In some circles the news media is called the Fourth Estate, recognizing the power the press has as a counter-balance to powers within the government and business. Though this title was created in the 18th century, it is still true today.
Why bring this up? Because power is at the root of why news organizations are struggling with their ethical regulations to such a degree. I suggest that those organizations that we see suspending personnel, or firing them, over violations that some of us may find inconsequential, are the news organizations that we can trust for original, fact-checked, opinion-free news.
NOTE: I’m not saying that these organizations are handling everything correctly, but they recognize the impact their journalists can have.
Organizations that want to be considered reputable news sources DO need to make sure that their personnel aren’t doing insider trading, or fixing the horse race — however you want to think of political donations coupled with favorable news coverage — when it comes to one of the most important stories they cover, our ELECTIONS.
It also seems fair for news organizations to watch for clear biases along racial, gender or religious lines.
That’s what we’ve seen happening in the past couple of months, and I for one applaud the effort. Sure, all the internal memos reminding reporters that they shouldn’t be seen carrying signs on the National Mall sound silly to the public, but we need our Fourth Estate intact. We need a strong, virtuous press corps willing to look at journalism as a sort of public service, because at its best, that’s what it is.
By all means, politicians and pundits have important roles in our system, too, but it is dangerous to rely on them for news.