Mainstream media in today’s world of instant Twitter messaging, blogs, social network-driven populism needs to maintain its grounding in objective, intelligent and honest reporting and analysis of events. Journalists are on the front line when it comes to maintaining objectivity in their coverage, in keeping personal emotions and opinions out of the story.
In a civilized Europe, we’ve reached the point where words and protests – be they peaceful or heated – are the acceptable weapons to bring to a discussion or dispute, not guns, bullying or physical violence. A bloody 20th century taught us that lesson.
In The Baltic Times of Sept. 15, we carried the front page leader “Poland’s exotics.” The article drew response from readers questioning some of the content of the article. Last week, we published a letter from His Excellency, Jerzy M. Nowakowski, the Polish Ambassador to Latvia, in which he drew attention to a comparison, made by the author of the article, regarding present day Poland and fascist Germany of the 1930s.
The journalist’s extrapolation in this story of what is a single, though substantial, issue between neighbors regarding the use of language, into a broad generalization of a government and its policies, accusations which cannot be justified in light of the facts, exhibited emotions getting in the way of objectivity.
Journalism demands excellence. Fairness and accuracy were missing from the article and from the editorial process. Any article should report news in a factual way and interpretation and opinion must be clearly identifiable, or else reserved for the opinion page.
Freedom of opinion is a valued gift and one must do their best to preserve and protect this gift, which is still denied to many millions of people throughout the world. Many readers of this newspaper have experienced such censorship in the past. We got the balance wrong and it is clear that the article contained the author’s personal opinion. Whilst we do not want to take the right to express a personal opinion away from authors, we do want to provide a means for such opinions to be conveyed, but in a balanced and sensitive manner that will enable dialogue and understanding to take place.
After much reflection and discussion, I wish, as editor, to offer an unreserved apology for any offence and insult this article may have caused to our readers and to the Polish people.
The Baltic Times strives to hold itself to high standards of journalism, and expects its readers to hold us to those standards as well. Our commitment to excellence is based on human respect, professional standards and accountability.