Journalism vs. Ethics – Why not both?

It was reported last night, and discussed earlier today, that Kansas City Royal player Edinson Volquez’s father, Daniel, passed away.  This writer, of course, gives his condolences.  However, that’s not what this story is about.

Edinson’s wife called the Royals’ clubhouse to let them know the news, but told them not to let him know until he was done playing.  But, there has been speculation that he might have been informed before his family had the chance to tell him themselves.

This raises an important question for journalists.  If you find out news of a player’s parent’s death, do you report it or do you sit on it until you are positive the player knows?

For me, the answer is quite simple.  I would sit on it until I was positive – beyond the shadow of a doubt – that the player knew the situation.

Here’s why…

Over the years, I’ve lost many people – both family and friends.  It’s always heartbreaking.  But, I am fortunate to have been told by the people involved.  I don’t know what I would do if I found out that kind of information from someone else – least of all the media.

Sure, I’ve worked for the media, and I have published many stories.  But, while covering those stories, I always make sure the people I interview are comfortable with me and the questions I ask.  That’s important to me because it builds trust, which leads to a good rapport.  The better rapport I have with people, the more that word might get out that I’m a good person to talk to.  However, even if people don’t spread the word about me, that’s fine.  As long as I’ve kept their trust, that’s what matters most to me.

That leads me to the crux of this story.  I’ve heard that certain people in the media – none of whom will be named in this piece – have decided it was better to report the story regardless of whether or not Edinson found out first.

To say that disappoints me is an understatement.

Saying it’s a journalistic duty to report this issue is preposterous to me.  Anyone who says that is saying that their duty and their loyalty to their job matters more than being empathetic to a man who just lost his father.

That just boggles my mind.  To put your job on a higher pedestal than a human life – or a loss of one – just tells me where your priorities lie.

Anyone who would do such a thing should, in my opinion, just write for a tabloid because it seems your main goal is to sell your product and not care for the people about whom you write.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s important to make sure your product – whether it is a newspaper, magazine or website – is promoted.  However, I cringe at the thought of putting it above and beyond a human life.

While it’s important to “get the story,” it’s also important to make sure you are empathetic to the people involved in the story you write.  Therefore, it is just as important to focus on the timing of the story and not just the context.

After all, journalists learn about the most important questions to ask in their first class in college.  Those questions being “who?”, “what?”, “where?”, “when?” and “why?”

Obviously, we know the answers to those questions within the story presented last night.  However, it’s also important to focus on “the 5 W’s” when publishing the story – especially in the age of social media.

Soon after the story broke about Edinson’s father, the whole country knew about it.  If the story broke too early, he would have surely found out about it from someone who didn’t realize he shouldn’t know yet.  That would’ve been disastrous for him (since he was the starting pitcher for game one of the World Series) as well as the team because it could have affected his ability to play, and his teammates could have been indirectly – or even directly – affected.

I always do my best to take into account every aspect of a story.  Obviously, there’s the story on its surface.  But, to me, it has always been more than that. A story is about the people involved, but it’s also the people’s families, friends and other people whom the story may touch.

To me, knowing that part is my journalistic responsibility.

Kansas City Royals' Edinson Volquez - picture used from mlb.com
Kansas City Royals’ Edinson Volquez – picture used from mlb.com

3 thoughts on “Journalism vs. Ethics – Why not both?

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