Newspapers lose, websites win: Journalism ethics in “House of Cards”

If you’re an avid viewer of Netflix’s “House of Cards” and have already watched Season 1 (who hasn’t though??) then keep reading. If you haven’t, this post contains some spoilers. 

This show revolves around a politician and everything that he does on his quest for power. He chooses to divulge certain secrets to a newspaper journalist, Zoe. He gives her the “inside scoop,” one that nobody else in the media will get. As the story-line develops, Zoe leaves the newspaper and finds a job at a quickly growing, more modern news website. 

Poynter published an article today examining the journalism ethics of Zoe and this news site in “House of Cards”. 

“While at the Herald, Zoe pushed her bosses to let her post news more quickly and resisted the layers of editing that slowed the process. But at Slugline, she is surprised when her new boss says, “You don’t have to send me things before you post. The goal here is for everyone to post things faster than I have a chance to read ‘em. If you’re satisfied with the article, just put it up. … Whatever hoops the Herald made you jump through, let them go.”

This editing process, or lack thereof,  is either dangerous, or the best thing to happen to news teams ever. 

My current job is news editor at The Inkwell, a student-run newspaper at Armstrong. When a writer gives me a story, I edit it and double check their quotes and sources. It then goes to the copy editor, and he does the same thing. Then the editor-in-chief goes through it a third time. 

This process, says Zoe and her new boss in “Cards”, is what is keeping newspapers and other types of “old” media behind. In order to publish more stories more quickly, the only editing a piece gets at Zoe’s new employer is by the writer. 

This process is dangerous because there is no second person questioning everything that the writer is claiming in their piece. There could be bias, wrong quotes and attributions, or blatant lies. 

It’s simultaneously a great idea, because news can be published much more quickly. The audience gets the info that they need. They don’t have to dig through a 700 word story to find what they need. 

I agree with Zoe’s view that newspapers like the Herald will struggle,and websites like Slugline will flourish in this news environment. 

However, I believe that one other person, an editor of some type, should read through a story once before it is published. 

If no editor reads through a published piece, every mistake would fall onto the journalism’s head. There is still responsibility that falls directly onto the journalist’s head. 

Poynter closes with an open-ended sentence, but it is true. Nobody knows what the next big thing in news is yet.

 “What was new becomes old. And the next new thing will certainly take its place.”

 

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