Described as the business of gathering and disseminating news through varied channels, journalism is also about the business of seeking the truth and reporting it. Journalists therefore, write about individuals, events, institutions, `organisations, governments among others. Journalists through their media are the major purveyors of information and opinion, especially on issues of public interest. Reporters across platforms, endeavour to provide their audience and or readers with accurate, balanced and reliable information. Information is considered by many as a basic necessity for one to function “effectively” in a given society. Journalism is also seen as a force for good in the drive towards democracy and democratisation. But the work of journalists is mired with lot of challenges and opportunities.
Notwithstanding, journalism is also a cause, a good cause indeed. Journalists wherever they maybe, struggle to help people make sense of the world they live in through the news articles and stories they cover. Arianna Huffington, the chair, president and editor in chief of Huffington Post Media Group is reported to have said: “Journalism should also shine a light on what is working, so people can act on their innate desire to help their neighbor and make their communities, and their world, a better place”.
Alexander Jutkowitz, a member of Columbia Journalism Review’s Board of Overseers agreed when he said: “A tongue-in-cheek essay, an infographic that makes a complicated topic instantly accessible, or an in-depth piece of reporting that teaches, inspires, or reveals—all of these things make people smarter and better able to navigate the world. That, in turn, makes societies better”.
Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, editor in chief and publisher of The New Republic is more emphatic. He writes: “When done right, journalism deepens our understanding of the world and educates us as people and citizens. It tells stories of the epic and the everyday in a way that cultivates empathy and galvanizes us to action”. An example of this is indeed evident in the use of social media in events relating the Arab Spring that started in 2011.
Furthermore, the world over, journalists, especially in this era of digital technologies are challenged in many ways, not less ethically. In The Gambia, journalists are often seen as unethical, biased and unbalanced in their reporting. Mr Saikou Ceesay, a Gambian journalist wrote on his Facebook wall: “Since ethical dilemmas persist, the media may be helping perpetrators of heinous crimes to walk scot free. How could we rely on police report without further digging the story with a view to establishing the truth. The case of a soldier allegedly found hanged and sets himself fire is a case in point. This is an ethical problem in The Gambia”.
Mr Ceesay is referring to an article published by one of the local dailies. The article was later contradicted by other reports. Bakary Marong agreed with Ceesay when he wrote: “You are very right, they need to ask questions and find out what really happened. This is very disturbing trend happening in The Gambia. The police force should be very professional in their investigations and the media should hold them accountable by asking right question”.
However, despite these criticisms, there are fine Gambian journalists who pay lot of attention to ethical issues. Thus it is of paramount importance that the few unethical learn the way and embrace professional integrity so as to serve society better and attained credibility.