Eroded social values reflected in the media

In his presentation on the Responsibility of the Media on the Ethical Dimensions of the Information Society and Internet Privacy, Henry claimed that society’s ethical standards have changed becoming more tolerant or acceptable of values and behavior frowned upon in the past.

As in the rest of society, he implied, changing ethics are impacting traditional and social media. According to Henry, “Today, we have become a news corps driven by ratings, revenue generation and getting to be the first with the breaking story. Speed has taken over accuracy and fairness.”

UC-2But he suggested the media were not totally to blame. He said, “The public must also share some of the blame because they make demands to “Know Now!” Not later, not ten minutes after word of the story is shared…they log on and they want to see the story NOW! And frankly because of the competition, we respond as desired.”

Henry also made the case that the role of mainstream media to inform, educate and entertain carries various responsibilities that must be governed by ethical standards, which, he said must be set higher for media operating in small communities such as OECS member countries.

As a consequence, Henry noted, “The media therefore has a responsibility to set standards, establish and follow a Code of Ethics, and simply put, we must be decent in our coverage. Unfortunately, most of these ethical codes do not apply in the social media stratosphere. They have no rules, no obligations, and no loyalty, but to self. And in the end, it is the mainstream media who gets blamed.”

He proffered that the media in its role as spokesperson and “the voice for the poor, vulnerable groups, and those considered voiceless, because of fear of recrimination, victimization and political harassment” must have strong editorial “gatekeeping” and a Code of Ethics that drive daily operations ensuring truth, fairness and balance in reporting.

While the culture, values and norms of Eastern Caribbean countries are changing, he believes there remains a responsibility of the media “to be diligent or thorough in our investigations, ensuring that all sides of the story are examined and reported and that we are not unfairly trampling on people’s privacy”.

UC-1In the context of the Internet and social media, Henry noted that the standards required of mainstream media do not apply online in social media, and the public users infringe their own right to privacy.

Henry explained, “It used to be said, ‘Who Owns the Media, Controls the Media’. And largely, that is still the case. But today with social media, it is the public who owns the new media and who controls its content. This is different to traditional media.

Today the public is the reporter of their own message, their own story. With their careless actions they are the ones exposing their privacy.”

He continued, “Yes, there is a problem of Internet privacy, and there is a responsibility to be attached to the media, but the people themselves, the users, are the ones posting images and thoughts that bring much harm.”

He said mainstream media often gets blamed when it is the users of the unofficial social media that create the problems. According to Henry, the media has “become a reflection…or a mirror of the society in which it operates”.

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