This characterized a situation or the issue of leaking unconfirmed or unchecked pieces of information to the media with the latter not realizing that there was a hidden agenda or concealed interest beyond the disclosure of such believed-to-be an accurate story. Enterprising and exclusivity-driven journalists are the usual victims of such bungled reporting. With a goal to outdo a rival or even a colleague and come up with a scoop, a journalist may come up with a story based only on what a source says.
This can jeopardize everything because what a person says may actually not be the holy truth unless supported by evidence. An uncorroborated report that failed to undergo rechecking validation of pieces of evidence and confirmation by the source backfires to the journalist and the affiliated media organization. Aside from the fact that publishing or running an untrue story depicts a gross violation of the media ethics, the involved journalist and media organization are both subjected to a loss of credibility, affecting their conduct or performance of their profession as a result.
These factors characterized what is perceived as an accurate yet untrue media report. Absence of Malice Media ethics that includes the accurate and true reporting by a journalist was presented by the drama film Absence of Malice (1981) that top billed Paul Newman and Sally Field. As an aggressive Miami reporter, Field was subjected to a set-up to unveil a murder story that supposedly involved Newman. With an aim to come up with a scoop, Field wrote a story wholly based from the information given by a corrupt and malicious government official.
Field took the details provided by the source as the holy truth that unfairly implicated Newman to the crime. Although the movie unleashed a legal battle that risked the lives of innocent individuals, Field stood with the accuracy of her story and affirmed her absence of malice. Even though Field continued to commit violation of press ethics when she got romantically involved with Newman, the female reporter legally defended that there was no malicious intention to ruin someones life when she made the report.
Field apparently banked her defense on a premise that is contained in the Libel and Slander Act which states that: In an action for libel contained in a newspaper the defendant may plead in mitigation of damages that the libel was inserted therein without actual malice and without gross negligence¦ (cited in Martin, Adam & Stuart, 1994). Her blunder was that she took what her source told her as the gospel truth and her defense definitely fell under the Absence of Malice rule in libel and slander cases.
As the defense counsels justified, the story is accurate, even though it may be untrue or none of it was true. This is because the specific details of the Field story were aggressively written but without a trace of trace, based from the claim of a source who turned out to be not credible. It was just unfortunate for the reporter that she was used by the source who has the actual malicious purpose to destroy Newman (Absence of Malice). Film critic Ebert (1981) corroborated that the movie depicted journalists inevitable violation of media ethics.
Ebert added that Fields mistakes, improprieties, misjudgments, indiscretions, and ethical lapses do not stand with her and that of her companys excuse to uphold the provision of absence of malice in their legal fights (Ebert, 1981). While other American movies have represented media as merciless contenders such as in the film The Front Page and emphasized its role as heroic detectives like in the film All the Presidents Men, the Field-Newman drama tried but failed to show an accurate representation of the press battles and dilemmas.
Absence of Malice only made the industry, particularly the print media, appear as careless. It further signified that the media could not always depend and use the provision of absence of malice to refute the criminal cases of libel and slander. Conclusion Accuracy and truthfulness are two important characteristics of a quality media report. For some reason or the other, however, one of these features is sacrificed in order for a journalist to serve and advance his or her personal interest.
It is a general rule for the media industry that in upholding its right to report, it has also an obligation to present what is accurate and true. The media prides itself with the right to know, the privilege access to information especially to public documents, and the power to let the story be known to the public. In doing so, however, the media runs the risk of committing a blunder.
This is for the reason that beyond the call of responsibility to present a fair, accurate, and true report or story, the innate nature to have an exclusive report labeled under their names may cause journalists to commit mistakes and subject themselves to criminal liabilities such as libel and slander or oral defamation. This holds true especially if the media fails to justify that there is an absence of malice with a report that injured the reputation of the offended party.
It is just fortunate for a majority of journalists that they can always count on the absence of malice rule whenever they are faced with libel or slander case. However, luck would not always side with the media as an offended person also has the basic right to protect his or her dignity.
Absence of Malice. (1981). The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 23, 2008 from I Mdb. Ebert, R. (1981). Absence of Malice. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved April 23, 2008 from Roger Ebert. Sun Times database. Martin, R. , Adam, G. S. & Stuart, A. J. (1994). A Sourcebook of Canadian Media Law.