A colleague, Barry Hollander, pointed me to this piece on PBS’ MediaShift where Stephen Ward argues that we cannot modify our traditional journalism ethics codes, we must tear them down and build new ones. Go read it, then have your blood pressure taken and come back here …
Among other items, I take issue with this:
Ethics of interpretation and opinion: The era of news objectivity as “just the facts” is dying. Interpretive and advocational journalism grows. Ethicists need to fill this gap by distinguishing between better and worse interpretations. They need to provide a specific meaning to such key concepts as “informed commentary,” “insightful analysis” and “good interpretation.”
Why? “Interpretive” or “avocational” “journalism” is not journalism. It can, and should, be classified as reporting, it should be protected as part of the press, but it is not journalism. It is advocacy. And anything that involves the word “interpretive” should be followed with the word dance.
Journalism IS just the facts and how they fit into our current society or community. Facts, context. Period. Full stop. Nothing more.
There is nothing inherently wrong with advocating, commenting, analysis or interpretation. But that all involves some level of opinion – and that is not journalism.