Thursday, April 16, 2009

Living Dangerously....with Friends

While "The Year of Living Dangerously" was at least, a strange film, I did make a connection I have been grappling with. While I do not have a solution to this problem yet, I do have the connection. Billy was hung up on loyalty, or more to the point betrayal. I think he crossed the line between being humane and being loyal. A journalist can be humane to co-workers, sources and readers, but they essentially can't be friends in the true sense of the word, because that entails loyalty, and as the SPJ code says, a journalist should be independent.

I do not disagree with Guy's choice to run the story of the incoming weapons ship. He did the right thing, seeking out and reporting the truth for the greater good. Billy did not understand that. Billy wanted personal fulfillment from his sources and co-workers as friends, instead of being compassionate and humane for the greater good. I had no problem with Billy helping the starving kid or getting connections for Guy. I did have a problem with Billy missing the important story near the end because he felt a loss of friendship. I felt this was a personal problem and selfish. Clearly he had forsaken his journalistic ideal of seeking the truth, which he had started out with by doing the famine story.

Now, how kids, does this apply to us today? What about the new-fangled Face Book and other online social networking sites? Is it ethical for journalists to fling their private life into the open for co-workers, sources and readers to see? Yes and no, that is a good answer.

A New York journalists named Melissa was quoted in a recent Quill article, "A friend is someone who stands by you, and takes your side even in tough times; a reporter is someone without allegiances who tries to tell all sides, and who, in tough times, digs deeper, trying to find the truth."

I would encourage everyone to read this timely story

On the other hand, I think that journalists can connect journalists to sources to make better opportunities for stories to flourish, just like Billy did. I also think it is important to stick up for all journalists as a whole if you are one to ensure the public of credibility and stand by our processes (if they are indeed ethical).

So I guess my best answer is to take Aristotle's Golden Mean to heart. Go ahead and Facebook and Twitter with your co-workers and readers (but leave sources out) to open discussion about issues you may not know about, gain connections and enlighten others on your reporting processes and feelings about free press. But keep it professional, meaningful and know the limit of revealing too much personal information that would create a situation of potential betrayal of seeming friends, making it difficult to tell all sides of the story. I believe sincerity is the key. If you aren't comfortable saying something sincerely on these mediums to people you work with, then don't say it.

No comments:

Post a Comment