With all of the perks and powers that come from working in the journalism field there presents many an opportunity to fall victim to misuse of such authority. One of the most common misuses of this authority comes in form of exactness in the writing. Printing the exact truth represents precision and performing the task with correctness. When a journalist fails to adhere to this accuracy standard, not just the journalists reputation is at stake, but the entire paper printing the story is at fault as well.
The 1994 film, The Paper directed by Ron Howard depicts a good example of this misuse. In the film, the struggling paper the New York Sun, contemplates printing what could potentially be a heavily faulty headline for the sake of garnering readers and keeping to the schedule. Failing to permit to this schedule would result in a severe loss of money and the inevitable of not having the paper out on time. The dilemma may be fictional as pertaining to the film but it’s a situation that’s all too common in the real world as well.
The New York Sun is leaning toward printing a headline of two potential suspects in a double homicide investigation with the tagline “Gotcha” in it. The moral and ethical dilemma here is that for one, there’s a good possibility that the two young boys aren’t guilty, and two they are black and the ramifications of posting such speculative print is another potential race war.
Journalist Henry Hackett is devoted to finding out the truth and not falling for the easy presumptuous method of journalism. He becomes convinced that the boys are innocents and does not want to risk defaming their reputations. Through whispers around the city, Henry believes he knows the truth but needs legitimate conversations with credible people. Veteran Alicia Clark sees no other option. The deadline time is approaching quickly and they need to have a headline on the story printed. Alicia views this as simply a negative aspect of the job and attempts to console Henry by claiming that they’ll run the “true” print tomorrow. This situation most certainly pertains to the real life world of journalism as journalists will often have difficulty agreeing on what to publish, especially when the information present is of such a sensitive nature.
A good real life example that can be compared to The Paper, is the recent faux pas by CNN in apparently knowingly airing a report claiming that a suspect in the Boston Bombing case was in custody when in reality there was no suspect at all. With a subject such as this, one that includes terrorism on American soil, multiple fatalities, and serious injuries, it’s easy for journalists to jump at any possible sign of a break in the story. But when no break appears to be presenting itself and the clock is ticking for a new story, one of the biggest errors one could make is to make up a story. What CNN did in providing false information to the public represents the ultimate sin in journalism as it gave many people false hope and was essentially a slap in the face to all of the American people.