A story with an ethical decision.

Posted May 4, 2011

We discuss ethics in all of our journalism classes here at UW-River Falls. We are taught to try to report objectively, even though we will never fully achieve true objectivity. We are reminded day in and day out of the consequences for the reporter and the news organization if ethical standards are not adhered to in the newsroom. We hear horror stories of reporters doing atrocious acts that we UWRF students, being so thoroughly trained, would never imagine ourselves doing. But then suddenly all that changes when we take on the actual role of reporter, and are released out into the “real world” to use our skills and everything we have learned thus far when we take the practicum course.

Fortunately, I did not encounter any of the majorly difficult issues I heard some of my peers were facing, things I could hardly imagine would occur within our happy little campus community. However there was one instance that helped me flex my ethical muscles, and helped me realize that in the real world, these scenarios we learn about in class do come up.

While interviewing sources that shall not be named for a story I was working on early in the semester, I was asked multiple times by more than one person if they could receive a copy of the story I was going to write before it was printed, so they could approve of it and ask me to make changes as they saw fit. As this is not a practice that the Student Voice engages in, I had to kindly inform them that I was unable to do so, and if there was something they didn’t want me to print in the paper, to please refrain from telling me, as it is my job to report what my sources tell me. I put their fears at ease by letting them know I was writing the story from an “objective” viewpoint, and I was not trying to make anyone appear in a negative light, only trying to get the facts and the affected people’s point of view represented equally.

After all was said and done, my sources thanked me for representing them in a fair and honest manner, and I was very proud of the reporting I had done and the story I had written. I learned that as a journalist I will undoubtedly face more ethical decisions in the future, and they will likely be less black and white than this issue. I feel that my ingrained ethical standards will help me stand up for what I have learned is ethical, and be confident when making ethical decisions.