Most journalists would argue that being an ethical journalist is the only way to be a journalist. Still, there are those in the profession who don’t believe there’s a problem with bribing your sources, or getting too close with your sources, or writing about something that you’re directly involved in.
Doing any of those things scars your reputation as a journalist and prevents anyone from being able to trust you. Being transparent throughout the reporting process is, in my opinion, the only way to get what you want out of your subject. You’re not going to get what you want if you lie and promise that you’re not going to publish something and then it ends up on the front page or home screen. If you lie about something not being published, you could end up with a lawsuit on your hands that ends up being a disaster for both parties.
Being transparent allows your subject to better understand what it is you’re looking for. Maybe they aren’t able to help you or give you the quotes that you need, but perhaps they know someone who does. Transparency can only lead to stronger stories that are based on truth and not deceit.
Unbiased reporting, however, is something that can never be avoided. Every time we meet a source for an interview we come with preconceived notions of what they might be like. We come armed with what we may know about their background or line of work or whatever it is we want to talk to them about. We judge them even though we say we don’t. We formulate our own opinions about them even if we argue that we went into the interview with an open mind. Sometimes we do. Many times we do not.
We are human beings and its difficult to report unbiasedly. But as long as we write in an unbiased tone, we are preserving the values of our profession. As long as we don’t let our opinions shine through in our writing, we are doing our part to preserve the future of journalism. Never let your source know that you are biased towards them, that is for you and you alone. As long as you don’t pressure your source into saying something that they otherwise would not just so you can paint them in the light that you want, you are being a good journalist, and a human being.