Asks Prof. Donna Halper

There are a number of factors that make something “good journalism.” One is that it’s accurate. Another is that it’s fair to the facts. A third is that it informs the public without manipulation of any kind. For example, let’s say I am reporting on the president (or the prime minister) and I don’t like him (or her). My audience should not be able to detect any personal biases that I might have. I should cover that person in the same accurate and fair manner as I would cover someone I do like.

Further, it’s not my job as a reporter to distort the facts to generate outrage. I’m a reporter not a commentator. Commentators offer opinions, many of which are based either on emotional reactions (“This is an outrage!!!”) or partisan responses (“Our side is the best; the other side is horrible.”) The facts may indeed be outrageous, but my duty as a reporter is to tell the story responsibly and ethically, rather than intentionally trying to inflame the public.

The goal of good journalism is to keep the public Informed. Any healthy democracy must have accurate and honest reporting because the public needs reliable information in order to decide which candidate or which party to support.

Dishonest reporting could manipulate public opinion, stirring people up against some minority group or some political party or some organization. This has happened many times, especially in countries that don’t have freedom of the press, or where the reporters forget that they are working for the public rather than trying to make the powerful happy.

Again, it’s not my job to stir people up or tell them who to support. It’s my job to gather the facts and then tell the story, so they will understand the issues. Sometimes, telling that story means I will be speaking against the government or refuting something a politician is claiming. But again, my first duty is to the facts, and to making sure the audience receives the most accurate information.

Professor Donna Halper, is a Journalist, historian and broadcaster.