Morals. Ethics. Values. Media Law.
These are all of the things that journalists have to take into consideration when writing stories, taking photos and printing news. I have run into these problems while pursuing my journalism career but nothing compared to my recent internal battle featuring: morals vs. the law.
I was asked to do a feature story on a student with a disability. However, the way that I had written it and the way that I was told to write it resulted in two different outcomes, two different themes, and two different emotions. And worst of all, a battle of man vs. himself. I kept wondering: Do I print the story as it is (all factual, real emotion and real-time quotes) or do I alter myself, my writing style, the rules of lead, transition, quote, transition, quote in order to please the ones involved? Anyone who compared the two would say, “run the original.” However, my heart would ask me, “is it worth it?”
By the time I was finished, there was no “me” in my work. I felt violated and emotionally disturbed when someone critiqued my work so much, that it was no longer mine. I put a piece of myself into everything I write, design or publish. It’s like you had a child and someone tells you it’s ugly.
However, my relationship with my sources, although I haven’t known them for more than a few hours, has made an impact on me. I would not do anything to hurt anyone, especially after being bullied for the majority of my life. But at the same time, I did nothing legally wrong. But it felt as if I was the scuffmark on the floor. I doubted my career choice and myself. I had to make a decision; a decision that would prove who I am as a journalist.
In my class, my teacher showed us a living example of media versus ethics. There was a photo of a dead child lying on the ground in a body bag. His family was crying over him; hurt and hysterical. The press had the choice to run the photo. There was controversy whether or not the photo would be beneficial for the newspaper or the family. This would be a mother’s son’s last photo. And it is that of him lying on the ground dead. Do you run the photo to benefit the community and because of the powerful impact you may get, or do you not run the photo in hopes that it would not make things harder for the family?
As a journalist, we have to face many decisions like this. Do we write what someone said or what he or she meant to say?
Do we sugarcoat the facts in order to make something sound like semi-butterflies and rainbows. Our job is to report news. Our job is to state facts. We quote and document what sources say. So I do not like when we are questioned about our jobs or when we are told that we do not know how to do our jobs. I do not like it when people tell us that we are not “qualified” to report certain kinds of information. I hate it when people come into a situation and expect the baby but not the labor pains. Or when they assume what the reader will think, when they are not that reader.
So what do I do? Do I obey the law and do the right thing because there is the government backing me up? Or do I change my work and myself in order to people please because I “feel” as if it is the right thing to do?
To all the artist and creators, musicians and dancers, authors and illustrators: what would you do if you produced something you were so proud of and that was liked by everyone, however, you were told to change it so much that it was no longer yours? It was no longer what it was supposed to be. Would you please a client as to not hurt them and start controversy, or would you go forward with your creation and say ‘screw it’ in order to not go against yourself.
In the end, I decided to please both parties. The story did not print however it will be placed on an online platform. Hopefully, everybody wins.