To avert ethical problems in cyberspace, cling to traditional journalism values
This column appeared in the December 1997 issue of The American Journalism Review. I was interviewed on the topic of Internet news sources’ trustworthiness by Bloomberg Radio on April 4, 1998.
By J.D. Lasica
If ethics are rarely debated during the daily miracle of churning out a newspaper, the subject is rarer still in the whiz-bang, techno-toy-driven realm of new media.
While all the old ethical rules surely still apply in new media, the Internet also presents dilemmas that never existed in a print world: reporters lurking invisibly in chat rooms; ad links embedded into editorial copy; the posting of private tragedies in news archives until the end of time; tracking users’ habits and sharing that data with advertisers; putting the tools of publishing into the hands of little league coaches and others who aren’t trained journalists.
But the ethical issue that may soon dwarf all others centers on what I call transaction journalism: the quid pro quo between a Web publication and outside interests such as advertisers or business allies. To the degree that it blurs the line between editorial and commercial interests, it poses a threat to the integrity of Web journalism.