Hela Lahar

Applying the Hippocratic Oath to Social Media and News Reporting

In an era where the line between news reporting and social media blur, the integrity of information becomes crucial. Inspired by the Hippocratic Oath, I wish to implore the necessity of truthfulness, context, and ethical responsibility in modern reporting and social media engagement.

The golden era of journalism, characterized by a steadfast commitment to truth and impartiality, seems a distant memory. Today, sensationalism often supersedes accuracy and depth. As both producers and consumers of content, we’ve embraced a culture of “lazy reporting,” where fact-checking and understanding complexity are often neglected. This shift towards binary, oversimplified narratives fosters intellectual lethargy, allowing catchphrases to replace critical thinking, seemingly at no cost. But is it at no cost?

I would argue the opposite. In fact, I would argue the consequences of this shift are profound. At a personal level, it erodes our ability to engage with the world’s inherent complexity. Societally, it reshapes public discourse, diminishing our collective humanity and promoting moral confusion. This erosion of critical engagement has tangible effects, influencing perceptions and actions in ways that can be deeply damaging.

In our complex world, where binary narratives often dominate, nurturing critical thought has become a paramount responsibility, even for the youngest minds among us. Recently, my 10-year-old daughter faced a moral dilemma involving two of her classmates fighting. The way she conveyed the events was seemingly clear cut – one was offensive and the other was offended. Rather than offering immediate judgments and simplistic solutions, I saw an opportunity to instill the values of empathy and critical thinking. I encouraged my daughter to dig deeper, to unravel the motivations behind her friend’s unkind behavior. Rather than hastily categorizing someone as a villain or a victim, we explored the nuances of human experience. The approach was clear: seek to understand before passing judgment.

In an era where social narratives thrive on polarization and oversimplification, this method might seem counterintuitive. Offering empathy to both parties in a conflict might be misconstrued as neglecting the victim. Yet, my intention was far from that. I aimed to teach my daughter that understanding doesn’t equate to agreement or validation but serves as a bridge to pragmatic solutions.

Today’s reality often pushes us towards swift judgments, especially on social media platforms. However, I believe that embracing complexity and encouraging nuanced understanding can lead to more constructive outcomes. If we rush to crown individuals as either victims or villains without understanding their motivations, we perpetuate a cycle of animosity. By opting for empathy over demonization, fostering open dialogue over silencing, and valuing critical thought over divisiveness, we contribute to the solution rather than becoming part of the problem. Our collective responsibility lies not only in raising critical thinkers but in creating a society that thrives on understanding and cooperation. It is through this lens that we can navigate the complexities of our world and build bridges toward a more harmonious future.

The adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is misleading. Words do hurt; they possess the power to shape realities and influence actions. When reporting or sharing information, we must recognize the weight of our words and the responsibilities they entail. Opting for nuanced perspectives does not preclude taking sides; rather, it reflects a commitment to a more comprehensive understanding of the human condition.

Adopting a Hippocratic Oath for media and social reporting is a call for a return to ethical responsibility. It’s about recognizing our role in the larger human tapestry and leading by example. In doing so, we not only elevate public discourse but also contribute to a more empathetic, informed, and responsible society.

About the Author
Hela Lahar is an American-Israeli non-profit executive with extensive experience in facilitating dialogues and designing programs, notably in the complex landscape of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Certified as a dialogue facilitator with RTT, she possesses expertise in Jewish education, international program leadership, cross-cultural work, and grassroots organizing. With a master's in diplomacy and security studies, Hela is committed to fostering a deep understanding of cultural nuances and a global perspective while adeptly navigating diverse environments.
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