Category Archives: Opinion

Trust In Me: An Analysis of Journalistic Integrity

By Sydney Jones

When asked about the difference between a journalist and a fiction writer, my 9-year-old sister replied, “Nothing, they both lie to people for a living.”

Sorry, I wasn’t telling the whole truth. I never asked my sister that. Yet I’m fairly sure she would say something similar if asked, so I’m just going to include it anyway.

Journalists today are facing a major public trust crisis so severe that it threatens our livelihood, careers and reputations. Yet we created this crisis.

There is a disconnect between the way journalists’ view ourselves and reality.  In the study Verification as a Strategic Ritual, researchers found that many journalists hold themselves to an extremely high personal standard.

“The single most frequently and clearly stated value expressed in journalists’ self-identification is a drive for accuracy,” the study stated.

Since the beginning of news-dissemination, it has been a journalist’s duty to provide concise and truthful facts to the public. The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics has an entire section dedicated to truthful reporting.

“Journalists should take responsibility for the accuracy of their work,” states the Code of Ethics.

The Problem

I would argue that many journalists, myself included, have dismissed the direct correlation between accuracy and public trust. A reader must be convinced that the journalist can be trusted, but in recent years the media’s truthful reputation has been ruined by lazy reporting and a willingness to twist the truth in order to persuade audiences.

There are far too many examples, but one that stood out to me when it was presented in my community journalism class is Stephen Glass, a former reporter for The New Republic. Glass was found by Forbes journalist Adam Penenberg to have fabricated sources, quotes and people for multiple stories over the course of three years.

“The truth is, bad journalism can be found anywhere,” said Penenburg. “It is not the medium; it is the writer.”

In this specific case, one journalist held another accountable. However, this presents a unique problem, due to the fact that readers are increasingly distrusting of all media, regardless of whether or not it has been proven distrustful.

The statistics are grim, with a 2016 Gallup research poll finding that members of the public who believe that news organizations report consistently accurate news fell to 32 percent.

In the case of Stephen Glass, he not only destroyed his reputation, but also the magazine’s. And he deceived hundreds of readers in the process.

“Think of your reader as a good neighbor or a best friend, someone you would never knowingly deceive,” said Jock Lauterer in his book on community journalism.

I believe this deception is ultimately brought on by three things:

  • Laziness, the vehicle through which dishonest or untrustworthy media is produced
  • Arrogance, which prevents the journalist from admitting and taking  responsibility for their mistakes
  • Lack of Appreciation for Audience, whom a journalist’s entire career is fixated on serving.

Once a journalist allows these three things to permeate their work, it is only a matter of time before irreversible mistakes are made.

“Journalism is just the art of capturing behavior,” claims Glass’s character in “Shattered Glass”, a movie about his exposure. “You have to know who you’re writing for. And you have to know what you’re good at.”

I believe that is a dangerous misrepresentation of what truly makes journalism unique. It is not solely an art form or mode of communication. Genuinely great reporting separates itself from the mediocre by informing, motivating and inspiring people to take action in their community.

Anyone can sit at a computer and write well for a specific audience. Yet it takes real talent, real integrity, to tell the stories that people may not want to read.

“There’s going to come a time when you have the story—and your town won’t want you to publish it,” said McClure. “They’ll say it would be bad for business. And your publisher might not want you to write it. He might even threaten to fire you. But you know you’ve got to write it. Besides, you’re no good in community journalism unless you’ve been fired for taking an unpopular stand at least once.

These are the stories that preserve our free speech and democracies, yet these are the stories journalists are unable to tell because of our untrustworthy reputation.

The Solution

So here’s where we stand: journalists still view themselves as possessing high integrity, yet statistics, multiple scandals and public opinion says otherwise.

And the solution, as I see it, starts just as the problem did, with each of us in the journalism community.

We must be vigilant in order to ensure our stories are consistently factual. Gone are the days in which we rely on editors to follow behind and clean up our messes.

Because of the trend towards community journalism and self-publishing on blogs, we have become the sole fact-checkers of our work before the piece is published.

“If you care passionately about what you are doing, any inaccuracies, any mistakes, any mischaracterization of the degree of importance or significance of things, greatly undermines what you are trying to accomplish,” state researchers in the Verification as a Strategic Ritual study.

Actually holding ourselves to the standard that we claim to believe in is the only way to gain back public trust. While it may be a long and difficult road, I believe it is one that must be taken in order to protect our God-given rights and liberties; I think that my sister would agree with that as well.

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You’re Fired!

By Sydney Jones

On the reality show The Apprentice, President Trump was famous for the phrase “you’re fired” as a way to tell contestants they were cut from the show.

This happened to Sally Yates, but with a difference. She was a not a contestant on a reality show, but the acting attorney general of the United States.

Yates was the acting attorney general for 10 days before being replaced due to her defiance against President Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from entering the country.

On Jan. 30, The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, released a statement explaining the reason for her termination.

“The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States… It is time to get serious about protecting our country. Calling for tougher vetting for individuals traveling from seven dangerous places is not extreme,” Spicer said.

