Journalists should be careful about using anonymous sources. A reporter should re-check the information given by an anonymous source by a reliable secondary source. The reporter should ensure that his story is accurate, complete, fair and balanced with the information provided by the anonymous source.
This was the advice offered by Indiana University’s Professor Sherry Ricchiardi at a one-day training workshop, Media Ethics and Investigative Journalism, organised by the Lahore US Consulate General on Tuesday.
When facing an ethical dilemma, Prof Ricchiardi said, a reporter should tell the truth and minimise the harm. She said a reporter should also be clear on his journalistic purpose. Prof Ricchiardi said reporters should always seek out human voices and find people who are affected by the violence and include their personal stories, opinions and goals in news reports. She said reports should also avoid always quoting leaders or spokespersons.
A reporter should report the word of ordinary citizens who may voice opinions shared by many in the community, Professor Ricchiardi said. She said that if there were two or more sides in a conflict, a reporter should ask the opposing sides questions that may reveal common ground.
She said that words like ‘devastated,’ ‘tragedy’ and ‘terrorised’ should be avoided to describe what has happened. “Don’t use them yourself or it may appear you are taking sides. One can, however, describe the scene of a bombing or an attack and show the devastation,” she said.
The professor said that reporters should avoid emotive and imprecise words, adding that making an opinion into a fact should also be avoided.
Professor Ricchiardi said that investigative reporting was a time consuming job and was different from news reporting as it involved in-depth investigation. She said an investigative reporter should be quick at questioning facts and verify every fact in a report.
Some 30 reporters from both print and electronic media attended the workshop.
Imdad Bhatti, a participant, said the workshop had helped him understand how to file better reports on sensitive issues.
“’Passionate’ and ‘committed’ are the two words I would use to describe Pakistani journalists. And these two words are the best words to describe qualities in any journalist,” she added.
She said no story in the world is worth dying for. “This doesn’t mean reporters shouldn’t be courageous, rather they should be smart in getting the information across,” she said.
Professor Ricchardi holds a PhD degree in journalism from Iowa State University. She is a senior writer at American Journalism Review magazine
(Read: Regulating the media)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd, 2012.