October 01, 2007

Life or Death

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to watch a man die. I did not take it.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It isn't a secret that I am an opinionated person. From the "War on Terror" to abortion to the Trans-Texas Corridor, I have an opinion. I'll gladly share those opinions with my friends if they ask me for them, and I even sometimes give them without prompting because I need to vent.

Journalists are allowed to have opinions. If they weren't, nobody could be a journalist. Everybody knows this. The trick to being a journalist, then, is not sharing that opinion with the "public." Once one's opinion is known, claims of bias suddenly are given weight. The written words in a story might not change, but the perception and interpretation of those words might. This is why I try not to share my opinions at the office or with people who I interact with professionally.

Even when a journalist has a strong opinion on a subject, he or she should be able to write about it as objectively as possible. In the past, I've written stories about people who I thought were idiotically wasting everybody's time and energy, but a reader would not be able to tell that by what I wrote. I could write about a drunk driver's arrest or conviction without revealing my opinion. I can write about a school bond election without sharing what I think.

I also believe every journalist should know his or her limitations.

I have a very strong opinion about the death penalty. I do not have a problem writing about the penalty as a possible punishment or as the sentence of a trial. At this point, it's an abstract idea. It might happen, but it might not.

I do have a problem, however, with attending and writing about an execution. I am afraid I would unintentionally reveal bias in the story. Therefore, at this point in my career, I believe it would be irresponsible of me to take on such a story. Thus, I declined the chance to attend.

What do you think?

Posted by Randy at October 1, 2007 10:53 PM | TrackBack