I believe this statement over-simplifies a problem that starts with the amount of power our modern executive branch possesses.

The legal order that Yates would not support was President Trump’s executive order which places an immigration ban for 90 days on people from majority Muslim countries. In a letter to Justice Department lawyers, Yates expressed her concern over the order.

“At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities, nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful,” Yates said.

I am not fully opposed to an immigration freeze so that the vetting process can be reformed. But the countries this ban is targeting are a significantly lesser threat than others that are not affected, due to the fact that most of these people are refugees fleeing war. One of the countries that the executive order conveniently excluded, Saudi Arabia, is the country where 15 out of the 19 people responsible for the 9/11 attacks were originally from.

I could go on and on about the reasons why this particular executive order is unconstitutional, but the main point is that Yates did nothing wrong by choosing not to support the order and should not have been fired as the result.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice website, the main responsibilities of an attorney general are to represent the U.S. in broad legal matters and also gives their legal opinion to the president and top government executives.

As attorney general, Yates was not required to agree or support Trump’s executive order. However, this seems to be the attitude that Trump is taking towards this situation. Some argue that Yates was overstepping her boundaries by advising Justice Department lawyers not to pursue legal actions supporting the executive order on immigrants and refugees.

I respect our president and I believe he has great potential to make positive changes in this country. But I worry that this action is a sign of a future trend of abusing power. I do not think that Yates’ actions were grounds to fire her. She was trying to do what she believed was best, and she was punished for it.

When a president who is famous for shouting “you’re fired” starts doing that to federal employees simply because they don’t agree with him, that borders on a dictatorship, and we as the American people cannot allow this to happen.

Why Is No One Cancelling Class Because Of Aleppo?

By Sydney Jones

After Donald Trump was announced as the president-elect following the 2016 election, there was an almost instantaneous outpouring of grief due to fact that a seemingly misogynistic, arrogant and fascist man would soon be leading our country.

Professors cancelled class and violent protests broke out in many cities around the country. A few celebrities even vowed to leave the country (what a tragedy, how will we ever survive without our pop culture gods to worship?).

People are scared. I understand and empathize with that. What I do not empathize with, however, is the delusional state Americans are currently allowing themselves to willingly be imprisoned by.

The vast majority of Americans have the mentality that if something does not directly affect them, it doesn’t exist. And that is exactly what is happening in the case of Aleppo and the Syrian Civil War.

Assad’s government has violated rights of free expression and assembly. They have denied women their basic rights and refused Syrian Kurds and their descendants citizenship because they are “foreigners.” As I am writing these words, the Syrian government is massacring rebels living in Aleppo.

And not one class is being cancelled.

Few are mourning the plight of the Syrian people.

American society has turned a blind eye to the blatant evil that is occurring.

Every crime that critics have claimed that Trump has the potential of committing, Syria has committed 10 times over. Why is this not major news? Why does no one care?

Because it isn’t happening to us. Syria is thousands of miles away, and anyway they aren’t the first dictatorship to do this, and they won’t be the last.

As a society, myself included, we need to wake up from this dream. We need to expand our sphere of compassion to include a larger sector of humanity.

Please stop being passive about human life. If you need something to protest, protest the way the Syrian government is oppressing their people and destroying civilian life. If you need a reason to cancel class, cancel it and go to a peaceful protest and stand up for freedom. Instead of writing angry political Facebook posts, write to your government about why they are allowing hundreds of people to be murdered.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason we are so blind is because we have knowledge and information so readily available that it has caused us to become near-sighted.

How To Help

There are many places you can donate to. Help, not because you gain anything from it, but simply because you can.

 

 

 

You Might Be An Abuser If…

You don’t think you are an abuser. In your mind, you are innocent and the whole world is against you. You play the victim card and expect everyone to feel sorry for you. Many people might know you as a wonderful person. But the people you have abused see you for what you truly are: a performer. Dancing around the stage in gaudy costumes and fake smiles will only work for so long, because the truth has a way of coming out one way or another.

You think you are always right. You believe your irrational opinions are the truth. You have forgotten that they are only opinions. There is no way to control what others think or believe, and instead of accepting that fact and moving on, you become obsessed with trying to change people’s minds. Sometimes you have succeeded in manipulating people to agree with your point of view. You might be able to convince thousands of people you are in the right, but if one person speaks out against you, consider what they are saying. You are not as righteous as you think you are.

You blame others for your mistakes. The argument you have been using is broken and no longer works. You say that if the person you abused had done something different, then you wouldn’t have abused them. That is a gross misinterpretation of the situation. The consequences to your actions are no person’s fault but your own. Take responsibility for your mistakes, because that is the first step to your redemption.

You made people feel like they were worthless. Self-worth is a fragile thing, and you have ripped it into a million pieces. The destruction you caused is not easily put back together. Your victims will always carry the knowledge of what you did to them, and the fact that you didn’t have enough respect for a fellow human being to stop when you had a chance. The people you abused wonder why you chose them. Many times they are randomly chosen, your sick version of the lottery. However the only thing your victims win is your mark permanently branded into their being. You never asked for permission. You only thought about yourself.

