The Rise of Unethical Journalism and What to Do about It

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Story by Leah Ash, Culture Editor

Journalists are an extremely important cornerstone of our democracy. They deliver news on important events and issues in order to inform our general population. 

With this responsibility, journalists are taught five main principles of ethics to guide their reporting: truth and accuracy; independence; fairness and impartiality; humanity; accountability. 

However, I find that as time passes and digital media becomes more and more popular, journalism has begun to falter in its credibility. Not all stations and journalists have fallen down this path, but there are greater numbers of highly biased news, articles with inaccurate facts, and less respect for many members of society. 

According to a 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center, while many journalists love their job, they are concerned about the future of journalism. 72 percent would describe the field with a negative word, like “struggling” or “chaos” while 71 percent said that made up news and information is a big problem for our country. 

However, the recent school shooting tragedy at Michigan State University threw the decline of journalism into the face of the masses with an article by the New York Times, which is generally considered a reputable news source.  

Staff reporter Tiffany May wrote “The mass shooting places Michigan State back in an uncomfortable national spotlight.” Upon a closer look, the article is not about the MSU tragedy but instead the Larry Nassar scandal that took place in 2016. 

This is a clear outrage for any and all Michiganders, as this is using a devastating and traumatic event as clickbait to talk about a previous scandal at the school. The article was published early in the morning on Feb. 14, less than 24 hours after the shooting. 

After outraged Twitter members called out both the writer and paper, the article was eventually pulled from the site. However, I was unable to find any apology for the article as it dismissed the students’ trauma and the deaths from the shooting. 

Clearly, this is an example of unethical journalism. As a journalist myself, I was enraged to see this article and disgusted by it. This was a clear use of clickbait to talk about a different issue altogether and should never be used by any news source. 

If anyone sees news like this, we must act as all the Twitter users did. Calling out poor journalism helps keep everyone accountable, which is extremely important. 

An example of great journalism, also from the New York Times, was an article by freelance writer Sophia Lada. She wrote “‘I’m a Journalist and a Spartan’: How a Graduate Covered the Michigan State Shooting.” The way she approaches the story is filled with compassion and understanding with plenty of mention of how you are supposed to cover traumatic events such as this. Read the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/23/insider/msu-shooting-graduate-journalist.html 

In this digital age, readers need to employ media literacy when reading news articles. Learn to recognize reliable sources and research on topics from multiple sources. And when you see unethical articles, call them out.