Addressing The Double-Edged Sword of Journalism

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I’ve wanted to be a journalist for as long as I can remember. I wanted to travel and I loved to write so I put two and two together and made four. Yet now I realise pursuing a career in journalism isn’t as simple as it seemed when I originally realised my dream. It sometimes feels like the entire industry is a double edged sword; hated for telling the truth and hated for not, hated for being impartial and hated for not, hated for publishing all opinions and hated for not.

The public’s double standard always leaves me feeling disheartened because it means that, as a journalist, I have to accept that I’ll always be the bad guy to someone. Now I know it would be completely fruitless if I spent my career trying to people-please an audience that will never be pleased with me no matter what I do. So, with that in mind, I’ve realised that I cannot let the public define the journalist I am and the content I publish. Instead I’ll hold myself to my own ethics of journalism. I’ll find my integrity based on my beliefs and morals about the industry, which is turn has kept me determined on this career path after all these years.

So, I did what journalists’ do best: I did some research. As Editor, I wanted to find some concrete guidelines that defined ‘good journalism’, so that we can hold these core principle here at Wessex Scene. This pursuit led me to two key websites: the society of professional journalism and ethical journalism network.

Truth and Accuracy

You think this would go without saying, but yes;  journalists who published utter crap are not good journalists. At Wessex Scene, our writers must have facts and research to back up what they say, especially when dealing with news and politics articles. We do our utmost to ensure we inform you with the truth. We find all the relevant facts available to us and we update the articles with information as soon as we can. We believe that 100% transparency with our readers is best and so, if we mess up, we’ll also be upfront and honest about that too.

Fairness and Impartiality

This is a very important principle to us. When we covered the Union Elections and last June’s general election, we made sure that every candidate was interviewed and that the articles are all published together. But, if I’m being honest, as much as we try all we can to keep our publication fair, it’s not always easy or possible for us to produce coverage of all sides of debate. This is simply because we rely heavily on volunteer writers, which means if no one wants to write a certain side of the argument then we can’t force them. So if you feel that your views haven’t seen the limelight or you feel like they are overshadowed, why don’t you write your side for us? You can’t just count on the assumption that someone else will do it for you.

Humanity

Maybe it’s because of TV shows or films, but journalists always seem to be perceived as unrelenting and heartless. Now, I’m neither of those things and neither are any of the journalists I’ve met or worked alongside at Wessex Scene. Often, you’ll find those who want to break into the journalism industry do so because they feel a sense of duty to shine the spotlight on the real issues of this world. We sure as hell don’t do it for the pay! We’re not here to hurt anyone, be vindictive or ruin people’s lives, and with that in mind, we have to ‘balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort’.

Independence

Now, this is one of my favourite principles of good journalism; at Wessex Scene we do not owe anyone anything. We are the University of Southampton’s Student Online Newspaper and Magazine and have been for over 80 years. You might be misled by our title in believing that because of our affiliation we cannot criticise the university or the union, but in fact we get more leeway to do so than anyone else. The most important part of our title is that we are the STUDENT newspaper; a platform for ALL student voices to express themselves. So, if you’re a Southampton student, then Wessex Scene belongs to you –  we are independent of all other bodies.

Representation

It feels a little silly that I have to emphasis this, but the articles published do not represent the opinions of every single member of Wessex Scene. It represents the opinion of one person, the writer.

Some people believe our purpose is to provide one uniformed student voice, but quite frankly that’s an impossible task to be bestowed upon us. Our individual writers, all with different backgrounds, beliefs, views and opinions, cannot possibly represent the entire student body. If they actually did represent everyone, then that would be the most disturbing example of non-independent journalism. This is because in order to have achieve this feat, it means we must have suppressed all our students’ individuality into ‘one’ voice.

So, the principle we follow for this is:

Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural.

We’ll always do our best to provide informative, diverse and interesting content but we won’t sacrifice our core principles in doing so, and that’s our promise to you.

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Former English Student | Travel Editor 2016-17 |Current MSc. International Politics | Editor-in-Chief at Wessex Scene for 2017-18.

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