You think silence is consent. Although they may not audibly express their feelings, your victims are internally screaming for you to stop. This is shown in different ways, like flinching when you touch, pushing you away, or not looking you in the eye. And the most important rule: if someone is unconscious, do not touch them. That is not consent. That is rape.

This post is dedicated to anyone who has ever gone through abuse. You are not alone. What happened or is currently happening to you is not your fault. Get help as soon as you can.

by Sydney Jones

Assisted Suicide: An Easier Way Out?

I was a naive 15-year-old who had barely started her sophomore year of high school when I learned about physician-assisted suicide. I first experienced this by watching Terry Pratchett’s documentary titled Choosing to Die. Every single moment captivated me as I went on this journey with Pratchett, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007. He interviewed various subjects who were interested in assisted suicide, trying to find answers to his questions. My eyes filled with tears as I listened to the stories of people considering or had already gone through with euthanasia. I could relate to the fear of dying an excruciating and humiliating death, and the desire to end my life at the time of my choice. But like Pratchett, no matter how hard I tried, I could not justify some aspects of assisted dying. I was mortified that someone could throw their life away so frivolously. However, through more research I found that this was not a black & white issue like I had initially thought it was.

Over the years I have watched this issue grow and gain more traction in pop culture. A perfect example of this is the movie Me Before You. The plot deals with a quadriplegic man who has no desire to live anymore but is given a second chance at life when he falls in love with his caretaker. The movie seems like a basic love story until the end when the protagonist travels to Switzerland and kills himself. However, this topic is much bigger than a sappy romantic movie.

Physician-assisted death is legal in five USA states, Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Physician-assisted means that the patient has to take the final action themselves, unlike voluntary euthanasia, which can be administered by a doctor. I will be writing about physician-assisted suicide since this is the most easily recognized form of euthanasia.

Quality of Life Argument: 

Many who are opposed to euthanasia claim that it lessens the worth of a human life. If we are able to justify the deliberate end to our own life, they say, this would eventually cause euthanasia to become non-voluntary and a way to cut healthcare costs. Humans would become like animals and families would persuade loved ones to end their lives prematurely. Patients would feel that they had a duty to die.

The concerns are valid considering we already terminate the lives of millions of unwanted children every year without batting an eye. However, there is no way to validate this argument. Corporations like Dignitas, for example, have multiple regulations in place to protect patients who go through with the procedure. It is the patient’s choice, and the patient’s choice alone.

I am mainly concerned with how each country’s government would be able to consistently define “terminal”. A person who is considered terminally ill or in a hopeless situation but has a life expectancy of many years might be treated differently than a person who will die in a few months. Although many in hopeless situations have a longer life expectancy, people with multiple sclerosis for example, having the choice to pass away before their symptoms become unbearable might be a better alternative to unnecessarily prolonging their life.

Another important issue is how would someone would be able to gauge when a person’s quality of life starts to deteriorate. Every life is worthwhile and has intrinsic value, but I believe at a certain point that worth means the terminally ill should be able to choose a dignified death. This point is reached when a person feels extreme physical or psychological pain and is unable to live a normal life.

Dignity Vs. Quantity: 

I have known many with terminal illnesses be able to live a happy and fulfilling life. However, they are still living with a painful illness that will eventually be the cause of their death. Many who wish to end their life sooner are forced to suffer while the illness ravages their body because they believe there is no other alternative.

The alternative that assisted death provides is dignity and the choice to prevent a painful death. Instead of fighting till the bitter end patients can die happy and in peace. Although the quality of life deteriorates as the patient’s illness progresses that does not mean the worth of the life lessens. Every person is different and many patient’s will choose life over a premature death. Ultimately the decision should be in the patient’s hands.

What Happened to Empathy?:

A point that supporters of assisted death often use is many opposed would euthanize a beloved pet before their quality of life lessens, but it is still illegal for humans to do the same. While it would be cruel to prolong an animal’s life when it is obviously suffering I am unsure if the issue is that simple when it comes to human life.

Before we judge a person’s actions, especially in cases of assisted death, we must try to understand why. To say that you would never consider assisted suicide is very easy, but it is a much more difficult task to face an undignified death and not consider taking your own life. I understand the disgusted feelings towards assisted death. However, I also empathize with patients who have chosen that over extreme suffering.

My Body, My Choice:

Not every patient will choose assisted death. In fact, many will be opposed. But that does not mean that everyone will be. If modern society wants to keep preaching the “my body, my choice” message I believe that should also be extended to include assisted death.

Why This Issue Matters:

This issue is a moral choice that everyone needs to understand and be educated about. Please learn as much as you can about physician-assisted suicide. Make sure you understand the issue in its entirety before picking a side.

Remember that the most dangerous decision you can make is one that is not well-informed. Thank you for reading.

By Sydney Jones