Journalism Educators Urge Social Media Platforms to Ensure Ethical Transparency in Curating and Disseminating News
CONTACT: Lori Bergen, University of Colorado at Boulder, 2015-16 President of AEJMC | June 3, 2016
The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), the oldest and largest association of journalism and mass communication educators in the world, calls upon social media platforms (such as Facebook) to ensure ethical transparency in curating and disseminating news.
Facebook has been accused of liberal bias in its “trending” news section that lists the most popular news stories for the estimated 1.6 billion people in its social network. This accusation is predicated on Facebook’s professed desire to be a trusted platform for users and media partners. Critics are calling Facebook to task for not embracing traditional news values that ostensibly include being immune to biases and remaining impervious to nontransparent influences.
News media’s societal role is to present truth as journalists and their media companies perceive and interpret it in good faith, with accuracy, fairness and attempted-albeit impossible to fully achieve-objectivity.
Beginning in the 1830s Penny Press era, news reportage was considered, not as the dissemination of an ideological message, but as a commodity that could be sold because of its value to all consumers, irrespective of their political or other beliefs. Basic trust in the presentation of news depended upon accuracy, impartiality and professional values that encouraged fairness and objectivity in reportage.
The relatively restricted news media choices resulted in a considerable monopoly of knowledge by news media organizations, but sufficient market competition existed to encourage overall high quality news coverage, and journalism was highly professionalized, with journalists abiding by ethics codes, shared news values and objective reporting methods.
Today’s media platforms and channels of communication have democratized both the dissemination and access to information, including news. Of course, legacy media comprising news media and their professional journalists who embrace professional news values and ethics have earned public trust and use diverse media platforms in their dissemination of news. However, news media must be distinguished from-and held above-other organizations that use or own media platforms.
As a social media platform, Facebook is powerful and undoubtedly influential, and it should exercise ethical transparency in curating and disseminating news.
Certainly, Facebook content, including its “trending” news section, should not be confused with news, as perceived professionally, nor should Facebook be held to the same standards that have encouraged trust in the legacy press. If Facebook is biased or is purposely inaccurate in what news and information it says is “trending,” it should be judged as a social media platform, not as a news media company that embraces the news values that are essential to a free and democratic society.
Media entities enjoy a First Amendment right to publish and disseminate news content, as they deem fit. Editorial discretion forms the critical core of any media company. However, in their emerging role as news providers, social media platforms should exercise ethical transparency in their policies and practices for curating and disseminating news, in conformance to established journalistic practices of informing citizens in our commitment to a democratic society.
The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) is the oldest and largest “nonprofit, educational association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals” in the world. The AEJMC’s mission is to promote the highest possible standards for journalism and mass communication education, to cultivate the widest possible range of communication research, to encourage the implementation of a multi-cultural society in the classroom and curriculum, and to defend and maintain freedom of communication in an effort to achieve better professional practice and a better informed public.
For more information regarding this AEJMC Presidential Statement, please contact Lori Bergen, 2016 President of AEJMC, University of Colorado at Boulder, at Lori.Bergen@colorado.edu.Print friendly