Sympathy and respect

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On the morning of Friday, Feb. 4 I was fortunate enough to see Aaron Thomas give his speech entitled "The Meaning of Courage: A Story of Family and Compassion" at this year's Iowa Newspaper Association convention. He is the son of the late Ed Thomas, coach of Aplington-Parkersburg high school.

As many are aware, a tornado hit and destroyed a significant portion of the town, and a relatively short time later Coach Thomas was shot and killed by a mentally disturbed player on his team.

One of the most interesting things to note about Thomas' presentation on Friday was his repeated thanks to the media for being polite and respecting his, his family's and the town's feelings in their coverage of this story.

Despite two relatively minor incidents with the press, Thomas was deeply thankful for the respect news people showed to those in deep mourning. Luckily, this instance was not one where the media was as intrusive into a private citizen's life as it may have been in the past.

There is a fine line journalists must draw between desire to get "the big story" and respect the people in that story as human beings. Having a deadline is hard, and meeting it is even harder sometimes, but no matter how different one journalist's idea of what sympathy or ethics might be, they must all agree to respect victims to the utmost of their ability.

Student journalists today absolutely have to be educated about journalism ethics and, even more than that, they must be taught to treat victims or relatives/friends of victims as human beings first and stories second.

There is usually an interesting human angle to most stories, but that "angle" involves people with hopes, dreams and emotions just like the journalist's. The day a journalist forgets that fact, he or she can no longer completely fulfill the purpose of journalism.

Photo Credit - Anthony Easton via Creative Commons


Maddie Boswell February 8, 2011 at 6:43 PM  

I think that this media ethics is extremely important. In order to keep in good standings with those you need to keep your career afloat, practicing media ethics is a must. This blog post is a great way to incorporate a specific story to the important topic of media ethics.

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