By Casey Bukro
Two views emerged on transparency in journalism, one strongly in favor and the other not so much.
Transparency now trumps “act independently” as a guiding journalism principle in ethics decision-making because anyone with a computer might be considered a journalist these days, according to Tom Rosenstiel, executive of the American Press Institute.
“Transparency will pull publishers of information toward best practices and also toward the most important kind of independence — intellectual independence,” writes Rosenstiel.
Rosenstiel points to a new book published by the Poynter Institute, “The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century,” in which this shift in guiding principles is explained and promoted. Rosenstiel contributed to the book, which attempts to update a set of ethics principles.
Not so fast says Stephen Ward, who suggests transparency is “over-hyped and replaces important values.”
Ward is a journalism professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.
Transparency too often “is a magical idea,” Ward insists. “I believe independence should remain a principle of ethical journalism, and not be demoted to a secondary principle, or made a part of some other principle.”
As for the Poynter ethics book, Ward said: “it is better to talk of reforming the idea of independence, not of replacing it.”
“Academic studies indicate that transparency cannot meet our expectations,” Ward insists, although he did not cite any of the studies.
Rosenstiel said the new Poynter ethics book attempts to update a set of ethical guidelines developed by Poynter in the 1990s under the leadership of Bob Steele, now director of the of DePauw University’s Prindle Institute for Ethics.
The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics also urges journalists to “act independently.”