(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)
David Cuillier, University of Arizona
(THE CONVERSATION) In times of mortal strife, humans crave information more than ever, and its journalists responsibility to deliver it.
But what if that information is inaccurate, or could even kill people?
Thats the quandary journalists have found themselves in as they decide whether to cover President Donald J. Trumps press briefings live.
Some television networks have started cutting away from the briefings, saying the events are no more than campaign rallies, and that the president is spreading falsehoods that endanger the public.
If Trump is going to keep lying like he has been every day on stuff this important, we should, all of us, stop broadcasting it, MSNBCs Rachel Maddow tweeted. Honestly, its going to cost lives.
News decisions and ethical dilemmas arent simple, but withholding information from the public is inconsistent with journalistic norms, and while well-meaning, could actually cause more harm than good in the long run. Keeping the presidents statements from the public prevents the public from being able to evaluate his performance, for example.
Truth and falsehood can fight it out
The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics, updated in 2014 during my term as president, states that the press must seek truth and report it, while also minimizing harm.
When the president of the United States speaks, it matters it is newsworthy, its history in the making. Relaying that event to the public as it plays out is critical for citizens, who can see and hear for themselves what their leader is saying, and evaluate the facts for themselves so that they may adequately self-govern.
Thats true even if leaders lie. Actually, its even more important when leaders lie.
Think of libertarian philosopher John Miltons plea for the free flow of information and end of censorship in 1600s England. Put it all out there and let people sort the lies from the truth, Milton urged: Let her and Falsehood grapple.
If a president spreads lies and disinformation, or minimizes health risks, then the electorate needs to know that to make informed decisions at the polls, perhaps to vote the person out to prevent future missteps.
Likewise, theres a chance the president could be correct in his representation of at least some of the facts.
Its not up to journalists to decide, but simply report what is said while providing additional context and facts that may or may not support what the president said.
Maddow is correct that journalists should not simply parrot information spoon fed by those in power to readers and viewers who might struggle to make sense of it in a vacuum. That is why its imperative journalists continuously challenge false and misleading statements, and trust the public to figure it out.
Those who would urge the medias censorship of the presidents speeches may feel they are protecting citizens from being duped, because they believe the average person cant distinguish fact from fiction. Communication scholars call this third-person effect, where we feel ourselves savvy enough to identify lies, but think other more vulnerable, gullible and impressionable minds cannot.
It is understandable why journalists would try to protect the public from lies. Thats the minimizing harm part in the SPJ code of ethics, which is critical in these times, when inaccurate information can put a persons health at risk or cause them to make a fatal decision.
So how do journalists report the days events while minimizing harm and tamping down the spread of disinformation? Perhaps this can be accomplished through techniques already in use during this unorthodox presidential period:
Report the press briefings live for all to see, while providing live commentary and fact-checking, as PolitiFact and others have done for live presidential debates.
Fact-check the president after his talks, through contextual stories that provide the public accurate information, in the media and through websites such as FactCheck.org.
Call intentional mistruths what they are: Lies. With this administration, journalists have become more willing to call intentional falsehoods lies, and that needs to continue, if not even more bluntly.
Develop a deep list of independent experts that can be on hand to counter misinformation as it is communicated.
Report transparently and openly, clearly identifying sources, providing supplemental documents online, and acknowledging limitations of information.
The coronavirus pandemic is a critical time for the nations health and its democracy. Now, more than ever, we need information. As humans, we crave knowing what is going on around us, a basic awareness instinct, as termed by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel in their foundational book, The Elements of Journalism.
People arent dummies
Sometimes people dont even realize they need information until after they have lost it.
In his autobiography, the late Sen. John McCain wrote that upon his release after five years as a Vietnamese prisoner of war, the first thing he did when he got to a Philippines military base was order a steak dinner and stack of newspapers.
I wanted to know what was going on in the world, and I grasped anything I could find that might offer a little enlightenment, McCain wrote. The thing I missed most was information free, uncensored, undistorted, abundant information.
People arent dummies. They can decipher good information from bad, as long as they have all the facts at their disposal.
And journalists are the ones best positioned to deliver it.
[You need to understand the coronavirus pandemic, and we can help. Read our newsletter.]
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/its-a-bad-idea-for-journalists-to-censor-trump-instead-they-can-help-the-public-identify-whats-true-or-false-134962.
