Freedom of the press means freedom from interference by the government. It is in the best interest of a democratic government to have an informed people because ultimately, they are the ones who hold the power. But media should not be free from scrutiny from the people whose interests they must protect. Just as government officials are beholden to the people, media in a democracy must exist to serve the people. Media and information literacy is important because it enables the public to evaluate/ assess the information given to them and to recognize erroneous, false, or problematic ways of delivering information.
In the absence of government regulation, media organizations and media workers work under the principle of self-regulation. Below are the basic journalistic standards and principles:
- Fair and Balanced Reporting. This includes attribution and data triangulation, topics which were discussed in Module 1. Neutrality does not mean that a journalist is prohibited from having an opinion; rather, it means that the methods used in reporting a news story must be objective. Great efforts must be made to pursue, verify, and present the different facts and angles of a story.
- Editorial Independence. According to Lapeña, this is defined as the concept that editors should have full authority over the content of the publication. How completely this is practiced is the topic of many discussions on media, but what is most important is that editorial independence is a long-standing ideal that media organizations, practitioners, and owners strive for.
In the local scene, while you may notice that the top two networks would not report about the stars and programs of their rival station, hard news stories are almost always carried by both networks, and it will be considered a breach of journalism ethics for owners to prevent their reporters and editors from covering a story for purely personal reasons.
- Plurality and Diversity. Media must serve all people regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, language, or culture. Information must not allow only one or a few groups to dominate over the rest. Part of the responsibilities of media is to encourage members of different ethnic, racial, religious, and sold social groups to participate in nation-building.