Sometimes people tell me things that require me to consider whether more harm than good could result if I quote them.
I often wonder if people realize journalists regularly manage these kinds of ethical quandaries.
Choosing what the people should know –– what kind of horrible burden is that? I mean, I try to choose the elements of a story that I believe the public would most want to know, or just should for their own good. But I’m seriously challenged when someone says something that forces me to stop and think: Man, if I quote this, terrible things could happen.
Sometimes, it seems just. If what you tell me changes everything about a story in such a way that more beneficial knowledge is conveyed, I’m quoting you. But if you’re a misogynist, a wackadoodle zealot politician, or the well-meaning yet entirely naïve member of a non-profit leadership team who decides to say something totally inappropriate or insulting about a whole culture or group of people, I am forced to strongly consider your words –– and ponder whether to give you a chance to take them back.
The public should have more respect for journalists. Most of us are simply trying to inform people by cutting through society’s bullshit to give them the news they need to become well-informed citizens. But then we have to spend our time juggling stuff like this.
Trump is an obvious example.
Journalists are flocking to his batshit craziness and the public is gobbling it up. Bite, chew, swallow, repeat. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s causing all sorts of social problems –– but that’s a little off in the weeds.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I know something needs to change.
I see people hating on “the media” all the time. It’s frustrating, I gotta tell ya, because I am also “the media.” I’m just a different kind. I really truly hope people see that.
I don’t write stuff I think will distract away from the main story –– the big picture. I don’t write stuff that’ll cause more harm than good. And I don’t write stuff without at least trying to understand all angles of a particular topic.
Journalism isn’t all that easy. At least, it shouldn’t be if you’re doing it correctly.