Read the rest here:
- Letter: Censorship and the CPSDB - The Suburban Times - February 11th, 2021
- Chilling trend toward censorship - Chicago Daily Herald - February 11th, 2021
- Government censorship threats over TikTok spiked interest in VPNs - ZDNet - February 11th, 2021
- For a brief period, there was a platform for sensitive political debate in China. Then censors shut it down - CNN - February 11th, 2021
- Why I think censorship is important in the age of social media | Column - The Daily Collegian Online - February 11th, 2021
- Send a Big Message to Big Tech: Stop the Censorship - National Federation of Republican Women - February 11th, 2021
- Response to Censorship, freedom of speech article - The Tryon Daily Bulletin - Tryon Daily Bulletin - February 11th, 2021
- Facebook's depoliticization aimed at censorship of left-wing and socialist organizations - WSWS - February 11th, 2021
- Sundance 2021 Review: CENSOR, The Danger Of Confusing Fiction With Reality - ScreenAnarchy - February 11th, 2021
- Blacklisting And Censorship Are Hallmarks Of Repressive Societies - The Federalist - February 11th, 2021
- Censorship or conspiracy theory? Trump supporters say Facebook and Twitter censor them but conservatives still rule social media - USA TODAY - December 5th, 2020
- OIF Seeks Information on 2020 Censorship Incidents | News and Press Center - ala.org - December 5th, 2020
- In India, a Clash of Digital Innovation and Internet Censorship - CoinDesk - Coindesk - November 30th, 2020
- Censored Planet: University of Michigan research finds worldwide increase in internet censorship - WSWS - November 30th, 2020
- Twitter claims it has reversed ban of link to Sidney Powell's Georgia election lawsuit - Fox Business - November 30th, 2020
- Jeanine Pirro Thinks Big Tech is Censoring Her Text Messages - Mediaite - November 30th, 2020
- Censorship In The Biden Era - OpEd - Eurasia Review - November 30th, 2020
- Ex-Employee Confesses! Behind-the-Scenes of Google Censorship - The Liberty Web English - November 30th, 2020
- The attempt to censor Jordan Peterson shows the intolerance of the social justice generation - Telegraph.co.uk - November 30th, 2020
- PlayStation Reportedly Censoring PS5 Users on Twitter - ComicBook.com - November 30th, 2020
- Ted Nugents Wife Shemane Targets Instagram For The Recent Censor But She Puts It Again On Instagram To Find A Solution For Free Speech - Metalhead... - November 30th, 2020
- Censorship - Wikipedia - November 28th, 2020
- What Is Censorship? | American Civil Liberties Union - November 28th, 2020
- What is Censorship? - National Coalition Against Censorship - November 28th, 2020
- Censorship on social media? It's not what you think - CBS News - November 28th, 2020
- 'Welcome To The Party, Zoom': Video App's Rules Lead To Accusations Of Censorship - NPR - November 28th, 2020
- ICANN Can Stand Against Censorship (And Avoid Another .ORG Debacle) by Keeping Content Regulation and Other Dangerous Policies Out of Its Registry... - November 28th, 2020
- Ted Cruz digs in for congressional battle over censorship on Twitter, Facebook - Houston Chronicle - November 28th, 2020
- The Dangerous Inversions of the Debate Around Trans Censorship - The New Republic - November 28th, 2020
- Carter Estes: Effort to ban Trump officials from Harvard is a dangerous attack on free speech and education - Fox News - November 28th, 2020
- Meet the Censored: Andre Damon - WSWS - November 28th, 2020
- Donald Trump says Twitter censorship is a national security issue - Washington Times - November 28th, 2020
- In hybrid online-offline format, theatre fest explores the Unexpressed, censorship of womens bodies and artistic collaborations - The Indian Express - November 28th, 2020
- Was this censorship?: Noam Chomsky, Vijay Prashad ask Tata Lit Live after it cancels their discussion - The Hindu - November 28th, 2020
- Tata Lit Fest cancels a discussion between Noam Chomsky and Vijay Prashad, raising concerns of censorship - Frontline - November 28th, 2020
- Barcelona members strike back vs. Bartomeu: What does 'motion of censorship' mean, and what's next? - ESPN - September 18th, 2020
- What the *, Nintendo? This in-game censorship is * terrible. - EFF - September 18th, 2020
- Social media censorship in Egypt targets women on TikTok - The World - September 18th, 2020
- Trumps Partial TikTok And WeChat Ban Tip-Toes Into Chinese-Style Censorship - Forbes - September 18th, 2020
