Monday, February 26, 2007

I'm no Donald Trump, but...

Journalists are weird.

I’m not talking about the dorky smile that briefly – very briefly – can be found on a reporter’s face just after receiving news that a local politician was arrested for driving a lawnmower under the influence of alcohol on his way to a sex store.

Most people would gag; we’d smile.

But that’s not the weirdness I’m talking about.

Journalists are weird because we’re rebels who love rules.

There is nothing we love more than a story about someone who goes against the status quo, who makes noise just so someone will pay attention to them, who shakes things up and makes people question their values and beliefs.

But we’re also the watchdogs of society, which means that it’s our job to make sure everyone else is following the “rules.”

Watch out, public figures. With power comes privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility.

And we’re here to make sure that power stays in check, by making sure you follow the rules.

So you better believe we’ve got a list of our own.

It’s called ethics, and no newspaper or media outlet has any credibility without an ethics code of its own.

And that leads me to my next point.

There’s a stigma that follows newspapers, and I don’t quite understand where it came from.

For some reason, there’s a popular belief that newspapers do not have the right to terminate employees who break the rules, particularly when the rule-breaking has something to do with speaking publicly.

Newspapers, like any company or organization, require their employees to abide by a set of rules. These obviously change from organization to organization, but they are nonetheless in place to protect the company and the employees.

When employees, or staff members in the case of the Collegian, break these rules, they are subject to consequences. In some cases, those consequences include dismissal.

But still, there are accusations of free speech violations and excessive censorship when a journalist is fired for something they say or do in public that does not measure up to the ethical standards of their employer.

Anyone has the right to free speech. No one has the right to be employed at a newspaper. That is a privilege.

At the Collegian, we hold our staff members to high standards and require them to act professionally on and off the job, particularly when they are representing the Collegian and responding to criticism.

I don’t know why you’d expect any less.