Media Ethics Dilemma

Republican presidential candidates have been thrown unfair questions throughout the primary debates this campaign season, according to Slant news.

I can see what they’re getting at because this season’s Republican debates have been more editorialized than any other campaign, arguably, than ever seen in the United States. Modern technology has Internet penetration reaching 46% of the globe, according to a 2015 United Nations estimate, which has enabled the soap opera that is the Republican primaries to unfold on a global stage. This widespread display is making the United States look unstable.

Although the United States is the “world’s greatest” democracy with, arguably, the most substantial media coverage worldwide, the drama of the debates exposes our inability when it comes to compromising to progress or get things done. If the Republican candidates act and display themselves as spectacles to the media, should the media report them this way? That is the question Miles Johnson, Slate writer, asked in this article.

Johnson argues that Republican candidates get asked less substantial and more editorialized questions than democratic candidates by moderators during primary debates. Although to be fair, the 2016 Republican race has become a prime example of the current American political climate.

Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina among other major Republican candidates demand attention with their campaigns, not always in the best ways, and they get it. The larger the statement the larger their media presence, fueling campaigns by telling people what they want to hear. Aggressive, loud, alpha male behavior shows America’s over-the-top, stalemated political climate where even party members can’t agree on issues they all fundamentally support.

(Here’s an amazing compilation on just Trump’s massive statements:)

Although this is the nature of primary elections, Republican candidates are rude, disrespectful, and put on a display. The drama obscures real issues and shifts the focus to the excitement of it all. In comparison, Hilary and Bernie’s tamer debates have allowed them to answer more in depth questions completely, leading to more civil and productive discussions.

The Republican presidential candidates contribute to branding themselves in the media, but should these portrayed personas influence questions asked in official presidential debates?

Johnson refers to the following question as “one that should never have been asked,” in the second debate.

“‘Mrs. Fiorina, I want to start with you. Fellow Republican candidate, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, has suggested that your party’s frontrunner, Mr. Donald Trump, would be dangerous as President. He said he wouldn’t want, quote, “such a hot head with his finger on the nuclear codes. You, as well, have raised concerns about Mr. Trump’s temperament. You’ve dismissed him as an entertainer. Would you feel comfortable with Donald trump’s finger on the nuclear codes?’”

“The very first question posed by Tapper was about Donald Trump’s personal temperament… Jake Tapper’s first question was about Donald Trump’s temper during his hypothetical tenure as President,” Johnson said, commenting on how many other important issues had happened leading up to the debate.

Well, is it a fair question to ask a potential presidential candidate if his personal temper would influence a decision to drop a nuclear bomb, especially considering what the public has seen all campaign season?

When Republican candidates act like characters, journalists question their character and write like they’re characters. I think it’s fair to take into consideration a candidate’s portrayed persona from a journalistic standpoint because it puts candidates into context and shows who they truly are, exposing the whole truth and not an inaccurate portrayal of a candidate’s stances and connotations.

One of the most basic rules of journalism is to not change the original meaning of a statement. To do this journalists must give context, and bringing in a candidates personal attributes allows journalists to write a more complete and truthful story, even if it is more editorialized because their subjects are more extravagant than those in previous elections.

I believe taking a candidate’s personal attributes into consideration when covering presidential candidates, in conclusion, to be ethical from a journalistic standpoint.


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