Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Journalism ethics an obvious problem in presidential campaign

The Blaze reported two examples today of a failure of journalists to act ethically.

One was in the questioning of VP candidate Paul Ryan by a local reporter. Ryan had explained the need for economic development and education to cut crime.

Out of nowhere the reporter asked: “And you can do all that by cutting taxes? With a big tax cut?”

“Those are your words not mine,” Ryan responded.

One of the basic principles of good reporting is neutrality.  Another is that you don't ask loaded questions.  This reporter like many on the campaign trail needs a lesson in Journalist 101.

The other incident was more serious because it was perpetrated by Associated Press editors. The AP released to papers a picture without context that seemed to show a young girl's surprise while looking down at presidential candidate Mitt Romney's backend. The next pictures of the girl and Romeny showed it was not surprise, but rather excitement.

Steve Manuel, senior lecturer at Penn State’s College of Communications and an award-winning photojournalist, said the AP would have known how the image would be perceived.
“In this photo, while it may appear funny, AP knows exactly what viewers are thinking,” he wrote in an email. “It’s not legitimate news. AP knows that viewers are going to chuckle and imagine what the little girl is seeing, and it makes Gov. Romney appear a bit foolish. That isn’t the purpose or mission of photojournalism. … Candidate or not, it is not the mission of a news organization to place anyone in a position to be ridiculed or made fun of. Reporting the news is, and this is not newsworthy.”

The National Press Photographers Association code of ethics offers some guidance in the selection and presentation of photos: “Treat all subjects with respect and dignity,” it says. And also, “Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects.”

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