Eff's Rambles (Archive)


Journalism: Consequences and Standards


There are two issues I want to briefly comment on. The first has to do with recent revelations that CIA rendition flights have been occuring in Europe, and that the US Military is using especially dubious propaganda in Iraq.

To be fair, there are uncertainties ( objectively speaking) as to the extent and specifics of these cases, but I am not here to offer much debate on the merits of what these US government branches are alleged to be doing. It is, however, true, I believe, that these policies can have a protective value. But they can also have negative repercussions. In either case, the supporting side argues negative consequences are likely to occur. This puts the media, the opposition in this case, in a difficult position: On the one hand their journalistic ethic compels them to report facts and keep the public informed despite suppositions as to what might negatively result from reportage of sensitive information. But, on the other hand, there's the belief that some duties of citizenry obligate deference and self imposed silence when reporting might cause harm and hinderence to military operations and national security.

From the perspective of outside observers, the question of which side is correct may be presumed as fifty/fifty, where the general public is divided as to who is right. But I shall attempt to speak from the perspective of journalists, and I hope I do not offend actual journalists in attempting to do so. Still, I think it should be all right, because I am going to use a general principle that I believe is broadly applicable:

I contend that it is the first and foremost loyalty of journalists to follow the ethics to which they assigned themselves as journalists, and that it would be an unreasonable burden to apply abstract bases for exceptions to adhering to said ethics. The abstract bases are those theoretical negative consequences which might come about as a result of reporting on sensitive militarily related information. While not all cases of proclaimed national security interest are illegitimate, the use of such a proclamation has an undeniably excusatory effect, wherein it can be said that various actions must be kept silent because of the potential to harm national security whether or not the probablity of doing so is high. Consideration should be given to national security interests, but it should not preclude all reportage, even in the name of deference.


What are the standard for determining what a legitimate story is?

I must admit that, while mainly boring, like it or not, the debate over where Christmas is said and not is an actual news story.

First, it brings up a constitutional issue; even if that matter is settled for some, it is not for all, thus it remains as a story, especially if court cases about it exist.

The second reason is more important to me because I mean to refute the notion, or at least the implied one, that a story needs to have multiple and widespread occurences to be legitimate if it is not large in scale or particulary unique. Perhaps in some cases, but in the case of Christmas vs. Happy Holidays, that should not be the case. Given that most people in the US are Christian, many of which are practicing, there, established, is a clear majority which presumably favors scenes and signage which are pro Christian and might not be secular, or who are not inherently opposed to them. If there are individuals and groups intending to prevent religious specific advertising and inclusion in public places, the issue of whether or not that is an overstepping of bounds by the minority, as well as, going back to the constitutional debate, whether or not the some cases might exemplify respecting an establishment of religion is important. It is also a matter that goes deeply into the moral core of many Americans. Whatever side you are on, whether secular or in favor of Christmas displays, et al, the story is valid. As for me, I am an agnostic whom leans athiest. I might comment further, but I do not have much to say on that matter.


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