Ethical Situations in Journalism
In my opinion, I believe a professional journalist has a responsibility to be completely removed from any story they may be assigned to. A reporter must always keep in mind that there is no avoiding the fact that, in covering a publicly-occurring story, the reporters themselves will be exposed to public observation. If the reporter acts in any way unprofessionally, she will very likely be seen and viewed with much scrutinization and judgment. This will be directed straight back to the publication that the reporter is employed by, and its potential lack of credibility.
If a journalist is brought to tears by a tragedy she is following, the roll of the “unbiased, independent outsider” is abandoned. Instead of simply observing and recording the event, she becomes a participator, someone involved in the story. This would be a complete desertion of the professionalism required in producing a credible, trustworthy newspaper. While reporters have the right to their own biases, opinions and emotions, to best serve the readers, they need to display themselves completely independent of the situation.
Additional adverse effects of becoming emotionally involved in a story include the journalist possibly affecting the very story she came to report upon. Strong emotions or actions may influence how those around her act, possibly affecting the progression of events, thus changing the story. If her actions attracted enough attention, they could very well be made into a story by a competing newspaper, reflecting extremely bad on not only her, but her employing publication.
The bias shown in becoming emotionally invested in one side of a story has the dire effect of creating expectations of the reporter by the public. In the event of another tragic accident, the community may expect another show of emotion for the unfortunate party as a demonstration of respect. If she does not allow herself to become involved, there may be feelings of injustice that she didn’t treat this situation the same as she did the last. While the title Professional Journalist ethically calls for a great deal of impassivity and disconnection, these traits do not need to paint the character of she who wants to carry the title. It is solely that she must treat her job as one in which she is being fair to the entire public to which she is obligated. The journalist approaches a scene simply to get the story, and nothing more.