What is Journalistic Integrity in 2018?

What is Journalistic Integrity in 2018?

Seeking truth has become a political act.
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In a world where history is being treated as debatable, inconvenient truths are dismissed as "fake news", fact-checking is inherently political, the demand for transparency is treated as an 'agenda', and major news outlets are banned from the White House press room in favor of hate speech blogs and pro-Trump personal websites, being an aspiring journo brings in a unique set of pressures and questions.

If the President denies something he said or did, even on tape, investigative work is treated like liberal sabotage or democratic political agenda. If he claims he has a large crowd at his inauguration and drone footage strongly reveals otherwise, offering the facts of a visual perspective in contradiction of his subjective claims becomes a subjective act. When he uses hate speech to describe an entire group of people, saying so is no longer just the old accusations of being "overly politically correct" or "overly sensitive liberal 'snowflakes'" -- but actually denied, often being accused as the phrase that just might define Trump's administration: "fake news".

These are widely-publicized contentions between journalistic work, what's described as the general "media" (of which the exact definition is ever-evolving), openly biased bloggers and organizations, and the Trump Administration. They highlight, if not define, a highly divisive and politically divided nation.

If the president has declared war on journalism, is the act of journalism inherently political?

If he spends an enormous amount of time and effort attempting to discredit news outlets that claim objectivity, what does it mean to continue to fight for objectivity - and is objectivity itself an openly political act? If objectivity has become 'forbidden' on one side, does it make whatever news source that claims it automatically a force for the opposition? If half of the conversation's desire is to silence the entire conversation, does defying that agenda to have it anyway become a polarizing act? Does the politicization of seeking transparency, a necessary foundation for objective investigative work, then become subjective?

If someone has declared war on objectivity, can objectivity take a side? If so, is it still objectivity?

If someone has declared war on truth, is telling the truth political?

The answer, it would seem, is yes. Yet, failing to do so would be the death to free press. Considering we live in a nation founded on the idea that free press is a keystone of a free state, and the hallmark of free speech, then sacrificing it becomes the loss of freedom itself.

Are these questions then unproductive? Are they the same fallacious circular reasoning as the accusations that inspire them? Are they more necessary than ever?

At this point, it seems the best thing to ask is what, productively, can we do? What are actionable journalistic ethics in a time so divisive? Are the failures of our previous ideas partially responsible for where we are today?

If 98% of scientists agree that climate change is a proven, anthropomorphically-catalyzed phenomenon with immediate danger, is the "fair and balanced" presentation of information acknowledging that overwhelming consensus? In the past, many outlets have said no. Instead, we’ve seen the choice to continually represent the ‘two sides’ of a contentious argument in efforts to be fair and balanced.

We’ve seen opinions and hot takes. We have also seen the consequences of normalizing fringe and minority ideologies. In treating ‘the opposition’ with the same screen time – and therefore, illusion of validity - of that ‘overwhelming consensus’, we have experienced the cost of watching a national conversation transform until scientific evidence itself has become an opinion, rather than a bottom line.

While the determination of whether this is partially responsible for our current climate on all topics, or even the Trump presidency at all, is an important question – but not necessarily one we can answer without changing our practices and hoping to alter the national conversation.

With that hope, however, comes the confession that we cannot claim we are not responsible for the direction of that conversation. We cannot claim we do not hope, as journalists, that we will come closer to access to the White House, to transparency of important events and the people and power, and that the take that press itself is a problem – rather than a national necessity.

The more self-aware the media becomes about its own influence, the more it must acknowledge it has one regardless of the approach taken or the awareness of its impact. In looking at the failures of its past, we might see a progression towards an analyzed, responsible, and thoughtful approach to that is the moral imperative behind the future of journalistic integrity.

Failure to acknowledge implicit bias is dangerous, as we’ve seen now more than ever. Claiming objectivity without an effort being made towards it leads to opinions being treated as fact – a demographic feeling validated in their worldviews to accept the source. Likewise, a lack of fair discourse with people who refuse to critically examine subjective ideas because they’re convinced their ideas and worldview are all-knowing, absolute, and above scrutiny is the most dangerous of all. Herein, we see the heart of the same sources that call “fake news” on inconvenient objectivity.

