Professional journalism – why citizens must have it?
By Dragan Sekulovski
There are numerous definitions of “what is journalism” around the globe and some of it are complex others are not. But the key element in each of these definitions should be that professional journalism serves the public by promotion and protection of the public interest. It is quite irrelevant to which platform the information is distributed and whether this is in traditional or online media when it comes to the standards. The ethical standards and the codes of ethics of journalism applies to all types of media.
With the quick technological development in recent years in particular the rise of internet social media, access to mass communication is practically available to almost everyone. What are the pros and cons of this and how this affects professional journalism?
For starters, with a vast coverage of the internet especially in developed and developing countries, most of the citizens can afford to be “present” online hence sharing their voice with others. In cases where political stands are published with a constructive critical note especially by users that have numerous followers for a certain local context and when this is addressed to policymakers, it may have a positive effect and can serve as a civil correction tool towards politicians. In addition, civil petitions, rather than gatherings, and protests towards abuse of power in local but also global scale, is also nowadays easier and faster to be organized in comparison with just like 15-20 years ago.
But this global way of communication when abused by individuals and groups, both civil and political and even corporative, it also has its own dark side. This stipulates creating and sharing content that is based on hate speech, discrimination, child pornography and misinformation and / or misleading information and that harms the public discourse. Such content can trigger serious damage notably in a state of crisis like the current one with the pandemic with COVID-19. Thousands of disinformation in any format present on social but also in traditional media can undermine the global efforts of spreading the diseases and consequently increase the mortality of the virus.
So how can responsible and professional journalism help in such situations?
When journalists and media workers are respecting the basic ethical principles, they inform the public and raise awareness about topics that are relevant via education, information, and entertainment (three general basic roles of the public broadcasters) they contribute to building more healthier and democratic societies. Basic ethical principle mainly means respecting the truth and the right of the public to be informed. The journalists do not only transmit the information, ideas, and opinion but they have the right to give a comment in an honest and objective manner. One of the main obligations but also the right of journalists is to strive to prevent the censorship and distortion of the news.
Considering the democratic role of journalists in the society, they contribute in building democracy and civil society by defending the fundamental human rights and freedoms but also contributes in improving or strengthening the legal state and participates in the control over government and other centers of power in one society.
Responsible journalism guarantees that the published content, unlike blogging, is verified and edited before it is reaching the audience and if there is an unintentional mistake the public apology is a way of correction. The basics of these specifics is presented in the Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
These are the basic norms that apply in any ethical journalism and only in this way of practicing this profession the journalism would serve the people and will give a voice to those in need or those who are neglected in society.
An important aspect for professional journalism to exist is first to be recognized by the audience and second to be supported by citizens. We cannot expect that if private media or journalists are paid by the public authorities that the central or local institutions will be critically observed for their work. On-demand media content is about the become even more attractive and needed because with the direct support of citizens to quality journalism one of the key elements for impartiality is guaranteed and that is financial independence.
Final note, social media can be a useful tool for communication but not always for receiving objective and unbiased information especially in the era of crisis as the world is facing now. Professional journalism on the other hand, which is based on skilled editorial policy in line with the international standards is in favor of the public interest and if we want to have it, our citizen task is to support it.