Influence Of Media Ethics In News Gathering And Dissemination

Project and Seminar Material for Mass Communication

Influence Of Media Ethics In News Gathering And Dissemination


Abstract


The study was basically developed to examine the application or impact of media ethics on the news gathering and dissemination with a case study of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). The objective was to discover whether NUJ upholds ethical standards like fairness, accuracy, balance, rejection of brown envelope, non-disclosure of sources of vital information and many others in its daily assignment or not. Ethical standard in journalism was developed to ensure good conduct and accord respect for journalism and practitioners. Findings show that the NUJ do upholds ethical standard in its day to day activities with 67% of the respondents attested to this fact. Survey research method was adopted and questionnaires were administered. Simple random sampling technique was also adopted to select respondents. Data analysis and interpretations of findings done with frequency and percentage method of data analysis was used. It is recommended that Media houses (NUJ) should increase the salary of their workers and paid them on time while regular allowance should be made available for them. Trinnings and workshops are to be organised regularly to train and re-orientate their workers to uphold ethical standard.


Chapter One


Introduction

Background to the Study

Every profession has its own ethics that guides the practitioners. Journalism profession is not excepted as it has certain cannot that the professionals are expected to abide with. Journalism entails a high degree of public trust. To earn and maintain this trust, it is morally imperative for every journalist and every news medium to observe the highest professional and ethical standards. Truth is considered to be the cornerstone of journalism and every journalist should strive diligently to ascertain the truth of every event. In order to achieve this, Journalists are expected to be objective in their report. Objectivity therefore is the state of being objective. According to Ewuola (2002) objectivity in news dissemination is reporting the facts of a news event without distortion that comes from the personal feelings or prejudices of the reporter.

This proves that objectivity revolves around dealing with actuality and reality in a news story rather than personal felling and beliefs. It is ability of a reporter to be fair in his news reporting.

Okoye (2007, p.152) asserts that;

In the original objectivity required that the journalist kept himself out of his report by not injecting his emotion, personal opinion and bias into the news report. Presenting all sides of an issue fairly, honestly and impartially, and allowing the audience to judge

The above reveals that reporters (broadcasters) job is to tell personal opinion. Tell the truth and let the facts fall anywhere. Commenting on objectivity Highton (2003, p. 104) posits that, good broadcasters for good media seek the facts for a story while bad broadcasters for bad media seek facts to support a preconceived idea of what the story should be”.

This is an indication that journalists (broadcasters) should not allow a preconceived idea to tailor the way story is written. Personal sentiment or idiousyracies should be avoided while reporting.

In fact, non-objective reporting is not a good journalism in the sense that it centre on subjective ideas. Schudson (2001, p. 126) while commenting on journalist being objective says that “objectivity hinges on separating independently verifiable facts from subjective value”.

To large extent reporters should minimize their own attitude, opinion or involvement in their stories. Impartiality and neutrality in news coverage and dissemination should be the cornerstone of professional broadcasters.

The objective non guides journalists to separate facts from values and to report only the facts. Objective reporting is supposed to be cool, rather than emotional in tone. Objective reporting takes pains to represent fairly each leading side in a political controversy. (Schtudson, 2001, p. 150).

According to the objectivity norm, the journalist job consists of reporting something called news, without commenting on it, slauting its formulation in any way.

Broadcast journalists in UK have a statutory requirement to be objective. According to the BBC objectivity entails “a mixture of accuracy, balance, context, distance, even handedness, fairness, impartiality, open mindedness, rigour and truth”. Objectivity implies that all sides to an issue are presented to the audience and reporter is obliged to present facts fairly and fully.

Schneider (1984) perceived objectivity views report items as one that separate opinion and news, sticks to the facts it does not change, suppress or report as a favour and each item contain a minimum of balance.

In journalism, as distinct from fiction, there is a truth of the matter and this is what objectivity in journalism aims at… where reporting turns away from the goal of truth and journalists treat events as open to many interpretations, according to their prejudices, assumptions, news agenda or the commercial drive towards entertainment, the justification and self confessed rationale of journalism threaten to disappear. (Kieran, 1998, pp. 3)

This is an indication that several factors could probably contribute to broadcasting media, not being objective in their transmission. Factors such as prejudice, assumption, commercial drive, conflict of interest, commentary, lack of enough airtime amongst others.

According to Aina (2004, p. 59) “Objectivity in journalism practice is utopian” this simply means that objectivity is unattainable or feasible. He further explained that the school of thought believing that objectivity is unattainable identified some of the following reasons.

  1. Reporters do not come to assignments with blank minds, something is already there which may bias the coverage even when he wishes to be objective.
  2. He is united by his experience and perception-this is because he reports base on his experience and used selective perception.
  3. Reality is no there for us to discover, each person creates his own reality.
  4. There is no fact anywhere is the world as individuals always manufacture fact. All observed and reported facts are artifacts.

The question from this school of thought is that can objectivity be achieved at all or to what extent can objectivity be achieved.

To this school of thought objectivity is a subjective phenomenon as it is believed that it is impossible for a journalist to be absolutely free from bias. George Egot in his book written asserts that “falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult. Examine your work well, and you will find that even when you have no motive to be false, it is a very hard thing to say the exact truth”.

The motion behind this school of thought is that journalists are human being can hardly be objective due to individual differences and perception.

Another school of thought opposed this position that though it may be difficult for journalists to be perfect, they can still be impartial so that others can verify their perceptions and reach some consensus on what is happening in their neighborhood.

