Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Truth and Consequences

We spent a lot of years learning our craft over at the DRSo’J. We were tutled by such luminaries as Big Jake, Rude Boy and the Bourne Supremacy. So, when we read yesterday’s Your Turn in the RGJ, we just had to add our two bits.

Dean Ceppos got one thing right when he said he couldn’t pound ethics into his students. Duh. Anyone who’s been a parent (or a teen for that matter) knows how futile it is trying to pound something into someone. Doesn’t work. Never did. Besides, if a student doesn’t have ethics by the time they’ve reached college it’s too late.

But we wanna talk about the two things Dean Ceppos didn’t mention that every J-student should know.

First of all, in RL, ethics don’t mean shit. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations aren’t run by journalists, they’re run by bean counters. To them, it’s not about quality or accuracy or integrity, it’s all about the bottom line.

Cost ‘em a penny by writing a story ‘bout their best client and you’ll be canned so fast the door won’t have time to hit you in the badunkadunk. Cost ‘em a penny more than a snot-nosed rookie fresh out of Underoos and yer’ replaced quicker than you can say, “Do you want fries with that?”

To the bean counters you aren’t a journalist, you’re a body sucking up benefits and salary and ethics be damned if they come between you and them making their budget.

Secondly, if you have to sign a pledge stating you’ll behave in an ethical manner, you’re kidding yourself. Think the people with no ethics are gonna sign the pledge anyway? Yup. Ethics are in your heart, they’re in your soul and no piece of paper is gonna change that.

What really chaps our ass though, is the line in the pledge that says, “…"As a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism, I will uphold and apply the highest standards of integrity and ethics. This includes helping others by minimizing harm and showing compassion.” Hogwash. You’ve got one job future journos – that job is to find the truth. You’ve got no dog in the fight for who gets hurt. Hell…haven’t you heard? The truth fuckin’ hurts! That’s the way it is. That’s the way it’s always been. As for compassion, leave that to the psychics, the talk show hosts and the Red Cross.

Think showing the coffins of soldiers returning from Iraq hurts the pResident’s approval rating? Yes. Think pointing out the futility of the “War on Globally Extreme Jihadists” hurts the morale of the troops? Damn straight. Think reporting about the abuses of government cheese pisses off the little people? Hell yeah. But your job isn’t to worry about who gets hurt by the truth. Your job is to report the truth. There’s nothing more ethical than that.