AEJMC Calls Upon Politicians and Journalists to Ensure Civility in Election Campaigning

CONTACT: ELIZABETH L. TOTH, University of Maryland, College Park, 2014-15 President of AEJMC • September 9, 2015
Active campaigning for the 2016 presidential election has now begun, and the candidates are presenting their platforms for reporting and scrutiny by the press. This essential democratic process must be performed in an environment of respect both for the journalists who report as well as for the candidates who seek election. Some recent exchanges between candidates and journalists have failed to live up to this standard.

During political campaigns, we often look to a candidate’s treatment of the press to infer what that relationship will be like if the candidate is elected. Thus, it is concerning if candidates treat the press, and the process of journalistic inquiry, dismissively. At the same time, journalists have the responsibility to perform their critical function in a way that is fair, impartial and according to professional standards.

Americans must be vigilant about preserving the free and democratic society that exists through the First Amendment rights of citizens and the strong role of the nation’s watchdog press. Democracy and human rights are possible only when journalists are allowed to perform their role freely and without constraint, and with full adherence to their professional responsibilities of fairness and accuracy.

Particularly in this era of social media, channels of communication that facilitate vigorous discussion and debate are accessible to all citizens, which can enhance democracy. With this benefit comes personal responsibility of all citizens and a heightened professional responsibility of those who perform the role of journalists.

The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), the largest association of journalism and communication educators in the world, calls upon both the political candidates who are campaigning for office and the journalists who cover them to maintain the highest levels of civility and respect to ensure an environment where the electorate can make informed decisions about those who seek to represent them in government.

For more information regarding this AEJMC Presidential Statement, please contact Elizabeth Toth, 2015 President of AEJMC, at eltoth@umd.edu or Lori Bergen, 2016 President of AEJMC, at Lori.Bergen@colorado.edu.

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