This school of thought sees objectivity as thus

Balance and even-handedness in presenting different sides of an issue; accuracy and realism in reporting, presenting all main relevant points; separating facts from opinion, but treating opinion as relevance minimizing the influence of the writer’s own attitude, opinion or involvement; avoiding slaut, rancor or devious purpose.

This school of thought perceived journalists as impartial, honest and truthful that these three qualities should be observed and objectivity can be achieved. In situation where to be impartial would mean standing mentality between good and evil, right and wrong, the victim and the oppressor. Journalists should endeavour to sit on the fence in their write up and avoid information distortion. Objectivity, therefore, is not simply concerned with how a particular story is concerned, but also with what is selected as potential story-and what is ignored. McQuail (2000, p. 456) identified following rules for objective depiction of reality:

  • All the facts reported must correct;
  • Uncertainties must remain visible as such;
  • Correctness belong completeness and balance;
  • No expression of opinion by the authors;
  • Avoidance of flowery expressions;
  • Expression of opinion within the report is to be identified as such;
  • No embellishing, complementary facts (unjustified tendentiousness).

McQuail further explained that by keeping to these rules =, it is possible to achieve objectivity.

Ways broadcast media can be subjective

Broadcast industries can fall a victim of subjectivity in various ways.

i. Lack of Accuracy:

Accuracy is a watchword in journalism profession. Spelling and pronunciation of name of persons, location and any other form of inaccuracy can bead to lack of objectivity.

ii. Slanting:

Slanting a news story refers to the in fair bias and distortion of facts in a news story often as a result of journalist’s personal interest in the story in accord with a particular interest in order to suit that interest. It also refers to a situation whereby a reporter injects is personal views, ideas, attitude, beliefs or opinion into a story.

iii. Political Interest:

A broadcast medium can be seen as not being objectives if it allows political interest to override policies of the medium. For instance, the transmission made by Africa Independent Television on (AIT) castigating APC presidential candidate (now) incumbent president) President Mohammad Buhari during 2015 presidential campaign. This is clearly subjectivity as it was clearly shown that AIT as a medium was anti APC and pro PDP.

iv. Conflict of Interest:

This can take various shapes ranging from acceptance of gifts, bribes, brown envelopes, and all forms of divided loyalty. All these will prevent journalists from being objective.

v. Wrong Usage of Picture:

Another way in which television broadcaster can be subjective is using wrong picture in a news story or any other programme in which the information can be distorted.

Howerver, these media dysfunction can be attributed to lack of adherence to canon of the profession making the society seeing journalism as what Akinfeleye (1990) regarded as ‘an unqualified profession”. Khan (2009) asserts that our present journalism is used to presenting half side of story. This he attributed as the root cause of all the societal problems because journalists are lagging behind in their social responsibility functions which also indicates a deviation of journalists from the spirit and letter of the ethics of their profession.

This gives a more explicit reason why journalists are not seen and accepted as professionals in the meaning and content of the words. This study is therefore premised upon the assertion by Egbon (2001, p. 27) that, “ many questions come to mind when one thinks of setting a standard on what is right, moral or just and what to write or report about or justification for leaving certain information out of the public domain.” It is also based on Hodding Carter submission as cited in Egbon (2001, p. 35) that, “the domain of mass media today is an ethical jungle where many pride themselves on the anarchy of the surroundings”. Besides, Akinfeleye (2010) posits that journalism profession occasionally experiences credibility problem, which hinges on ethical dilemma as most journalists face challenge on what to do when faced with two completely values of right or wrong, responsible or irresponsible. These explain unethical conduct by Nigerian journalists and deviation from the canons of the profession.


Objectives of the Study

  1. To explore various ethical dilemmas in journalism practice in Ilorin metropolis.
  2. To determine the principles for taken decision by journalists in Ilorin when confronted with ethical dilemmas
  3. To ascertain the implications of ethical dilemmas on news gathering among journalists

Research Question

  1. What are the various ethical dilemmas facing journalists?
  2. What determine the principles for taken decision by journalists in Niger State when confronted with ethical dilemmas?
  3. What are the implications of ethical of ethical dilemmas on news gathering among journalists?

Scope of the Study

This study centers on the implication of ethical dilemma and professionalism on journalist in Ilorin metropolis. It restricts itself to Nigeria Union of Journalist in Kwara State council. The rationale behind the choice of place of study is based on the fact that the study has direct bearing on journalist themselves.


Chapter Five


Conclusion and Recommendations

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the credibility gap that has been created by the insensitivity, arrogance, and gross unethical behaviour of journalists has been berated even from within the profession itself, especially, by the veterans. It is therefore imperative for the media practitioners /journalist to practice in a more ethical way in all ramifications possible. Although the ability of journalist to be completely objective in the media community is highly subjective to several unfavorable conditions within the media system such as Inaccurate reportage, Political Interest, Ownership interest, organizational policies and Advertiser’s interest .This will also reduce if not terminate some of implications of ethical dilemmas on professionalism and societal development in Ilorin metropolis.


Recommendations

Based on the conclusion reached, the study recommends that:

  1. Journalist should be trained in standard ethical values, as embodied in the profession for enhancing the capacity of public functionaries in analyzing and resolving the commonly encountered ethical dilemmas reporting politics.
  2. That journalists should honoured ethical principles and rules in the profession; broadening and deepening the public’s understanding of ethics and promoting the culture of ethical fitness.
  3. That the media should work towards changing the mindsets of our politicians and the general populace on negative attitudes like money politics, political vandalism and rascality.
  4. That journalists should be guided by the principle of social responsibility; that is inclusivity, fairness and balance in the handling of political coverage’s.

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