Yet, for those of us on the side of journalism – painted in the corner of being against those against journalism – cannot help disagree with that opposition. We as people know what we think, and what we voted for. We are left to wonder the age-old question of, ‘Are we ourselves capable of being unbiased?’ alongside the concern: ‘How can we fight for the right to report the truth and the integrity of objectivity itself?’

Do we have time to ask if it unethical – or at least, less than honest – to claim that we’re capable of totally unbiased work? Is it a backburner question when the president denies the closest thing we have to truth – evidence itself? If we filmed it, and witnesses confirmed it, and tapes can repeat it, and the world sees it, and everyone knows he said it: saying it never happened is a lie.

Here, we might report what he said – and juxtapose it to his claim that he didn’t. We focus on reporting what happened, rather than criticizing the lie (as much as we ethically can, but that’s another debate altogether).

Obviously, you want to be representational of what you’ve witnessed or discovered. Obviously, you want to honor truth. There is little, if any, room within the danger zone on reporting on what’s between the lines of absolute fact. You have to let the audience infer what’s between the lines.

We are people, still. For some, this is deeply personal and more complex than textbook philosophy: a place where ideas themselves become messy, and internal wars rage behind the ideals of the Socratically unattached.

Therein lies the answer: we are people. We must hold each other accountable, and we must admit also that we are only human - and we have to live with that.

Cover Image Credit: https://pixabay.com

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I Might Have Aborted My Fetus When I Was 18, But Looking Back, I Saved A Child’s Life

It may have been one of the hardest decisions of my life, but I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't had done it.

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Due to recent political strife happening in the world today, I have decided to write on a very touchy, difficult subject for me that only a handful of people truly know.

When I was 18 years old, I had an abortion.

I was fresh out of high school, and deferring college for a year or two — I wanted to get all of my immature fun out so I was prepared to focus and work in the future. I was going through my hardcore party stage, and I had a boyfriend at the time that truly was a work of art (I mean truly).

Needless to say, I was extremely misinformed on sex education, and I never really thought it could happen to me. I actually thought I was invincible to getting pregnant, and it never really registered to me that if I had unprotected sex, I could actually get pregnant (I was 18, I never said I was smart).

I remember being at my desk job and for weeks, I just felt so nauseous and overly tired. I was late for my period, but it never really registered to me something could be wrong besides just getting the flu — it was November, which is the peak of flu season.

The first person I told was my best friend, and she came with me to get three pregnancy tests at Target. The first one came negative, however, the second two came positive.

I truly believe this was when my anxiety disorder started because I haven't been the same ever since.

Growing up in a conservative, Catholic Italian household, teen pregnancy and especially abortion is 150% frowned upon. So when I went to Planned Parenthood and got the actual lab test done that came out positive, I was heartbroken.

I felt like I was stuck between two roads: Follow how I was raised and have the child, or terminate it and ultimately save myself AND the child from a hard future.

My boyfriend at the time and I were beyond not ready. That same week, I found out he had cheated on me with his ex and finances weren't looking so great, and I was starting to go through the hardest depression of my life. Because of our relationship, I had lost so many friends and family, that I was left to decide the fate of both myself and this fetus. I could barely take care of myself — I was drinking, overcoming drug addictions, slightly suicidal and living with a man who didn't love me.

As selfish as you may think this was, I terminated the fetus and had the abortion.

I knew that if I had the child, I would be continuing the cycle in which my family has created. My goal since I was young was to break the cycle and breakaway from the toxicity in how generations of children in my family were raised. If I had this child, I can assure you my life would be far from how it is now.

If I had carried to term, I would have had a six-year old, and God knows where I would've been.

Now, I am fulfilling my future by getting a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, having several student leadership roles, and looking into law schools for the future.

