NOTE: This was published in the May 2017 issue of The Clarion.
By Abby Petersen
The Code of Ethics – written by the Society of Professional Journalists and maintained as the standards for ethical newswriting in American media – lists four principles that ethical journalism should follow. We’ve published these principles in this issue of The Clarion to give you a glimpse into the purpose of journalism and the purpose of The Clarion. A journalist’s first allegiance is to the truth. Their second allegiance is to their audience. For The Clarion, that audience is you.
The first principle says that journalists should “remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.”
This April, after being hired as the editor-in-chief for the 2017-2018 school year, I printed this statement on an 11×17 piece of paper and taped it to the wall of The Clarion office where it stares at me while I type news articles, compose editorials and as I cry over complaints I take too personally. I printed this particular statement because it defines who I want to be as a journalist, human and Christ-follower. I believe that myself and The Clarion have failed on this account in the past. I have no excuse for this but I do have deep regret.
As the editor of a newspaper at a majority white, private university in a suburb of the Twin Cities, I want you to know my personal vision for our publication. I do not believe that we can accomplish everything that large, respected publications in global media can accomplish. I do not believe that we can always minimize harm, be completely unbiased or completely fair. We can try to do those things – and we will. But the purpose of The Clarion is not simply to entertain you or confirm what you already know. It is to reflect the many faces, voices and spirits that make up our community. Our purpose is not just to fill your head with the opinions of those whose lives parallel your own. If it were, I don’t think you would read it. I wouldn’t. After all, the institution of journalism and truth-seeking was not meant for the comfortable or privileged. The institution of journalism wasn’t meant for people like me. Journalism, at its core, was meant for the silenced. The poor in spirit. The persecuted.
The people our Christ called blessed.
We live in a world where truth has been manipulated to fit the needs of one people group. I have at times knowingly and unknowingly been complicit in this abuse of truth because I happen to live a comfortable life. I wanted to become a journalist because I realized my own complacency in all of this. As a journalist, I do not believe I will be the one to change the world. But I hope I can amplify the voices of those who will. The silenced. The poor in spirit. The persecuted.
You reserve the right to hold me responsible to all of the standards and principles I have listed for you, and I want you to. Recognize my biases and my shortcomings. Hold me accountable. Call me out when I fail to seek truth, report it accurately or correct myself when I get it wrong. If The Clarion fails at anything listed in the Code of Ethics, you have the right to ask me why. And I have a responsibility to give you an answer. So please, ask.
My personal number: 763-477-1367