both had talent, and both had reasons for doing what they did. That why might be beyond the scope of this thread, though.
     
  9. George Papantoniou

    George Papantoniou Member

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    Talking about manipulation and the press, this will take us ages...

    I think there is not much to add to what has already been written and said on the subject by authorities on the subject before us. There's an interesting site to visit: www.disinfo.com/site . Buy their first two books, "You are being lied to" and "Everything you know is wrong" and you'll find some interesting things (between some, but not many boring articles).
     
  10. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I think that journalistic integrity is very hard to come by. I believe that if I were to work as a reporter for a media outlet that was either of liberal or conservative philosophy, in their general outlook, that I woukd be well aware of that fact and that it would influence the way I chose to write my article.
     
  11. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    As far as non journalistic integrity is concerned, how about the large format maven that uses an avatar with one of those nicely constructed cameras that make postage stamp sized negatives?
     
  12. Jim_in_Kyiv

    Jim_in_Kyiv Member

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    Dear Roger,

    I came to financial writing via a philosophy degree, so those with a purely business background might beg to differ.

    The idea of a text as a facet of the truth lies buried in the nature of a finished piece. Even an 'exhaustive' account still can't take everything into consideration, and my aim is to arm the reader enough to take some factors into account when making a decision - something both of our articles have done.

    That said, it still takes some intelligence on the reader's part to do something with what's been said and not be upset with what's been left out. I learned much about LF photography from your works (thank you!) but even that wasn't enough to warn me about dark slides flying away on very windy days. I blamed myself for not being attentive (it could have been written in there), not for you failing to mention it in what I read.

    In my opinion, any article that focuses on presenting information, as opposed to a point of view, is roughly the same - one needs to be clear as well as identify opinion and fact, and have a sufficient scope. In this case it doesn't matter much if it is a Kiev camera, City of Kyiv Eurobond, or a photo of Kyiv/Kiev. If you want to persuade people to buy it, believe in it or tear it down and start all over again, it becomes a diferent sort of writing, at least from my limited experience in copy writing. It's a matter of looking at writing by function, not topic.


    One related question, is taking one's audience into consideration a part of integrity as well? The focus on integrity is usually on the 'truth' of the matter, but what about making it understandable as well to the people you want/hope will be reading it?

    cheers,
    Jim
     
  13. Jim_in_Kyiv

    Jim_in_Kyiv Member

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    Their general outlook would influence my desire to work for them in the first place.

    Out here, there are other considerations, too. I look at politics as a fascinating, life-long train wreck, and wouldn't mind covering it. My choice to write about business was formed in part because of the greater demand for articles on the subject, but also because they still haven't arrested anyone for ordering the beheading of a journalist here in 2001, though the hatchetmen, so to speak, are finally on trial.
     
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  15. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I believe that my own philosophy would determine who I would like to work for. I believe that my desire to eat would make me much more flexible.
     
  16. jovo

    jovo Membership Council Council

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    I think the size and 'power' of the medium for which you write can be a factor. The father of two of my students just won his second Pulitzer for commentary (their mother won won some years ago as well). He pulls no punches and if the paper for which he writes deserves castigation (for example, not reporting a story he feels desperately needs significant coverage), he delivers it. But the quality, humanity and depth of his writing plus the towering reputation of his employer supercede the commercial and/or political constraints that a lesser writer for a more provincial paper might feel the need to succumb to.

    Way back when I got all dithered about hi-fi, I stopped reading a "popular" audio magazine because it seemed to NEVER! find anything bad to say about anything it reviewed. Useless. I switched to a high-end oriented journal that reviewed everything it covered in perhaps way to much depth, but at least at the end the conclusions offered gave me a solid basis to make a possibly very expensive buying decision. Integrity? I sure hoped so. The manufacturers even got a forum in the magazine to rebut or comment on the review.

    Perhaps it would be good to hear from some people who hang out and are editors and/or publishers as well. Ailsa? Brooks? Others?
     
  17. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    "I look at politics as a fascinating, life-long train wreck, and wouldn't mind covering it." This is a very nice statement about "politics" in general and gets to the crux of the issue. It seems we humans have a need to be involved in the lives of others, so politics is a logical place to work to fulfill this need. The political journalist seems to have a need to be there as well, so they have employment in a symbiotic relationship, sort of like the relationship between a critic and an artist.

    "I believe that my own philosophy would determine who I would like to work for. I believe that my desire to eat would make me much more flexible." Claire, well stated. We do need to eat, don't we?

    For me, a journalist with integrity has the ability to be factual within the context and history of his story. This is a difficult task, because context and history are so vast and human experience is so limited. tim
     
  18. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    If a publisher, editor, or writer puts ideology ahead of truth, it is not journalism, it is propoganda.

    The american obsession over conservative/liberal bias is simply an excuse to sandbag the truth. But most 'bias' is just the result of laziness and lack of character. Even a simple story involves hard work.

    The responsibility of a writer or photographer is to find the truth of a story and report it. It is really THAT simple. Errors happen, oversights occur, decisions have to be made: that is the reality of being finite beings existing within an infinite reality. But when a journalist is accountable and responisble for his words, and morally committed to telling the truth, that is integrity.

    It is very simple. It is the simplest thing in the world.

    .
     
  19. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    I guess my current feelings about "journalistic integrity" fall toward the dark end of the spectrum, as well. While I used to think it really meant something, it has probably always been a well-promoted fiction. Even the best-intentioned journalist can usually only present a truth, not the truth, and the whole truth is well beyond the scope of any reporting. Even history books aren't much better.
     
  20. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Oxymoron?




    Michael
     
  21. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Thanks everyone.

    I find it intriguing that there still seem to be people who believe that there is a single truth that can be accurately analyzed and comprehensively reported. Where is this 'truth' that the journalist is supposed to discover? And what pictures is the photographer 'supposed' to take?

    Sure, it's a lie to say that something has happened when it hasn't, or that it hasn't happened when it has; but life is not always that simple. Consider the following statement and question:

    A terrorist is someone who tries to overthrow a legitimately constituted government.

    What was it George Washington was trying to do?

    Or look at the situation in the Near East as (a) an Israeli or (b) a Palestinian.

    Most people would agree that it's no lie to report 90 per cent of a story because you can't get it all in. But what about 80 per cent... 70 per cent... 30 per cent... 10 per cent...?

    As for Michael's suggestion, I'd have to agree with him but add that in journalism it can sometimes be hard to tell an oxymoron from a common or garden moron.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  22. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Large groups of people can't agree.
    They form tribes with people that they agree with.
    Within those tribes they form coalitions with people they agree more with.
    Within those coalitions are power struggles and even dissent, so a few people who sort of agree, band together.
    Within that band are maybe two people who completely agree.
    Sometimes they have a falling out.
    Then you're left with one person who agrees with himself.
    Until he changes his mind.

    Journalism is the reporting of events by people with a point of view, because everyone has a point of view.

    It is distributed by people with a point of view to a group of people with a point of view.

    There is no truth because in all things human there is rarely "truth".


    Michael
     
  23. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    There is no truth because in all things human there is rarely "truth".

    JACK. Is that clever?

    ALGERNON. It is perfectly phrased! and quite as true as any observation in civilised life should be.
     
  24. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Polictics is Show Business for ugly people.
     
  25. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I will second that. Living in Britain I would not trust a journalist as far as I could spit. Integrity is something that disappeared from journalism a long time ago in this country.
     
  26. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Andy,

    Which truth?

    And did anyone ever trust journalists? When was this golden age when journalists told the truth and were universally believed and admired?

    Michael's analysis seems to me more rational.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
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