I don’t think many purists in the area of journalistic ethics would endorse demanding/requiring that journalists give up many, if any, constitutionally guaranteed rights, especially the rights granted by the First Amendment. However, many media ethicists believe journalists and journalistic organizations could be, and should be, more diligent in their efforts to avoid real and perceived conflicts of interest.

Journalists are people, of course, and they’re going to have opinions, preferences, likes and dislikes. They’re going to own property and have investments and belong to churches and civic organizations. In short, they’re going to have lives outside of their profession.  All I’m advocating is that when journalists are confronted with a potential conflict of interest, they opt not to have anything to do with news coverage of the problematic events and issues.

Ideally, it would be nice for news organizations to inform readers, listeners and viewers when such conflicts occur as part of a needed spirit of full disclosure, but I’d be satisfied the assurances of news media managers that they do everything in their power to ensure that news/information is presented in the most accurate, fair, balanced, objective and impartial manner possible. Sure, it’s an almost impossible goal to achieve, especially 24/7, but it’s worth the effort.

In just striving to achieve the goal, journalists and journalism organizations will greatly improve the quality of their news products and go a long way toward rebuilding the public trust and confidence in the news media that is so desperately needed. If journalists at least strive to live lives beyond reproach, they will be able to perform much more effectively their important role of serving as watchdogs over big government and big business.

— TIM WULFEMEYER

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