What is Journalistic Integrity in 2018?
Politics and Activism

What is Journalistic Integrity in 2018?

Seeking truth has become a political act.


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.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

I Started Dating A Guy Before Quarantine, But Now We Rarely Speak Unless I Double-Text

"He's really nice and cute and I like being around him when we see each other, but he's awful at communication."

Each week Swoonie B will give her advice on anonymous topics submitted by readers. Want to Ask Swoonie B something related to dating and relationships? Fill out this form here — it's anonymous.

Keep Reading... Show less

This Is Exactly What You Should Eat Today In Quarantine, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

You've probably been eating it the past three months,

If we added up all the minutes of my life I've stood in front of the fridge or pantry mindlessly glazing over options, it would probably amount to several years longer than I'd care to admit.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

If You Don't Think People Are Legitimately Scared To Stay In Lockdown, Think Again

People are terrified of what could happen if states stay in lockdown too long.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to be the topic of discussion for most U.S. residents. From federal reopening guidelines to individual state timelines, the country is all over the place. This sparks conversations within the news, social media, and in family homes about the consequences of reopening the country incorrectly.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

If You Don't Think People Are Legitimately Scared To Reopen States, You're Not Looking Hard Enough

People are terrified of what could happen if states begin reopening too early.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to be the topic of discussion for most U.S. residents. From federal reopening guidelines to individual state timelines, the country is all over the place. This sparks conversations within the news, social media, and in family homes about the consequences of reopening the country incorrectly.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Feel A Lil' Better: Because You Need To Stretch It Out

Your weekly wellness boost from Odyssey.

No matter how good (or bad) you'd describe your health, one thing is for sure: a little boost is ALWAYS a good idea. Whether that's reading a new, motivating book, or listening to a song that speaks to your soul, there are plenty of resources to help your health thrive on any given day.

Flexibility is an important part of life. Yes, you need to be able to go with the flow and adjust when needed, but literal, physical flexibility is equally handy. Not only does increased flexibility keep you safe from injury each time you work out, but a good stretch session is incredibly soothing after a long day. Your body goes through a lot! It needs to cool down and get loose after all the activities you put it through.

Keep Reading... Show less

5 Amazing Things That Happened To Me When I Took Just A Week Off From Social Media

I've taken one-week off social media, and here's what I learned.

You’ll think clearer.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments