Enterprise Halfhearted Abjuration Draws Scrutiny, LIVINGSTON, July 6, 2020 - On Thursday, the Polk County Enterprise published what they referred to as a “correction”. The correction followed a written demand by Polk County Assistant District Attorney, Tommy L. Coleman, requesting that the newspaper’s Editor, Valerie Reddell, retract an erroneous news story referencing him. The demand centered around a news story published by Reddell on June 18, 2020. In the article, Reddell inexplicably alleged that Coleman was somehow involved with the wrongful conviction of a man that occurred more than 30 years ago. In the correction, Reddell and the Enterprise admitted, ”…the Polk County Enterprise mischaracterized [Coleman’s] role…We regret the error.” The correction, which can only be characterized as tepid at best, consisted of one-tenth the words used in the initial erroneous story and the correction’s headline was half the font size used in the original story’s sensationalized headline. “If a news story contains an “error”, then the story is wrong. If the story is wrong, then it’s fake. If the story is fake, then it is fake news,” stated Tommy Coleman.
“It concerns me and it should concern every citizen, that someone who calls themselves a journalist can wake up one day and print a completely false news story about you and when they are called out, they simply print an obscure blurb that essentially says, oops my bad.” stated Coleman. “It amazes me that there is no governing body or professional organization in Texas that governs a journalist’s unethical behavior.” Coleman added, “I would love to see a Texas legislator file a bill similar to what Indiana State Representative, Jim Lucas filed which would require journalists to be licensed by the state. The measure would require journalists, defined as anyone writing or broadcasting news for a newspaper, magazine, website or television or radio station, to be registered, fingerprinted and vetted by a state entity.”
While journalists are not licensed, there are some professional organizations that seek to hold their members to a number of ethical standards. Those entities include the American Press Institute and the Society of Professional Journalists. According to the Society of Professional Journalists, “Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest in gathering, reporting and interpreting information,”-Society of Professional Journalists (Code of Ethics, revised September 6, 2014). “The publisher of journalism, whether a media corporation or a blogger must show an ultimate allegiance to citizens. They must strive to put the public interest and the truth above their own self-interest or assumptions,”-The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect; by Bill Kovach & Tom Rosenstiel (April 24, 2007). “Until such a time as there is a disciplinary entity to complain to or a mandatory set of standards that purveyors of fake news are made to follow, the only other available remedy I’m aware of, will be that of civil litigation under the applicable libel laws,” concluded Coleman.
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