While being the most interesting, the crime beat of journalism is also a rather difficult beat to tap. A reporter needs to be head strong and determined when reporting a crime. The tricky thing about reporting a crime is that almost always journalists reach after a crime has already been committed. And it’s their duty to each immediately after, and because of that, journalists don’t get much time to prepare as they do while reporting stories of other beats. Therefore, they need to act quickly but sometimes, in haste, journalists often forget about the basic ethics of reporting. When such a thing happens, the journalist, as well as the organization she is working for, and the victims and/or their families suffer a great deal. Unethical reporting is a practice no journalist should ever indulge in. This segment explores what a journalist, or an aspiring one, should not do when reporting a crime story.
Accuracy is one of the basic and the most important principles of journalism. It should not be compromised, no matter what the beat. It’s slightly more important to take care of accuracy when reporting a crime or else a lot of things can go wrong. Media plays a very important role in the lives of people. Media does not only tell everyone what’s going on in the world, it’s also responsible for shaping the minds of its readers/viewers. Inaccurate reporting will only decrease the credibility of the journalist and the media organization associated.
Objectivity is paramount in the journalism world. Especially during a crime report, if a journalist is subjective in her approach, it hampers the accuracy and the fairness of the report. In order to be fair, a reporter needs to steer clear of her own opinions. Only the facts should be reported. If a reporter feels like one of her sources is making false accusations, instead of clearly writing it in the story, she can use words like “allegedly”. Basically, no personal opinions about the crime should make their way into the story.
A reporter needs to always keep in mind the sensitivity of the crime. If she is out to report a murder, pestering the victim’s family to answer questions, or even the police for that matter, will give no results. Sometimes, it can be slightly dangerous therefore the witnesses/sources might not want their names revealed. A journalist needs to respect that and make a genuine promise to not reveal the names of their sources.
Back in the yellow journalism era, sensationalism was the key. But it was an unethical practice then, and it is one even now. Sensationalizing a crime report will not only hamper the journalist’s authenticity but it will also come across as a rather insensitive report. Crime is a very serious deal and sometimes in a hurry to sell, journalists forget that. But if a journalist cares about her credibility, she would avoid sensationalism at all costs.
There’s a lot more aspiring journalists can learn about reporting crime, and other beats, and WLCI College, one of the top journalism colleges in India, can help you with that. We offer both regular journalism and mass communication courses, and short term journalism courses in Delhi. Join us and fulfill your dream of becoming a journalist and making a difference in the world.