All the talk about ethics on Monday really got me thinking. I can’t go around touting my own opinions while simultaneously calling myself a journalist. It really is unfair to my readership (though small and almost non-existent) for me to be an advocate for any political party. This idea is what motivated me to change my status on Facebook. Instead of having a political party listed in my “Political Views” section, I changed the text to read “I’m a Journalist.”
This was difficult for me because I am normally a very opinionated person. I very outspoken in terms of my view on policy and certain arguments. The problem is that I have to hide some of these opinions if I plan on doing my job correctly.
I don’t think these undertones influence my writing. After all, everyone has an opinion about something. So it’s pretty naive to think that journalists are completely objective about everything they cover. What I learned was the difference between having an opinion and advertising an opinion. Changing the status of my Facebook info page didn’t change my political views. But it did change how I advertise those views.
In the end, I think its about distancing your work from your opinions. I fully believe that I can write a balanced story that flies against my personal opinions. It probably helps. By being conscious of our own leanings and biases, we can make sure to account for them in stories or to remove ourselves from them altogether. But our audience doesn’t need to know about that internal decision making. Our first duty is to report.