- Judd Apatow Criticizes Hollywood's Censorship For International Market: China Has Bought Our Silence With Their Money - Deadline - September 18th, 2020
- Bangladesh in the Shadow of Censorship The Diplomat - The Diplomat - September 18th, 2020
- Why is the government pushing unprecedented online censorship? - Telegraph.co.uk - September 18th, 2020
- Not Content to Censor Conservatives, Zuckerberg Now Seeks to Meddle in Election - National Legal and Policy Center - September 18th, 2020
- New Alliance to Track and Fight Censoring of Conservatives - CBN News - September 18th, 2020
- Reading the Evolution of Censorship and Sedition in India - The Wire - September 18th, 2020
- China's Influence on the Global Human Rights System - Human Rights Watch - September 18th, 2020
- China Isn't Hiding the Border Tensions With India From Its Public Anymore - The Diplomat - September 18th, 2020
- Call Trumps Attacks On The 1619 Project What They Are Censorship of American History - Forbes - September 6th, 2020
- Facebook is bringing an updated content censorship term for its users from October 1st - Digital Information World - September 6th, 2020
- Will Joe Rogan Have The Guts To Call Out Spotify For 'Censorship'? - CCN.com - September 6th, 2020
- Joe Rogans Spotify move condemned by fans over right-wing censorship claims - The Independent - September 6th, 2020
- Shadow banning and its role in modern day censorship - Cherwell Online - September 6th, 2020
- Apple reacts to censorship censure - Mobile World Live - September 6th, 2020
- TunnelBear Circumvents Iran VPN Block, Launches 10GB Monthly Offer in the Country - Business Wire - September 6th, 2020
- Facebook is changing its Terms of Service, and users are not happy - Windows Central - September 6th, 2020
- End the blacklist of the World Socialist Web Site on Reddit! - WSWS - September 6th, 2020
- Kahle: Upholding the public trust - The Register-Guard - September 6th, 2020
- Science protections must be enforceable | TheHill - The Hill - September 6th, 2020
- Reddit isnt happy about President Trumps anti-censorship executive order - Reclaim The Net - September 6th, 2020
- Forget TikTok. Chinas Powerhouse App Is WeChat. - The New York Times - September 6th, 2020
- The shaky upcoming national election environment can be fixed - JNS.org - September 6th, 2020
- Kyle Rittenhouse lawyer Lin Wood threatens to sue Twitter over censorship - Reclaim The Net - September 4th, 2020
- Finding human territory in a fractured world - The Tech - September 4th, 2020
- We dont believe in censorship: Controversial Aboriginal commentator to lead WA festival amid fear of backlash from Noongar people - WAtoday - September 4th, 2020
- How WeChat Censored the Coronavirus Pandemic - WIRED - August 28th, 2020
- Voter Advocacy Orgs Sue Trump Administration for Executive Order Threatening Social Media Censorship - EFF - August 28th, 2020
- Kuwait eases censorship laws after banning 5000 titles in last 7 years - The Indian Express - August 28th, 2020
- Buffy's Amber Benson on censorship, the musical, and Tara's death - digitalspy.com - August 28th, 2020
- Kuwait relaxes book censorship laws after banning thousands of titles - The Guardian - August 28th, 2020
- Film and Publications Amendment Act: Protecting, not censoring, our citizens in the digital age - Daily Maverick - August 28th, 2020
- Chinas wrath on Hong Kong is causing artists to self-censor - Reclaim The Net - August 28th, 2020
- Here are 5 excuses liberals have put forward in defence of modern day book burning, and why it makes them look like total morons - OpIndia - August 28th, 2020
- Jessie and Austins aunt vs TikTok the debate around censorship of Bodies in the Suitcase video - HITC - August 28th, 2020
- Artists Ai Weiwei and Fang Fang's depictions of the Wuhan lockdown - DW (English) - August 28th, 2020
- A Radioactive Plague: The secrecy and censorship surrounding civilian deaths from World War II - Milwaukee Independent - August 10th, 2020
- Censorship on the internet in 2020: The potential effects of TikTok - Film Daily - August 10th, 2020
- Wicker: Time to address online censorship - The Vicksburg Post - Vicksburg Post - August 10th, 2020
- Open Technology Fund Authorization Act - BORGEN - Borgen Project - August 10th, 2020
- The Logic of a US WeChat Ban - The Diplomat - August 10th, 2020
- Ben Domenech Clashes With Joe Trippi Over Censorship Of Trump's Social Media - The Federalist - August 10th, 2020