Pray with the Pope: October 2016
You are what you read – General Intention: Pray that journalists, in carrying out their work, may always be motivated by respect for truth and a strong sense of ethics.
A short way of summing up the journalist’s ethical “compass” is: The search for the truth for the common good.
To risk one’s career for the sake of the truth is both admirable and inspiring. We saw it in the case of the SABC journalists who refused to kowtow to their director on the issue of reporting on events which would be uncomfortable for the governing party. The courts upheld their right to freedom in what they report by ordering the SABC to reinstate them.
Were they being told to lie by their boss? Not directly, but rather to conceal important truths which are in the public interest.
There are plenty of other pressures on journalists that can lessen the ethical quality of media reporting, most notably with the dire financial straits print media are in. The so-called “tabloidisation” of serious newspapers is often an attempt to staunch the flow of financial blood. The result is that serious issues are neglected.
But we, the users of the media, need to examine our consciences too and ask whether our media tastes help journalists to follow their code. If we are avid Kardashian followers, are we not leading journalists into temptation, for when the headlines are dominated by stories about the doings of celebrities, the really important stories get neglected. The philosophical tradition that bad literature leads to bad behaviour is worth reflecting on in the media context.
The paparazzi get their material published because we, the public, buy it, and these pictures and stories can crowd out the real issues and coarsen our ethical sensitivity.
Let us therefore pray for journalists, but also for ourselves because we indirectly shape what they produce.