7 Canons of Journalism
The seven canons of journalism are sort of the same as saying the seven commandments of journalism. And, just as the 10 commandments of the bible, the constitution, and any other document that is supposed to tell us how to act, there seems to be more room for interpretation in recent decades. When one looks at journalism today it is not hard to see the bias and corruption that has become like an extra limb for those reporting the news to perch on and jump off of when the situation deems necessary. We would all like to think that the core values of journalism are still upheld even today, but that, unfortunately, isn’t the case.
I would like to say that some of the seven canons of journalism are still held true, but when I examine the list I can’t seem to be able to say that any of them are truly being honored in today’s journalism. Let us start at the top of the list and work our way down to see what each one of these cannons looks like in the present world.
Number one is responsibility; always consider the welfare of the public. This could be argued both ways. On one hand the public has the right to know the truth and giving them that truth is not hurting them, so to speak. On the other hand it seems to me that while what is being published may be true, in most cases, it is presented in a way that strikes fear and panic. I know that one of the best ways for the government to shape the public’s opinions and actions is to make them afraid not to or make them react in the desired way. Journalism and government are win-win in this situation. The government gets its reaction and the journalists get readers.
Number two is freedom of press; the first amendment rights are to be guarded as vital and unquestionable. The downhill battle of this canon is not on the hands of the journalists but on the governments. The access to information is narrowing and the government is closing the gates. When a journalist speaks to the government for information it is only allowed through the correct channels deemed so by the government. This brings us to number seven, independence from sources, politics, and advertisers. It is not a secret that each major news network has its sides to choose and that the reason they choose those sides is because through the chain of command and ownership it is lining the right people’s pockets to be that way. Corporate bias is because of the ownership for the major news networks by conglomerates such as Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, Comcast, CBS Corporation, and News Corporation. The lean of the top three news outlets, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, are also biased because of political standing based on shareholders. Fox News is Republican, CNN is Democratic, and MSNBC is self admittedly liberal.
The fourth canon is sincerity, truthfulness, and accuracy. I know that most journalists say they try to strive for the truth of the story. I also know that in a published story the facts are generally tweaked to make things a little more interesting, or to keep someone important and influential happy. Fifth is impartiality; news reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind. This has already been broken down by canons two, three, and four. There isn’t much more I can say about government and corporate influence over journalism.
Number six, fair play; opposing views should be solicited on public issues and accusations, papers should publish prompt and complete corrections of mistakes. A perfect example of the downfall of number six is MSNBC’s blatant pro-Obama stance. If MSNBC is pro-Obama do you think that they gave the opposition a fair amount of positive coverage or for the entire other political party? I think the answer is no. During the government shutdown that occurred in 2013 the news was focused on the Republican’s downfalls and refusal to budge, but not much was mentioned about what the Democratic Party did wrong. That doesn’t sound like fair play to me.
The last canon is decency; avoid “deliberate pandering to vicious instincts” such as details of crime and vice. I do not watch the news much these days, I can’t really stomach it. I watch when something important is happening and I read online news to keep up on important news events. Every story on the news seems to be about someone being murdered, a horrible act of violence, someone being arrested for some horrible crime, etc. and it seems that there is no other news. I know there is other news out there, why is it that the only news worth reporting is about crime and violence. This is especially true of most local news stations. I don’t even turn on the news when my son is in the room because it is just as violent as most of the movies he is too young to watch. I know that it is the downfall of society as a whole that is to blame for the surge in violence, but the news stations and reporters need to strive to find something upbeat to report in order to balance things out.
There you have it, the seven canons of journalism and why I don’t think a single one of them is being held true anymore. It is a shame that the profession of journalism has become such a tool for the powers that be to utilize in their favor. What happened to the fourth estate? I am a journalism major and I love to write, but I don’t want to be a news journalist because of the corruption that is so rampant among news reporting. Maybe I will change my mind and decide to go against the grain; change the way of journalism back to the original ethics code that it started with. That would be a difficult journey however, because there is so much to be changed.