"There is no such thing as an objective point of view.
No matter how much we may try to ignore it, human communication always takes place in a context, through a medium, and among individuals and groups who are situated historically, politically, economically, and socially. This state of affairs is neither bad nor good. It simply is. Bias is a small word that identifies the collective influences of the entire context of a message...."
"Journalists, too, speak from political positions but usually not overtly so. The journalistic ethics of objectivity and fairness are strong influences on the profession. But journalistic objectivity is not the pristine objectivity of philosophy. Instead, a journalist attempts to be objective by two methods: 1) fairness to those concerned with the news and 2) a professional process of information gathering that seeks fairness, completeness, and accuracy. As we all know, the ethical heights journalists set for themselves are not always reached. But, all in all, like politics, it is an honorable profession practiced, for the most part, by people trying to do the right thing...."
So, when a blogger at the News-Leader.com Community Blogs - Ozarks Right wrote he was:
"...amazed that a citizen would criticize a news organization for ferreting out a story on violations of a SUNSHINE LAW..."
I had to wonder why and question whether he might have missed the point, entirely. I don't know that he was speaking of me when he talked about "a citizen" but I seemed to be among few (maybe the only) questioning why Tony Messenger, the Editorial Page Editor of The Springfield News-Leader has seemed so intent on taking Eckersley's side when the latter claimed he was fired for calling attention to the Governor's email retention policy. I've never questioned or objected to any "news organization for ferreting out a story" on any subject, let alone a story on violations of the Missouri Sunshine Law.
In fact, David Burtond, member of the Missouri Press Association, Southwest Missouri Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Ozarks Press Association and the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors recently wrote, Journalists Should Expose Unethical Practices of Others in the News Media. Burtond was citing The Society of Professional Journalist's Code of Ethics. He wrote:
"Right under the heading of "be accountable," the code says journalists should "expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.""
From Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics (this is not a complete list, I selected from it to make a point but, please, do follow the link to read the entire list):
--Deliberate distortion is never permissible.Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
--Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
--Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
--Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
--Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.
--Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
--Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
--Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
--Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
Certainly, the first amendment to the constitution reads:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
And, I'm not formally announcing that I would like to take David Burtond's charge of holding local media accountable for perceptions of ethical violation and I should point out that The Society for Professional Journalists code of ethics is followed voluntarily by members of the media, they are not required to follow it.
The readers of Messenger's combined articles, columns and blog entries on the Eckersley/Blunt administration/Sunshine Law affair can decide whether his writings have been entirely ethical or not but certainly, I have a right, and some might even say an obligation to consider and question that aspect of the coverage.