By now you have read plenty about this case. You may have even written and/or voiced over stories about it. There are a lot of compelling articles that explain what we TV journalists have done right and especially wrong while covering the Martin shooting. I am not going there. Instead I am going to explain why this case can and more than likely will end up defining your career in some way.
This is the type of story and event that truly tests the limits of journalism. It tests the ability to be objective. It tests news philosophies. It tests personal ethics while on the job. For this reason, I strongly encourage you to keep a file of everything you read, watch and write about the case. Just file it all away. Write notes about any conflicts within you and add these thoughts to your file. Keep copies of your favorite stories you watched, and the ones you liked the least. Write notes on what you like and do not like about the coverage. The reason: As this case plays out, your views on ethics and philosophy will likely change a lot. So will the critics. We will talk about how this case was covered for years to come. Professors worth their salt are already beginning to track and possibly discuss it with future journalists.
The Martin case will become a litmus test for many news companies and news managers as they continue trying to shape what television news is becoming. There are too many hot button issues in it for the case not to become more than a story that simply comes and goes. Those issues will come up as managers consider newsroom policies on everything from fact checking affiliate copy to social media policy. For this reason, it will serve as the perfect talking point when feeling out the news philosophy at a station where you are interviewing. This case is so big, every news management team has likely had to make some sort of ethical call on it already. It will not be the last time either. Asking pointed questions about the Martin case to a news director or AND when you are job interviewing will be a good way to feel out their personal journalistic integrity also. Are you both in sync?
The Martin case is also a good litmus test for you to gauge your own value system and journalistic work. As you go into difficult scenarios in the future, draw on what you thought was done correctly in the Martin case. Remind yourself of the ethical issues that arose when coverage was less than thorough. It is a good reminder to us all that we cannot ever get too comfortable or too numb while covering stories. There are often many layers. Do we get to them, or leave them buried? Do we jump to conclusions? Have you? Really asking yourself and current and future news bosses these questions will help you define yourself as a journalist. It will help you brand yourself. It will help you weed out stations that may vary too much from your news philosophy. With examination, personally and as a professional group, the Martin case could help us define what TV News should be, and will become.