Journalism Standards in the Internet Age

October 8, 2010 • Volume 20, Issue 35
Are the news media sacrificing ethics online?
By Tom Price


Terry Jones' threat to burn copies (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)
Terry Jones' threat to burn copies of the Koran illustrates the challenge faced by mainstream media when new media publish material old media would not. After a few anti-Islamic Facebook and Twitter posts by Jones, Islamic websites publicized his plans, CNN interviewed him, the controversy exploded in cyberspace, and the Florida preacher became a global sensation. (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)

Press critic A.J. Liebling of The New Yorker wrote in 1960 that “freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” A half-century later, everyone with an Internet connection owns a virtual press. And many of them scorn the journalism standards that have guided America's mainstream media since before Liebling penned his famous aphorism. Among those standards: accuracy above all else, plus fairness, balance, thoroughness, independence, civility, decency, compassion and responsibility — along with a clear separation of news from opinion. Now, operators of some news-like websites unabashedly repeat rumors and throw accuracy to the wind. Vile, anonymous reader comments on mainstream media websites mock civility. Add the pressures of Internet speed and shrinking news staffs, and serious journalists wonder what kind of standards — if any — will prevail during the next 50 years.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Journalism, Newspapers, and the Media
Jan. 28, 2022  Misinformation and the Media
Oct. 02, 2020  Social Media Platforms
Sep. 18, 2020  The News Media
Aug. 24, 2018  Conspiracy Theories
Jun. 09, 2017  Trust in Media
May 30, 2014  Digital Journalism
May 03, 2013  Media Bias
Apr. 26, 2013  Free Speech at Risk
Apr. 12, 2013  Combat Journalism
Nov. 2010  Press Freedom
Oct. 08, 2010  Journalism Standards in the Internet Age
Feb. 05, 2010  Press Freedom
Mar. 27, 2009  Future of Journalism Updated
Jun. 09, 2006  Blog Explosion Updated
Jan. 20, 2006  Future of Newspapers
Apr. 08, 2005  Free-Press Disputes
Oct. 15, 2004  Media Bias
Oct. 10, 2003  Media Ownership Updated
Dec. 25, 1998  Journalism Under Fire
Jun. 05, 1998  Student Journalism
Sep. 20, 1996  Civic Journalism
Sep. 23, 1994  Courts and the Media
Aug. 24, 1990  Hard Times at the Nation's Newspapers
Jan. 19, 1990  Finding Truth in the Age of ‘Infotainment’
Aug. 18, 1989  Libel Law: Finding the Right Balance
Jun. 06, 1986  Magazine Trends
Oct. 12, 1984  News Media and Presidential Campaigns
Jul. 15, 1983  State of American Newspapers
Oct. 23, 1981  High Cost of Libel
Dec. 23, 1977  Media Reforms
Mar. 11, 1977  News Media Ownership
Jun. 21, 1974  Access to the Media
Dec. 20, 1972  Newsmen's Rights
Aug. 16, 1972  Blacks in the News Media
Dec. 15, 1971  Magazine Industry Shake-Out
Jul. 18, 1969  Competing Media
Sep. 02, 1964  Politicians and the Press
Dec. 04, 1963  Libel Suits and Press Freedom
Jan. 09, 1963  Newspaper Mergers
Dec. 20, 1961  Reading Boom: Books and Magazines
Dec. 02, 1959  Privileged Communications
Apr. 25, 1956  Newsprint Deficit
May 06, 1953  Government and the Press
Sep. 21, 1948  Press and State
Sep. 05, 1947  Newsprint Supply
Mar. 26, 1947  Facsimile Newspapers
Dec. 10, 1945  World Press Freedom
May 01, 1940  New Experiments in Newspaper-Making
Nov. 04, 1933  Press Freedom Under the Recovery Program
Journalism and the News