I recently wrote about a problem I see with media reporting, in my article: The Wikipediazation of the mainstream media. I bemoaned the tendency of news organizations to repeat whatever newsmakers say, without regard to whether it’s true or not. They cover “both sides of an issue” by finding two people with opposing opinions, giving equal time to facts and spin.
I did not know when I wrote my article that a news source that I have listened to for decades and for which I have the highest regard1, National Public Radio, introduced a new “Ethics Handbook” last month that addresses my concern specifically. It says, in part:
At all times, we report for our readers and listeners, not our sources. So our primary consideration when presenting the news is that we are fair to the truth. If our sources try to mislead us or put a false spin on the information they give us, we tell our audience. If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports. We strive to give our audience confidence that all sides have been considered and represented fairly.
The check is in the mail.
As I have had the opportunity to read the handbook in detail, I have found many principles that I can apply in my own writing and blogging. I very much appreciate the section on accuracy, for example. A lot of it I knew, but having it codified is good and I don’t feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants.
1NPR is not perfect and they have made some mistakes. Some people have had to resign. One of the purposes of the new Handbook is to insure those lapses don’t happen again.