Recent conversations with students studying journalism and mass media give me hope. So do updates from college and university faculty members and reporters, editors and producers of our Alabama-based newspapers, TV newscasts and multimedia outlets.
As we’ve engaged with representatives of our Alabama Baptist schools and our state schools through our partnership with Alabama Press Association, we hear them speak of the importance of a trustworthy news source.
It’s comforting to know the ethics of professional journalism are being taught and embraced, to know the next generation grasps the importance of seeking truth, fact-checking and countering false rumors.
While the way news is shared continues to change, the foundational elements of accuracy, fairness, clarity and integrity should remain.
Another encouraging aspect we’ve discovered points to the value of relationships, something we as believers truly understand. No matter how often we study the latest trends in culture, we always circle back to the importance of authentic and consistent relationships. Relationships are built on trust, and trust is a precious commodity.
Research groups such as Knight, Pew and others continue to report how community newspapers and local TV stations (combined with the digital versions of each) outrank national news year after year.
According to the National Newspaper Association, a March survey by Susquehanna Polling and Research Inc. found local newspapers received high rankings when it comes to informing the reader in general (93% agreed), providing shopping and advertising information (81% agreed) and sharing local news (83% agreed).
While a growing number of national media sources have lost the trust of many consumers, we can be encouraged by the work taking place in our communities.
Local media sources aren’t perfect, but they truly care about the communities where they exist and are closer to the everyday lives of the people. This brings us back to trust and relationships because the people working to understand and report the news of the day are our neighbors. They are our friends and many times community leaders.
It might not always seem like it, but solid reporting is taking place across the state by media professionals who are working hard to follow the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics: seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable and transparent.
The Alabama Baptist is proud to be part of the trusted news sources. Our team also seeks ways to invest in the next generation as well as encourage our peers across the state.
The national outlets will come around soon if we help them understand how consumption of content created with motives outside the boundaries of traditional media ethics is harmful. It has the potential to create exaggerated fear, anger and hostility. It changes us.
Here are a couple of hints for determining if your preferred news source might need muting for a bit:
- If your blood pressure rises and stays elevated.
- If you know how the reporter sharing the information feels about the situation and/or if the reporter tells you how you should feel about the situation rather than strictly reporting the news with credible sources outside himself or herself.