After reading a list of oxymorons, beginning with George Carlin’s famous “jumbo shrimp” and “military intelligence, I got a minor laugh in my college course on writing for public communication by introducing as the next oxymoron, Media Ethics. It introduced a section on the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics and I suggested the following list of ten ways the national media could restore its reputation.
1. Accuracy: Attention to detail; accuracy at all costs.
2. Thoroughness: Emphasize thoroughness over speed; getting the story right is more important than getting it first.
3. Humility: demonstrate humility through preparation, broad and vigorous research, and by seeking out experts.
4. Real Affirmative Action in news operations: ideological, religious, regional, and socio-economic, as well as racial and ethnic.
5. Journalism not Opposition: Reaffirm journalists as reporters of news, not the opposition party.
6. Historic Values: Reflect traditional values of the nation—ethics, historic teachings of faith groups.
7. Thinking: Recover the serious and critical mind—beyond the sound bite.
8. Rediscover Shame: wrongdoers should not be honored, they should be dishonored.
9. Self Cleansing: Restore credibility by cleaning up your own house so that journalists are trusted to present news fairly and professionally.
10. Leave NYC: Build national media competence and presence outside New York City and Washington, D.C. It would be good if the major networks moved to Des Moines, or Kansas City, or perhaps Indianapolis.
These were my thoughts for one group of future journalists.
— Jim Jewell