In 1997 a group of journalist began a national conversation to try to define the principles that guide all journalist. After 4 years of meetings, public forums research etc. a group of principles were identified. We are going to be looking at one of these principles each week, and answering a few questions to help students examine the implications of these principles.
Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth
Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense, but it can–and must–pursue it in a practical sense. This “journalistic truth” is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. Then journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, valid for now, subject to further investigation. Journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods so audiences can make their own assessment of the information. Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built–context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The truth, over time, emerges from this forum. As citizens encounter an ever greater flow of data, they have more need–not less–for identifiable sources dedicated to verifying that information and putting it in context.
How is democracy dependent on a well-informed public? What role did journalism play in the development of our nation?
What does it mean that something is true in an absolute sense? Why does that not apply to journalism?
Why should journalist be open about their sources? Shouldn’t journalist protect their sources?
Comment on the foundation of context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis, and debate. Why are each critical?