Sex is a news value that journalists give much attention to. However, the coverage of sex subjects present journalists with lots of decisions to make, some of which are of ethical concerns, yet others are dangerous, with some still being categorized as embarrassing. The public normally has the right to information, and it is the obligation of the media to inform them, but in the discourse of informing the public, journalists must take into consideration the fact that media institutions exist in societies and the societies have their norms and values, the content that the media offers must, therefore, ascribe to these.
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Controversies that arise from sex attract much public interest, and this explains why journalists scramble for such stories. In the recent past, the former International Monetary Fund, IMF boss Dominique Straus Khan was involved in a sex scandal, and this drew the attention of the international media. Whether this story was covered fairly and effectively is still subject to determination, especially so given the fact that he was eventually found innocent of all the sex assault claims.
Such situations arise in the dailies of media personalities, and the extent of coverage that journalists give the stories in most cases is to make the stories and the papers sell, the desire for profitability sidesteps the ethical concerns that surround the stories. So would it, therefore, be prudent for journalists to carry out investigations to determine the credibility of their stories before reporting them?
Spending time investigating the facts in the story at a time that a victim is laying charges would be a waste of time owing to the fact that the claims being brought forward by the plaintiff constitutes a story on their own. Proceeding to report the story adversely defames the other party and eventually when they are found innocent, the role that the Media had previously played in defaming them can never be reversed and public apologies are never sufficient.
The digital media offers a platform for speedy dissemination of news; news access on the digital platform is real time and can be very interactive. These features make distortion of palpable effects to the consumers yet very important to the survival of media houses. News would only be so if it is disseminated within the shortest time possible.
With the speed of dissemination and the need for the public to be informed in time competing versus the need for factual reporting, the ramifications of reporting half facts would be detrimental. The characters in the stories are humans too with families and reputations to keep; some of them are normally key societal personalities. Defaming them baselessly would be unfair and inhuman.
In covering such stories therefore, a journalist is to show compassion and only report of the facts that he or she can ascertain. In most cases it would always be prudent to report the wordings of the other person with whom they are involved in the conflict. In this ways, all the defaming remarks would be linked to the plaintiff and thus minimizes the role that the media plays in the entire process.
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Journalist must consider that the people in the stories have families who would not be involved in the stories, dragging such people into the story would be a crime. The story also acquires a different twist should it involve children; journalists must show sympathy to the children and report in a compassionate nature to limit the trauma that the stories would cause the young minds.