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Journalism and the Truth

Bethany Williams
JMC441- Capstone
Betty Solomon
In the news world, journalists are expected to tell the truth when reporting
stories. Sometimes, however, some journalists fall into the trap of falsifying or

exaggerating a story to be in the spotlight or get glory for themselves. NBC


journalist Brian Williams fabricated a story that his helicopter came under fire while
he was reporting a story in Iraq in 2003. Williams eventually admitted the
falsification of the story on air, but never said the words I lied. Instead, he
attempted to shift the blame for the false story onto health or mental problems
(Burrough).
As a Christian, I know that I have an obligation to report the truth to the world
and that I must guard myself from falling into the trap of giving inaccurate
information intentionally. It is important to let a Christian worldview shape my work
as a journalist. When we do make a mistake, we are called to admit our faults when
we come short of the truth and be humble in our attempts to correct our mistakes.
The Society of Professional Journalists aim to hold journalists to four main ethical
statements: seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be
accountable and transparent (SPJ.org). These four principles can stand on their own
as strong guidelines. As a Christian, however, I can further support these guidelines
through principles already given by God in the Bible.
In Ephesians 4:1, Paul writes to Christians to walk worthy of the vocation
wherewith ye are called. In verse 15, he lists speaking the truth in love as part of
a way to walk worthy which applies to the first principle of the SPJ: seek truth and
report it. As a Christian journalist, I know that I am an image bearer of God. One of
Gods many attributes is truth so I need to strive for truth in my work. In Ephesians
4:25, Christians are commanded to put away lying and speak every man truth with
his neighbor.

Second, being accountable and transparent can also be tied to Christian


standards and beliefs. The SPJ defines this principle as admitting fault when
mistakes are made, holding yourself to the same standards you hold others to and
being responsible with your work. When a secular journalist makes a mistake, he
might try to bury the truth or shift blame onto another person or organization. As a
Christian, however, I know that we are called to be humble and open. Proverbs 11:23 states When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.
The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous
destroys them.
Third, the SPJs principle of minimizing harm to others also is connected to
telling the truth in reporting. The SPJ further describes this principle, writing that
ethical journalism treats sources, subjects, colleagues and members of the public
as human beings deserving of respect. As a Christian, I am called to respect others
and treat them with love because they are made in Gods image. Not only are we
called to treat others the way we would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12), we are
also called to value others in higher esteem than ourselves (Romans 12:10).
Applying this to the principle of minimizing harm, journalists should be
sensitive of the situations and people that they are reporting on. Many secular
journalists are only focused on getting the best story first or the juiciest details that
will shock their audience. Sometimes stretching the truth or making up facts are
involved in their efforts to get the most shocking or interesting story. This is not the
way that a Christian journalist should operate, though. Philippians 2:4 says Let
each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
The truth needs to be told not only in our own situations, but also when telling the
situations of others.

It is important to have Christians influencing the journalism world. Journalism


gives Christians the opportunity to spread Gods truth to others and to shed light on
topics that secular journalists may otherwise bury, spin or skew. As a Christian in
the constantly moving, crazy world of journalism, it is vital that I not throw aside my
worldview for the sake of a career.

Bibliography
Burrough, Bryan. "The Inside Story of The Civil War For the Soul of NBC News."
Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair, May 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.
King James Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible, 1973. Print.
"SPJ Code of Ethics." SPJ.org. Society of Professional Journalists, n.d. Web. 10 Mar.
2016.