"Press freedom is not conditioned upon fair and balanced reporting."
Robert J. Haiman, Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists
Something seems amiss in the fact that there are legal repercussions for bad drivers but not bad reporters; however, conditions of First Amendment rights are extremely complex when it comes to our "societal privileges."
From this news writing course I've learnt that journalism is capable of an exceptional amount of damage when attention to fairness and ethics is not dutifully paid. Derek asks where reports should draw the line on pleading first amendment rights whenever confronted with abusing the freedom of press. This is an excellent question, because whenever legal responsibility is not forced there is room for individuals to act inappropriately without fear of reprimand. Still, I think there is enough public pressure placed on the news industry that fairness is held in high opinion. The news depends on audience support; if a news organization exhibits a shady code of ethics, people are not going to stand behind it. News is for the public, first. Journalists should always strive for a respectable level of morality in their stories, if for no other reason than to be proud of the content of their work. If we value our privileges we should not misuse them, advice sometimes easier said than applied.