Ethics and Journalism

4 Dec

For many journalists, there are ethical decisions that they come across that can be somewhat difficult to handle. Mitch Vingle covers West Virginia University sports for the Charleston Gazette-Mail. For Vingle, he has certainly come across his fair share of ethical situations in his journalistic career.

“There’s been a longstanding argument that accepting media and parking passes, as well as provided meals, to ball games are technically no-nos. The counter to that, however, is it’s a job and, if not, we probably or might not be attending/paying and certainly not working.
Perhaps the only thing I can think of in my 37 years as a reporter is experiencing confusion on one end or another when someone believed something was off the record,” said Vingle. “I pride myself on being very clear with sources and asking what is off and what is on. As you would imagine, however, sometimes there’s miscommunication or misunderstanding. A source might mean X is fair game but not Y when it was explained both X and Y were fair game.¬†Perhaps the toughest ethical bind is when sources have given me news but it was off the record and, while trying to confirm it elsewhere, that news broke. You feel like you’ve failed in your job, although you’re also protecting your sources,” said Vingle.
Vingle tells of another ethical dilemma he had come across when he was a younger and how he believed he had handled it.
“I will tell you one ethical mistake I made, though, when very young. I found out about a football recruit that had committed to WVU. I called a coach to confirm the Mountaineers were taking him and although the answer was yes, I was asked to hold off on reporting it because they were also in hot pursuit of another player at the same position. I did hold off and, of course, was burned. I swore never to do that again and have not,” said Vingle.
When hearing of some of the ethical decisions that Mitch has come across, I agree with him that communication with your sources is very important. When doing a report and getting answers from your source, you would like to know what is fair ground to be included and written in a story, and what should not be used. If the source says one thing, and prefers that to be off the record, but then continues and never includes whether he wants that off the record or not, then it can turn out bad for the source and yourself if that news was not kept off the record. A way to keep this dilemma from happening is by just keeping a good and strong communcation with your source so that both sides understand what is Another ethical dilemma that Vingle touches on is journalists being offered free items. I believe that as long as it is offered to you, and not taken by force, it would be fine for the journalist to accept a meal or parking pass to an event. Ethical decisions like this can be important in gaining credibility and helping grow relationships and connections with your sources. Putting something in a story that was meant to not be a part of the story could be a bad step in trying to better both yourself and the source.

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