Journalistic Integrity

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UNITED STATES—By now most of you have heard the scandal surrounding NBC Nightly News reporter Brian Williams. It appears he embellished or lied a bit about his time in a helicopter in Iraq. The report that he was inside a chopper that was hit by gunfire wasn’t the truth, and has brought into question his validity in reporting. The issue has become so big, people are beginning to question the accuracy of events he reported during Hurricane Katrina.

Why is this an issue in the world of journalism? Because when you report or write for the media people trust your words. They are beyond powerful and impact viewers in ways that some can never imagine.

So at this point, everything the esteemed journalist has reported has been placed into question. Was he lying to make his work standout more, did he slightly embellish a few stories to garner more viewers. His stunt has cost him a 6-month suspension from his job as of Tuesday, February 10, and some are even worried that this scandal could lead to the demise of the nightly newscast.

So why is it so important that journalistic integrity, rather it’s on the TV screen, print or online is so crucial to uphold? It shapes conversations, it shapes how people think, and it creates division in the world. I’ve had so many people grip at the differences between a reporter and a journalist. Is there actually a difference? Absolutely! Most reporters are just announcing words that someone has given to them, a journalist is one who is out in the field; they are really reporting the news, gathering information and putting it out there for the masses to decipher.

Would I argue there is a bit of a difference between a journalist who writes for a newspaper and one who works for a TV station? Oh, yeah, that desire to prove yourself to be a worthy candidate is bit more alluring as a newspaper writer. And let’s face it, the newspaper is read by thousands, if not millions of people daily or weekly and we haven’t even touched on the explosion of online media.

As soon as something reaches the Internet, it can spread like a wildfire. Many news outlets were reporting that Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina was to be taken off life support on the anniversary of her mother’s death, but Bobby Brown’s attorney released a statement noting those claims were completely untrue and not valid.

We live in this cyclone, that when we hear something, 99 percent of the time its gossip, the wheels get churning so fast it’s hard to stop and take a breathe. Is this really true, could there be some fault to this story? As a journalist, upholding the highest level of integrity is important because what I write can seriously change lives. It’s not just about informing the public of what’s going on, but its providing them with accurate information. Inaccuracies are never good because it creates doubt. Surgeons can’t be inaccurate when they are replacing your heart or kidney, if they were you’d be dead. That same mentality needs to apply to journalists.

Put out the truth no matter what, sometimes the truth is a hard pill to swallow. I’d rather swallow the truth, than to be sold a ton of crap where I will always second guess what a person tells me. It’s like a lie; once you tell it you have to tell another one to keep up the ruse, before you know it explodes in your face with repercussions you could never imagine.