Monday, March 1, 2010

First Amendment & The News Industry


On Thursday, February 25th, I answered the question of the week which was “What are the constraints on free speech & the First Amendment for the news industry?” To help me, I focused on the safety of journalists who follow the rules of the First Amendment, but were not protected outside of the country. Additionally, I discussed the ethics involved with being a credible journalist.

I first discussed the benefits of freedom of speech for journalists. With fewer restrictions, journalists are able to take a less popular stance on a topic without feeling pressured to avoid the subject altogether. In many cases, however, there is still an unspoken rule from top editors to avoid controversial stories. In other countries, harsh actions are taken on offenders, like censoring, termination from job, threatening of family and friends, and possibly death.

On the topic of death, both The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) keep track of the number of journalists killed on the job all over the world. The goal of these organizations is to protect journalists from harm while they seek information for a story.

Finally, I discussed the topic of Ethical Reporting. Even with freedom of speech, the news industry must still follow strict rules for what they report. The main “rules” for reporting are to have an objective stance, have credibility by using reliable sources, be willing to admit error, and to avoid plagiarism and fabrication.

After finishing my presentation and opening the floor for discussion, I was asked where the most dangerous countries were. Iraq was the deadliest country, but the following countries were surprising. The Philippines, for example, has many murders, but they are mostly from political tensions and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I posed the question, “Do you think reporters are going too far for a story?” My initial response was that I feel reporters often do go too far to tell their story. I know that I would not risk my life to tell a story about anything. One classmate brought to my attention that many reporters have a passion to broadcast their stories because spreading awareness could save the lives of others down the road. Another student added that many reporters give their lives to serve a greater good.

My presentation showed how journalists and other reporters face harsh conditions to spread awareness of issues around the world. With the help from the IFJ and the CPJ, journalists are fighting back to spread their word in a safe way. Finally, the news industry must report accurate information to comply with ethical codes.

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-Sean Cuevas-

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