The Zimmerman trial — three takes

More than 90 years ago, the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) adopted a code of ethics for the practice of journalism. Many journalism organizations adopted the entire code, or pieces/parts of it, to govern their practices.

Below are the four major tenets of the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists, SPJ. They are taught in journalism courses in college, and reviewed in seminars at newsrooms all over the country. Graduate-level students write research papers on these four tenets. They are:

Seek the Truth and Report It
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

How did your favorite news media outlets score on this when it came to the George Zimmerman trial?

Minimize Harm

Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

How did your favorite news media outlets score on this when it came to the George Zimmerman trial? Was everyone involved treated with respect?

Act Independently
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.

Did the journalist and media outlet act independently, or did it show any conflicts of interest?

Be Accountable
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

How would you rate your favorite journalist and media outlets during the Zimmerman trial on this part of the code of ethics?

If you are unhappy with a news organization’s coverage of Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman, don’t simply place a negative post on Facebook.  Write a letter. Or find out the name of the editor or producer of the media outlet, and email them a note asking them to follow these tenets in their reporting.

Fine … but an opportunity missed

President Obama issued a statement on Sunday about the verdict in the Zimmerman trial.  It was good, but it did not cover any new ground.

There is now a tremendous opportunity for President Obama. He can call for and create a National Commission on Race Relations, and leverage what’s happened with Martin – Zimmerman to help bring about positive change in racial attitudes and relations in this nation.

Something positive, something unifying, needs to come out of this 17-month ordeal.  A Commission that makes numerous recommendations on ways to improve race relations in our land would be an excellent start in a positive direction. Consider doing more, Mr. President, before some of the demonstrations and protests turn violent.

Finally … most sense of all

Rev. Marlon Johnson, a 31-year-old African American pastor in Cleveland, perhaps deserves the “last word” about the Zimmerman trial. In a blog posting, Rev. Johnson points out that’s really happening in America today is a spiritual and moral issue. “…Human leadership must first surrender to the authority of Christ,” he writes.  See the link below for more.

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