Feeling TAO pledge pride

23 Feb

Before today, I never thought I would be so proud to have clicked a button on a computer screen. Usually I expect a bit more from myself for this kind of pride, but submitting the TAO of Journalism pledge today is something that I’ll continue to be proud of–even if it was fast and easy to click that button.

When I sat crowded around a computer with my fellow editors in our production room to sign pledge, the few seconds it took meant much more than that click of the mouse. We came together around an idea–around our beliefs. We may write about different issues and hold opposing opinions at times, but we are united by the high ethical standards we hold each other to journalistically.

The principles of the TAO pledge–to be transparent, open and accountable–protect us, keeping our journalism respectable, and allow me to be proud of the purpose of my newspaper. When we clicked the mouse and signed the pledge, I felt proud, but for different reasons than I had expected.

Nothing has changed–technically we’ve always been upholding these principles because they’re part of our code of ethics, but the pledge makes it more visible. Now we have confirmed that we owe it to ourselves, our community and fellow student journalists to be transparent, accountable and open. Most importantly though, we know we owe it to each other, and this makes us a true team of editors.

But this sense of pride that I got from signing TAO pledge is what is most important to me. In the cafeteria, I have been confronted while handing out copies of The Spoke, questioning our ethics. At first, it scares me that some high school students seem to think our school paper could make something up or disregard ethics. Then, I enter the second stage–anger. In the third and final stage, I explain to them why The Spoke could never violate our ethics and fabricate a quote or make up facts.

But it’s not so satisfying to leave it at that because I know not everyone will be persuaded by what I said. Signing the TAO pledge backs me up. It’s a visual reminder on our website that lets students know that we’re not kidding around–we’re serious about the work we do and have no problem signing our names to it.

The pride of the pledge keeps going. As news editor at The Spoke, I stand in front of a group of ten reporters–or “newsies” as I like to call them–each Spoke day and offer advice and direction. TAO gives me a standard to lead by, and I try to uphold the principles in my leadership too. I hope that the newsies appreciate that I always try to be accountable to them for my small or big mistakes, from typos to losing papers to sending the wrong e-mail.

Furthermore, transparency, accountability and openness are the perfect basis to work from for a reporter or editor. From there, we add on more ethics that we believe in and we add layers of reporting and editing. But without the principles of TAO as a basis, the rest of the work doesn’t mean quite as much. I hope that the TAO pledge will inspire communities and staffs to see the importance and legitimacy of what student journalists are doing. It can show them that all the work their school newspaper, website or yearbook do is for the right reasons. At the heart of the work of TAO pledge signers are the right motives and ethics. I know that’s something we can all be proud of, and signing the pledge allows us to show it.

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