Despite journalistic values and ethical issues that arise, censorship in the media omits information from the public audience and it includes the practice of self-censorship by news and media organizations.Many news and media companies practice self-censorship by picking and choosing certain news stories to share with the public due to motives of self-interest or fear of hurting the company or a supporting advertiser. Sometimes censorship is used to protect the public or youth from explicit or shocking material and so the question arises: Is it ever okay to censor the news? Disagreements arise on the ethics of omitting information and censoring stories and pictures from the audience. In addition, the opposite side of spectrum can also be harmful to the audience: over-coverage of sensational news isn't accurate and can be followed by "copycat" crimes.
Many news organizations and journalists practice self-censorship and decide what news to share with the audience.
There are many reasons for doing this, some of which interfere with some people's view of journalistic ethics. Some news companies won't report on a story if it will hurt the news organization or one of its supporters. For example, if there was some sort of scandal with a company that supported a news station, that station would most likely not report on the scandal for fear of losing support or giving the station a bad image. Losing a supporter or investor would lead to negative economic consequences. In fact, according to a survey of about 300 journalists and news executives by the Pew Research Center and the Columbia Journalism Review, 35% of journalists say that a news story that would hurt the financial interests of a news organization often goes unreported and 29% of stories are overlooked that would have a negative affect on advertisers.
Some media organizations choose to omit information to avoid being accused of oppressing a certain group such as a specific race or gender.
Yet Deborah Nelson, a Senior Lecturer for the University of Maryland Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, says that this type of information is important to share along with the news story. She says that despite the media's attempt to "protect the public from themselves", journalists have the obligation to give a complete and accurate presentation of a news story. Most journalists share the value that news organizations should not practice self-censorship to fulfill their own motives. Although organizations may believe they are remaining neutral in a story or benefiting the public by withholding information, it is important to remember that delivering a story with the whole truth and a complete account is essential. This same idea can be applied to controversial content such as violent or explicit material. Many people feel that exposure to this kind of content creates a negative effect, but this information cannot be excluded if it is needed to accurately depict a news story.
Over-coverage of a story can turn into sensational news that negatively affects the public and can cause "copycat" crimes.
On the other side of censorship, over-coverage of a story can be just as negative as not covering the entire story. When a sensational incident occurs, Nelson explains how media organizations have a tendency to report on the same incident over and over. This leads to an extreme focus on the same story. Nelson describes sensationalizing a story as irresponsible and inaccurate. The copycat crimes that occur after the heavy focus on a particular news story are a result of giving facts and details about the crime that do not solely exist to benefit the the story with truth, but rather serve to feed public interest and entertainment.
Debates and cases still exist that bring up the question: Should media be restricted and censored?
One example is the court case Reno v. ACLU. The case determined that the Internet (an increasingly popular form of media) was a free speech zone with no restrictions. This means that any information can be posted or downloaded onto the internet and it cannot be regulated. Yet some organizations are still trying to restrict content and censor the media. For example, COPA (Child Online Protection Act) continues to try to get the Supreme Court to review its act restricting youth from accessing certian materials on the internet. This case exemplifies how controversial the issue of censorship still is today.
While self-censorship is practiced by news organizations for their own personal gains (such as economic or advertising motives) or in their attempt to remain neutral and unbiased with the public, journalists need to remember that their duty to their audience is to give truthful and accurate accounts of every news story published. Informing the public is a first priority for media organizations. Yet the media also needs to remember that too much reporting on the same story leads to sensationalism and this can have negative effects on the audience such as copycat crimes. Although journalistic values tend to be against the use of restrictions and censorship, controversy continues to exist as groups try to restrict our more recent forms of media.
High school student Michael M. shares his opinion on self-censorship in the media. As a member of the audience receiving the news, he doesn't oppose censorship if it is used appropriately. He feels that if a news story gets its message across to the public, it can spare the violent details.