I recently went to see a relative, Stephen Ward, give a presentation about Media Ethics on the Digital Frontier at the University of British Columbia.
Ward is the director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin, and his presentation was incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, especially as our newspapers put more and more emphasis on engaging readers through the Internet.
Ward spoke about how the role of media is moving from publishing news from one person to another to linking communication. Whereas the older generations wanted a news leader who would give them the news, the younger generation is more participatory in the news — people want to share and engage, he explained.
You can see this in the way newspapers ask their readers to send them videos or photos and in the way reporters are using Twitter and Facebook to connect with readers even more.
Ward says that journalism is changing to be social and participatory. And that’s a good thing. People participating in their news and being part of the process really is great. But this change does come with challenges.
One of the biggest challenges of journalism ethics in this new media seems to be defining what is the media and who is a journalist, if everyone is participating in the news. With so many newspapers adding blogs to their websites, are the ethics the same for bloggers and reporters? Lines become blurred, and shades of grey start appearing.
“Media is one, huge vague term, and it’s almost meaningless,” said Ward. “It’s so big now, it contains everyone. If everyone is a journalist, potentially we need to teach everyone that publishing has consequences.”
Whatever the answers are, it sure is an interesting time. There are so many possibilities. Even if we weren’t related, Ward’s talk would have made me excited to be a journalist in these times — and I hope you’re excited to be on this journey with us.
— Lindsay Chung