Sunday, March 15, 2015

Role of Credibility Factor in Journalism

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism at Peoples Campus, RR Campus, TU.

Journalism is not only a trailblazer to the society but it also exposes negative and nefarious activities of bad people and pervasive corruption rampant in the government and semi-government bureaucracy.  The newspapers and other means of mass media across the world have been running exposes about misdeeds of the government officials and other powerful and dangerous people.

True journalists are not scared of the notorious politicians and criminal dons. A number of journalists across the world have sacrificed their lives waging war against  notorious politicians and criminal dons. A journalist is part of an enterprise that is challenged by multiplicity of problems and issues. Because journalists are formulators and disseminators of news and views, they have a great responsibility towards the people, civic society and the nation as whole.

Credibility is the hallmark of qualitative journalism. Credibility is media outlets' lifeline. In fact, newspapers, radio and television channels should strive to become quintessence of credibility. Credibility is very important in reporting. One-sided and biased reporting is rampant in the Nepalese weekly newspaper journalism which is overtly politicized and polarized. Nepalese newspapers like Dristi, Deshantar, Janadesh, Sanghu  weeklies are just the examples of politicized newspapers. Palpably, balancedness and credibility are something very hard to find in the politicized newspapers.The absolutely untrue and bogus news stories about Anuja 'honestly' returning millions of somebody's lost rupees and that of fake billionaire Russendra Bhattarai published in Kantipur as the breaking news are just the tip of the iceberg. Kantipur never apologized for those bogus news stories and nor did it ever deem necessary to correct it.

Very recently, two American television journalists were accused of misrepresenting their wartime reporting experiences in ways that made those experiences seem more dangerous and vulnerable than they actually were. Brian Williams of NBC and Bill O' Reilly of Fox News are facing charges related to the credibility of news stories they covered in the past.

NBC News suspended Williams for incorrectly saying that he rode in a chopper hit by an enemy grenade while covering news stories in Iraq in 2003. Fox News' Bill O'Reilly was accused of claiming that he had reported in a combat zone for CBS News during the 1982 Falklands war when he was more than a thousand miles from the front. Here, in the US where success and popularity of TV programs are determined by ratings and not necessarily by the quality of the programs, the Williams fiasco was a big setback for NBC News' ratings.

Therefore,  journalists should be ethical and accountable all the time. Only when the journalists abide by the journalistic code of conduct, can it strengthen the foundation of credibility. Williams' story touched a raw nerve because it combined simmering concern over media ethics and also objections of Iraq war veterans.

Journalists should always be careful to not lose credibility. They should not say or write anything that destroys their credibility. We, the journalists, have been exposing the misdeeds committed by bad people. But it is an eye-opener for us, when we, the journalists ourselves, get written about for bad things.

Well, journalists have some kind of leverage on the society and community. But the influence  and prestige that come with being a proud representative of the Fourth Estate have led some journalists to wrongly think that they can get away with anything.

ABC of journalism stands for accuracy, balancedness and credibility. The more the newspapers and other means of mass media bring out accurate, balanced, impartial  and unbiased news stories, the more it increases the  their credibility.

There is no doubt that journalists should always exercise sound judgement and should not bring any discredit to the media outlets in particular and to the calling itself, in general,  highly regarded as the Fourth Estate,  by disseminating untrue and unreliable news stories and write-ups.

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