Friday, February 6, 2009

Shattered Glass and Shattered Confidence

This incident goes past a mistake in reporting or deceptive reporting, it is pure, solid journalistic fabrication, and it is so disturbing to me that there are people who would take this sacred, 1st Amendment privilege and smear it on the faces of American citizens and the press.

While Glass, obviously was a sociopath and compulsive liar, this issue goes way beyond an individual's issue, this is what undermines the foundation of our democracy, a free press that brings truth to the people. I think this incident, along with similar others are a good part of the reason why less people trust news, even read news and are less informed, and that means we are failing somewhere on some level.

Reader confidence is what the whole idea of the press hinges on. If there is no trust between reader and paper then there is nothing. Actions such as Glass's hit people deep because of the previously established trust. I believe people can put up with typos, small innaccuracies and such because that is the nature of news reporting, but completely fabricated stories printed as truth are not something that people will put up with. It is never alright to fabricate stories and portray them as truth.

Social responsibility and the marketplace of ideas are two ideas central to journalism. And Glass totally shattered both of them. He was irresponsible and gave people false ideas to think about. If perhaps this goes on more than we know, not that it does, but are our ideas of politics and social norms all botched in the marketplace because they are false based?

The SPJ Code of Ethics says "Seek the Truth and Report it," and Glass did not. In fact he went to great ends to report false ideas and facts, and this is also disturbing, the ill-intent.

While an event such as this undermines the whole system, it is scary to think it only takes one person to do it. But what is the solution? I don't know, firing Glass didn't fix the false truths he told. It didn't give people their confidence back. I think the only thing we can really do, is be less complacent readers, fact checkers, co-workers and journalists and editors.

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