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Is the moral obligation of journalists a thing of the past?

Thanks to social media gone are the days of traditional journalism. A little scroll through my timeline or feed on Facebook and Twitter and it is near impossible not to come across a piece of 'fake news', begging the question of whether the moral obligation of journalists is a thing of the past?

I would be lying if I fully endorsed the traditional form of print journalism—I can count on one hand the number of times I have bought a physical print. Shameful, I know but I am part of the modern way of life with all news given to me in an instant by my phone or other smart devices.

I am often told that journalism is a dying art—technological advancements and the dawn of social media is regarded by man as a nail in the coffin of journalism as it was once known. This is largely true, journalists are now able to circulate their views to a much wider audience than that of traditional print journalism with a click of a single button whether that be on Twitter or Facebook. This also does not take for an account any advertisement a journalists employer might pay for to promote individual articles. This is some regards is a benefit, but it also means that at an instant articles can be criticised—criticism is some times justified but I find on Twitter there are often hundreds of bot accounts who in turn influence actual users of social media and their perception of the news.

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1 in 5 election-related tweets weren’t from real people, research shows. Denise Clifton looks into how Twitter Bots distorted the 2016 election–including a number of bot accounts likely from Russia. Russian-pushed content and fake news on Twitter peaked in the swing state of Michigan—which Trump won narrowly—the day before the election. "The day Donald Trump was elected president, nearly 2,000 Twitter accounts that had pumped out pro-Trump messages in the run-up to the vote suddenly went dark. Then, in spring 2017, these bot-controlled accounts reemerged to campaign en français for Marine Le Pen in the French election, and then once again this fall, to tweet auf Deutsch on behalf of the far-right party in Germany’s election. The bots were part of a larger group tracked over a month-long period before the US election by University of Southern California researchers, who discovered that bots were deeply entwined in political conversation on Twitter—accounting for 1 in 5 election-related tweets." Read the full story and all of our Russia-related investigation at motherjones.com. (photo: Larry Marano/Rex Shutterstock/ZUMA) #whoknewwhatwhen #election2016 #twitterbots #russianinvestigation

A post shared by Mother Jones (@motherjonesmag) on

Before and in the wake of the recent election, I have seen various articles about supposed election bias. Various journalists have been called out by all sides—some of it very much deserved whilst other criticism not so much. Most of this criticism has materialised across social media—as stated above it is easy to give criticism in an instant and bias is criticism that has been branded across social media regularly. Having an opinion is a natural human instinct, something that makes us unique is our ability to flirt with different viewpoints. Journalists like anyone have their own political agenda’s which they wish to serve or maintain thus a degree of bias should be expected. Without trying to sound cynical nothing is completely neutral not even Switzerland.

In this day and age journalists, particularly those at the forefront of our news coverage should utilise social media with greater care and caution.

There is no denying that in certain cases over recent months certain journalists have become a part of fake news. Whether that is by retweeting or sharing such pieces or rather relying on unnamed questionable sources.

The National Union of Journalists code of conduct is made up of 12 key points. Three of which are of particular interest to myself and I believe should be followed by all journalists.

A journalist:

1. At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed

2. Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair

3. Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies

In the age of social media, the differentiating between fact and opinion has never been more important.

Journalists in my view have a moral obligation to ensure what they are reporting is accurate and fair and that they ensure they are open and rectify any inaccuracies. The BBC in light of recent criticism of their election coverage is one broadcasting agency who are considering restricting its journalist’s use of Twitter. Whether this the right approach and whether it could be rolled across the industry as a whole is to be seen.

As negative as social media is upon the quality of journalism like outlined above, unfortunately, it does have its benefits particularly in regards to the readership. Social media is here to stay and there is nothing we can do to change that. However, it should not dictate or lessen the standards of the journalism industry. This may be over-simplifying the issue at hand for some or for others nitpicking at a non-existent issue—but in my eyes, the standard of journalism should not be allowed to slip any further. Reporting should be conducted in a way that readers do not feel the need to criticise or endorse theories of extreme bias. Journalists have a moral obligation to the public and this should be maintained.

Featured image: Moritz320// Needpix