The power given to journalists under the Constitution is vital to the operation and preservation of the democratic system, and journalists have a responsibility to go about serving their role for the people in the most fair and ethical manner possible. The content of a news story is worthless if it is not obtained using the proper measures because holding power accountable means journalists must hold themselves to the same standards. The importance of law and ethics also boils down to the smallest things, as I have learned, because the best journalists always strive to do what is is right even when it may seem like an insignificant decision.
MV Media is fortunate to have school administrators who respect the right of our program to publish as well as be present to cover all school events within the guidelines set forth by the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA). We did not encounter any major issues as a program during our coverage of the year’s events. However, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to personally deal with a few issues throughout the year that expanded my experience with the powers and limitations of journalism and strengthened my confidence in my personal ethics.
As we approached the end of the first semester, one of our staff members gathered content for this photo and caption regarding a student’s beliefs in the communist manifesto on our Instagram account. This subject can be controversial due to the nature and history of the ideology, which prompted the overseeing editor of the staff member to harbor concerns about posting the photo. I encouraged the editor to go ahead and post the content because we were both convinced that the statements contained within were authentic and represented a piece of the student’s story, which we felt was fair to share as journalists. When the content was published online many of our followers gave feedback, some questioning and expressing disagreement with our decision to share the post. Worried that this action might damage our reputation as a legitimate news source, I conducted another conversation with the staff member who gathered the content and was assured that the student in the picture was serious in his interview and did not speak about his beliefs in a joking manner. For this reason, I believed we as a program were doing our duty as journalists to tell the story of a student in an ethical and fair manner and left the post as it was.
I took this picture at the Denver Coliseum, where I received the opportunity to photograph the state championship competition for my school’s varsity poms team. When I arrived at the event, I was instructed to check in with a secretary on the floor of the coliseum to let them know I was there on behalf of Vista. I had never photographed a poms event at the coliseum and asked the secretary where I was able to stand and shoot pictures for the performance. She informed me that I was able to stand behind a metal railing that was set into the floor for the construction of the coliseum hockey rink, so I took up my position a few feet back from the rail for the routine. It was after the team had finished their dance that I was informed by a judge that I had been at risk of disqualifying the team because I had not stood completely against the coliseum wall. Although frustrated with the inaccuracy of my instructions, I felt awful that I placed the team’s score in jeopardy. I explained the reasoning for my mistake to the judge and apologized, learning an extremely valuable lesson in the process. I printed the media guidelines as established on the CHSAA website and reference the information every time I attend a playoff or state event for my school, making sure to abide by official CHSAA rules rather than that of the officials at the contest. As a journalist, I realize my actions could have ruined the culmination of a team’s season and the gravity of the potential consequences emphasized to me how vital it is to ensure awareness of guidelines before reporting at any event.