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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

Newsletter

    Obligation to Serve Readers, Not Sources

    News writing has now boiled down to a hard science. It is’ precise in presenting just the facts to avoid sounding even minutely subjective that it has lost the humane side of the story. Some might say that the Woodward/Bernstein expose of the Nixon scandal was news reporting at its peak. But it is the Statesman’s stance that it simply brought back the ethical guidelines that reporters were always supposed to follow. What was unique of that era was that it made reporters more than story writers. It made them advocates, even pioneers of changes so that they could now stretch their arms beyond the cubicles and the typewriter. They could now actively participate in a fervent political atmosphere that could alter at the public’s will.

    One of the most well-known ethical statements that journalists come across is ‘our obligation is to serve readers, not sources.’ The question is how do you decide. Everyone situation is different and as humans, we are afraid of subpoenas or public defaming, even stoning. The key is to treat every story separately. Calling fire in a theater cannot be likened to any national emergency. Yet, the purpose of journalism has always been for the majority. Hence, the readers become the prime beneficiaries and thus any news writer must remember that what we really do is work for the reader.

    The preamble to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics states: ‘…public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility.’

    Are we serving the public interest with the utmost truth?

    When we publish news, we ask this exact question (sometimes explicitly, but most of the times it circles in the back of every editor mind). When we fail, we learn and rise again. But it is when we succeed that we feel one with through-and-through journalists like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. We strive to be the advocates who can proudly claim to have been the catalysts for some revolutionizing change. But if the paper is able to make a 1000 people aware and motivate one to command a change, then it has truly done its job.

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