With the presidential election less than a month away, people across the United States are taking sides.
This is to be expected because they must decide who to vote for.
Media outlets including “The New York Times” and the “Milwaukee Journal Sentinel” also have a history of taking sides in politics.
Many newspapers and TV stations openly endorse political candidates during election season. Often, they will write an editorial or air a segment explaining why they choose to support a specific candidate.
As student journalists, we believe the practice of media outlets openly supporting politicians is unethical and violates the media’s function as a political watchdog.
One of the most important purposes of media is monitoring the government. Newspapers, TV stations and websites help keep the inner workings of government visible.
Media exposes corruption and keeps politicians under a microscope so the public always knows what is going on.
To be an effective watchdog, media must remain unbiased. It is impossible to do this when entire institutions are endorsing politicians.
When a company states its support of a candidate, it is establishing a political preference instead of remaining neutral.
A newspaper or TV station automatically gives a candidate positive exposure by endorsing them. Unless the organization can give the same exposure to the opposing candidate, it isn’t reporting fairly.
As journalists, we follow a common ethical guideline of forfeiting our right to publicly get involved in politics. The public has to be able to trust us to report fairly and honestly.
The authoritarian approach of telling readers what to think isn’t ethical, as opposed to providing them with the information needed to make their own decisions.
It is difficult to foster that trust when the public knows which political party an organization or a reporter favors. If that reporter has to cover an event for a party they don’t support, readers may be suspicious of whether the article was written without bias.
If individual journalists must remain neutral in the public eye, the same standard should be followed by media organizations as a whole.
Instead of being wary of one reporter’s political leanings, readers must be skeptical of every political article published by a paper that endorses a candidate.
As a student newspaper, we believe it is unethical for media outlets to endorse political candidates. We try our hardest to give candidates equal coverage and find opportunities to report on all aspects of politics fairly.
We recently had the opportunity to cover the Obama campaign stop in Milwaukee. The entire time we were reporting, we made sure to remain as neutral as possible to avoid bias.
To balance our coverage, we are hoping Mitt Romney also will make a campaign stop in Wisconsin that we are able to report on.
We believe that all news resources should strive to remain unbiased and stay away from openly endorsing political candidates. The public relies on newspapers, TV stations and news websites for unbiased coverage to learn about what is going on in government.
If these sources do not remain neutral in political preference, the organizations cannot be trusted to remain unbiased in reporting. We must define the dotted line between telling the reader what to think and giving them the necessary materials to allow them to make their own decisions.