There are few professions like journalism where scrutiny and feedback are so instantaneous. If we nail a story or social-media post, readers will let us know immediately. If we bungle a story or social-media post, readers will let us know immediately.
This is how it should be.
Whether we’re at a praise or pain point, or the time in between, we’re always guided by a couple of things.
First, we love where we live. What we’re reporting or showing the community is something we believe helps, supports, illuminates, inspires, entertains, provokes thought or introduces. This could mean bringing awareness to problems, or helping to find solutions, or providing the foundational information you need to participate in your own community, your own democracy.
Second, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics is a good guidepost when those sticky situations arise. I keep it pinned to my bulletin board. The code, in essence, says to seek truth and report it, to minimize harm, to act independently and to be accountable and transparent.
This is how it should be, too. We want to respond as quickly as we can to questions about accuracy, clarity, fairness and anything else readers may want to ask. We want to be able to explain choices and processes to our audience. We want to be able to encourage a civil dialogue with the public about our practices, coverage and news content.
I find that all these things take place far more easily via email, text or in person. At times, civil discourse falls apart on social media, which is not always the best platform to explain choices or pursue civil dialogue.
Still, it doesn’t matter where you feel comfortable expressing opinions that you intend to help guide us. We’re listening.