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Can you have journalistic ethics if you're not a professional writer?


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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   John Kilduff

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Posted December 16 2009 - 03:47 PM

As many of you are well aware, I write for RetroJunk. I've written many different pieces relating to pop culture, as well as several interviews with entertainers of various sorts. I do this purely for the fun of it, and as I've grown older, I've come to object to a lot of what goes on in the media. I feel that the "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality to be very derisive to the idea of the news. I look at the newspaper every day and I want to say "Think positive, please!". It's the same thing with the news networks...There are plenty of good things going on in the world, but all you ever seem to hear about is the Hellish events of the world.

I think the media tends to favor sensationalism over actual stories, and I always try to provide genuine content instead of shock value when I write. I wasn't always like that, though. Some of the things I wrote in my late teens and early 20s were so disturbing that in looking back on them, I realized that I wasn't showing the respect that I wish would've been shown to me. In recent years, I've made a concerted effort to write positively. I want my audience to feel positive after my articles...That's what I think is ethical. I don't think your average viewer or reader is that keen on reading sensationalized articles.

I probably didn't write this properly, but I know that there are many on here who are writers, so I figured they might be able to offer their thoughts.

Sincerely,

John Kilduff...

Or is this a matter of ethics altogether?
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#2 of 9 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted December 16 2009 - 05:38 PM

 I'm not a writer, but as far as the news goes, the culture has always been "if it bleeds, it leads". People like to watch the misery of other people. It makes them feel better about their own problems in life, because the news continually reaffirms to them that it could always be even worse.
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#3 of 9 OFFLINE   Andy Sheets

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Posted December 17 2009 - 04:51 AM

I don't think it's a question of ethics. You've simply made a decision to focus on being more uplifting and that's not unheard of in the media (the magazine Guideposts exists solely to publish spiritually uplifting stories, for instance).


#4 of 9 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted December 17 2009 - 05:18 AM

Andy is correct, John.  This is not a question of ethics.  It is an issue of how you, the writer, view the world and the message you want to communicate.

My wife, by coincidence, writes for Guideposts magazine.  She also has her own website...and her own blog, etc....and is working now on getting a book published. 

While much of that decision is the choice of the writer, the particular circumstances of the organization for whom it is being written (if it is a paid piece of writing) will likely end up dictating the slant of the piece.  Even if the organization prides itself on promoting the integrity of its writers, you can be sure that if they have an "agenda" it will come into play--if that writer ever wants to submit a piece to that organization again. 

I have worked as a reporter and journalistic ethics have to do with fairness and balanced messages and telling stories in an unbiased way.  Again, it would take a perfect world for there to be a complete lack of bias...but the point is to make as unbiased in the presentation as possible.  But we are all biased--if by nothing else--than our own life experiences. 

Your point seems to come closer to the idea of a writer being true to himself and, in your case, to represent a positive message for others to receive.  Good luck with your effort to continue to do that in the future.

Your point about re-reading your old work goes to what you said in your other recent thread about how we mature in life and how our views change and evolve as we get older.  It's amazing how much our point-of-view on issues and subjects will change as our perspective on life itself changes over the years. 

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#5 of 9 ONLINE   TravisR

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Posted December 17 2009 - 05:37 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwin-S View Post

...as far as the news goes, the culture has always been "if it bleeds, it leads".

I never thought I'd say this but I kinda miss "if it bleeds, it leads" because it seems like it's been replaced with celebrity news.

#6 of 9 OFFLINE   Ockeghem

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Posted December 17 2009 - 05:45 AM

Mike,

That was a nice piece of writing above and included some excellent points. :)

"But we are all biased--if by nothing else--than our own life experiences."

This is in my experience [ ;) ] very true.

BTW, I checked out your wife's site -- very nice.  My wife has one as well (on sewing and related crafts).


#7 of 9 OFFLINE   DaveF

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Posted December 19 2009 - 04:17 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Kilduff 

...That's what I think is ethical. I don't think your average viewer or reader is that keen on reading sensationalized articles.
Sensationalized and negative are not the same thing. I've been particularly interested in the economic news the past few years, which has been substantially negative (and dire). But that doesn't mean it's "sensationalized". For me as a reader, this issue of "sensationalized" is more one of marketing than the actual articles. An article can be timely and informative all the while being sold by marketing-driven, sensational headlines and magazine covers -- and that may be completely out of control of the author. Newsweek, of which I'm a long time reader, is losing this battle, as their marketing department produces ever more terrible, news-stand oriented sensational covers, that betray the actual content.

Likewise, even if you're writing positive, feel-good, stories, you could still be highly sensational. Isn't this the foundation of Oprah's empire? Feel-good pablum with 800-lb-gorilla sensationalistic marketing behind it?

If you want to write upbeat, encouraging news, that's that's a personal or audience-driven decision -- not really an ethical issue, it seems. And whether you market that writing in a sensationalistic manner is a second matter. That becomes an ethical matter if you're misleading your audience in your salesmanship: promising a salacious article and delivering something different.


#8 of 9 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted December 19 2009 - 10:13 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveF 

...That becomes an ethical matter if you're misleading your audience in your salesmanship: promising a salacious article and delivering something different.
Kinda like how I feel about all TV weather men these days.  They tease Armageddon during the evening programs--promising "details @ 11"...only to pull the rug out from under and say the storm's going to miss.  They are clearly misleading the audience solely to get you to tune in.  And it's wrong.

But I digress. 


There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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Dieting with my Dog & Heart to Heart/Hand in Paw by Peggy Frezon


#9 of 9 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted December 23 2009 - 01:46 AM

http://www.pbs.org/o...rers_rules.html

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