Although it still haunts me, and the thought of having another abortion truly upsets me, it was the best thing to ever happen to me. I get asked constantly "Do you think it's just to kill a valuable future of a child?" and my response to that is this:

It's in the hands of the woman. She is giving away her valuable future to an unwanted pregnancy, which then resentment could cause horror to both the child and the woman.

As horrible as it was for me in my personal experience, I would not be where I am today: a strong woman, who had overcome addiction, her partying stage, and ultimately got her life in order. If I would have had the child, I can assure you that I would have followed the footsteps of my own childhood, and the child would not have had an easy life.

Because of this, I saved both my life and the child's life.

And if you don't agree or you dislike this decision, tough stuff because this is my body, my decision, my choice — no one else.

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Abortion Bans Are Only A Small Part Of The Republican War On Women

These bans expose the Republican Party for what it truly is.

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This week, several states passed laws that ban abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, before most women even know that they're pregnant. The most egregious of these is Alabama — the state has banned abortion except for in cases of danger to the mother. Exceptions in the cases of rape and incest were actively voted against by the state legislature. Under the new law, any doctor who is caught giving an abortion would be sentenced to 99 years in prison, and the woman would be charged with murder.

Apart from the fact that this explicitly violates the decision of Roe v. Wade (which is the point), this is only a small part of the slow but steady degradation of women's rights by Republicans in the United States. To anyone who believes that this is simply about people being "pro-life" or "saving the children," then tell them to look at what happens after the fetus is carried to term.

Republicans oppose forcing fathers to be involved in the lives of their children that were forcibly carried to term, desires to cut food stamps and make it more difficult to feed said child, cut funding for affordable housing to make it more difficult for them to find homes, cut spending to public education so these children can't move up the social ladder, and refuse to offer the woman or her child health insurance to keep them both healthy. What about efforts to prevent pregnancy? Republicans also oppose funding birth control and contraception, as well as opposing comprehensive sexual education. To them, the only feasible solution is to simply keep your legs shut. They oppose all of these things because it is, in their eyes, a violation of individual rights to force people to do something. The bill also makes women who get abortions felons, and felons can't vote. I'll let you finish putting those two together.

If you view it from this framework, it would seem like Republicans are being extremely hypocritical by violating the personal freedoms of pregnant women, but if you look at it from the view of restricting social mobility for women, then it makes perfect sense. The Republican dogma of "individual rights" and "personal responsibility" is a socially acceptable facade that they use to cover up their true intentions of protecting the status quo and protect those in power. About any Republican policy, ask yourself: does this disperse power or consolidate it? Whether it be education, healthcare, the environment, or the economy, Republicans love to keep power away from the average citizen and give it to the small number of people that they deem "deserving" of it because of their race, gender, wealth, or power. This is the case with abortion as well; Power is being taken from women, and being given back to men in a reversal of the Feminist Movement of the 1970s.

Republicans don't believe in systemic issues. They believe that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed regardless of what point they started. This is why they love capitalism so much. It acts as some sort of great filter in which only those who deserve power can make it to the top. It's also why they hate social policies; they think that helping people who can't help themselves changes the hierarchy in a negative way by giving people who don't "deserve" power, power. Of course, we know that just because you have money and power doesn't mean you earned it fair and square, and even if Republicans believe it, it wouldn't change anything because it wouldn't change how they want to distribute power.

In short, Republican policies, including abortion, leave the average American with less money, less protection, less education, worse health, less opportunity, fewer rights, and less freedom. This is NOT a side effect. This is the point. Regardless of what Republicans will tell you about "inalienable rights" and how everyone is equal, in reality, they believe that some people and groups are more deserving of rights than others, and the group that deserves rights the most are the ones "that will do the best with them." To Republicans, this group consists of the wealthy, the powerful, and the white — the mega-rich, the CEOs of large companies, gun owners and Christians.

So, who do Republicans think deserve power and give it to? People who look and think like them. This, however, begs the question: Who do they want to take it from?

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