I have created this occasional column for different questions I get asked about my role as the editor of the Greene County Record. I will also use the column to answer ethical questions that I see raised online or elsewhere about journalism in Greene County.
The idea that the news media is biased is something I’ve heard often. In fact, in one of the first posts I ever posted on the newspaper’s Facebook page I asked the public at large what we should focus on and an answer received was unbiased journalism.
Readers will not agree with everything written in the newspaper, as we often see play out on social media. I want to be the first to say that’s OK, but that doesn’t make it biased. One arena where this plays out is when covering criminal arrests and trials. One thing you won’t see in the Record is an editorial on the case. We report what is happening at the hearing or trial. It’s up to a jury to decide the innocence, not me, and I will only report the facts presented in the courtroom, not rumors from social media. And if we start covering a case, I pledge that while I’m the editor, we will follow it through—guilt or innocence.
If I’m writing a column or editorial, readers will know it’s either my own personal opinion or the editorial board’s opinion as they will be labeled with either “editorial” or “Op-Ed.” News stories will not contain those opinions.
“Why aren’t you eating?” I get this question often at events I’ve been invited to cover for the newspaper. This is something that was drilled into me in college and while other newspapers have different ethical guidelines to this question, for me personally—if I don’t pay for it, I don’t eat it. Greene County is a small community and I realize people are not likely to feel that my objectivity is compromised when I eat the meal at an annual meeting, but this is something I have practiced for 26 years in journalism (ouch) and will continue to do so.
I am a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and that organization has a statement of ethics for members to keep in mind as we perform our duties.
This column is dedicated to the final principal “be accountable and transparent,” which includes: explaining the process to readers and encouraging civil dialogue about journalistic practices, coverage and news content; responding quickly to questions of accuracy, clarity and fairness; acknowledging mistakes and correcting them promptly and prominently (we put corrections on A2 every time); exposing unethical conduct in journalism; and abiding by the same high standards expected of others.
If you have questions that you’d like to see answered here, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and if they are questions I can answer, I will answer. You may also call the office at (434) 985-2315.