I recently read a really interesting piece about media ethics in the January/February 2012 of The Atlantic. The article, “Freed Press,” is writer Graeme Wood’s personal account of teaching said ethics to a group of about 50 young (under 30) Libyan journalists.
“I preached a gospel of objectivity, freedom from bias, and independence—the canonical American journalistic virtues—and explained why journalists aren’t supposed to shade stories to protect the powerful, or lie, or break the law, or pay their sources, or be paid by them, or pretend to be someone they’re not. The students appreciated the theory but challenged me in practice. Nearly all said, for example, that they would decline to publish a story that made the leaders of the rebel government look bad, at least until the war was finished.”
That, for me, was an eye-opener because it reminded me that not every country in the world lives life the way that we do in North America. The people of Libya are still struggling to free themselves of their past and are still trying to work out how to deal with their present. I think it’s great, though, that so many publications have popped up in Benghazi, and that North Americans are stepping in to guide them along. It shows an investment in ethical media practices and a belief that freedom of the press is a right, not a privilege. It’s okay that we’re not altogether there yet; after all, we’ve got to start somewhere.
Image via Zohra Bensemra, Reuters.