Friday, December 16, 2005

Year in Review

That's the lofty task we have here at 49 School Street. In keeping with tradition, our editorial staff next week will publish about 12 pages' worth of stories reviewing this year's news in the Stowe area. Hence, "Year in Review."

A lot can happen in a year – much more than can be summarized and analyzed in several 500-word story nuggets. And there's more "news" out there than ever be covered by our staff. What makes the news and how much attention it's given is certainly a subjective choice. As newsmakers, we try to think about our role in the community, who we serve, and frame the "news" to meet the needs of our readership. News is what people want and, indeed, demand – the birth announcement, the actions of public officials, the coverage of local sports. It's also what people need to know, even if they don't necessarily want to – the crime, the corruption, tragedies and secrets.

The news of the day is not a concrete, natural law. Our obligation is determine what stories matter to this community and then seek the truth and report it. So as we look back on this year and reflect on what made the cut as the news of this year, it's also worth mentioning the principles behind such reporting.

Journalists, unlike doctors, are not licensed. Some think we should be, others do not. Regardless, we're still working professionals, and we do need to adhere to a code of ethics. Every newsroom will vary in its policies – there's no Ten Commandments of reporting. But I think it's worth repeating a code of ethics that seem to generally capture the duties of a journalist. To that end, there are some general principles, from the Society of Professional Journalists:

• Seek the truth and report it — Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

• Minimize harm — Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

• Act independently — Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

• Be accountable — Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.

Reflecting on the news is for me an appropriate time to also reflect why I'm a newsmaker. The Society of Professional Journalists preamble sums it up best: "Public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility."

- Scott Monroe

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