Golden rule?

中国日报网 2015-12-18 10:11



Golden rule?

Reader question:

Please explain “golden rule” as in: “Objectivity is a golden rule of journalism.” Is “golden rule” a fixed phrase?

My comments:

Gold being a most precious metal, anything golden is by extension something highly valued and to be treasured. We talk about, for example, a golden boy, a golden sunset, a golden opportunity, so on and so forth.

A golden rule, then, is such a valuable principle (rule) that you at no time want to violate it.

In our example, you can paraphrase the above sentence as follows: Objectivity in journalism is a cardinal principle, a most important value.

As a practicing journalist, I want to add my two pence to this topic by emphasizing that this is exactly so. Without being objective, anything any hack writes is either outright propaganda or advertisement or whatever you may call it.

Another point for me to readily add is that a lot of journalists cannot even agree on what being objective is about. That is understandable, because one person’s idea of being objective will be regarded as nothing but being subjective (and peculiar) in the eyes of another, given their different politics and world view. I mean, we cannot avoid being subjective entirely, can we?

Because of this, people nowadays often talk about fairness while discussing the subject. By fairness, they mean to say a reporter should not give one-sided views. If, for example, you’re writing a story in which one man accuses another of something, you should talk to the other person and get his or her reaction or response before publishing the story.

That’s being fair.

Now, back to “golden rule”. Indeed, it is a fixed phrase. As a matter of fact, it’s often spelt Golden Rule, in capital letters. Golden Rule usually refers to the universally accepted principle governing social conduct, that is, one of the most important rules governing our relations to one another, i.e. treating others the way you want yourself to be treated.

In other words, treat others with kindness and respect if you want them to treat you likewise.

In the words of Christians, love your neighbor. Do not do unto others what you don’t want to do unto you.

In China, we share a similar idea, as Confucius said: Do not impose on others what you don’t wish to have for yourself.

If you have any empathy, like, at all, you’ll have no problem agreeing with this principle. Mutual respect is what makes the world go round.

Peacefully, I mean.

No more ado. Here are media examples of “golden rule”:

1. In a cryptic, telling comment on Army Chief Gen V K Singh’s recent controversial comments, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tonight said, “Sometimes silence is a golden rule.

On his way from Myanmar to Delhi, the Prime Minister was asked by reporters about Gen Singh's recent TV interviews in which he, among other comments critical of the government, had alleged that his letter to the PM was leaked by the Ministry of Defence.

Without elaborating, the Prime Minister made his cryptic response and moved on to the next question.

Gen Singh, whose tenure ends on May 31, had last week voiced criticism of the Defence Ministry for “selectively leaking” information to “fix” him.

- Sometimes silence is a golden rule: PM on VK Singh’s remarks,, May 29, 2012.

2. The golden rule, or the ethics of reciprocity, is an Islamic moral principle which calls upon people to treat others the way they would like to be treated. According to the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, the golden rule is defined as:

Any form of the dictum: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. In some form this is found in almost all religions and ethical systems.

This principle was stated several times by our Prophet Muhammad, so it is a principle Muslims should discuss when sharing Islam with people of other religions.

Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

“None of you has faith until he loves for his brother or his neighbor what he loves for himself.” [Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Number 72]

- Golden Rule in Islam,, February 26, 2013.

3. The NBA trade rumor season is upon us once again. So prepare yourselves for rehashed rumors, made up trade ideas, and fake rumors that spread like a forest fire through the bowels of the internets.

I don’t mean to come off overly patronizing here, but it seems like every year we have to re-learn some basic truths about the NBA trade rumor mill. Many (perhaps most) of you already get much of this, but I know that there are some folks that need a refresher. So as a veteran of covering the rumor mill for over a decade, I thought I’d offer up some tips and truths to cling to when things get a little out of hand.

1. Everyone is lying about something. Everyone in this game has an agenda of some sort. GMs want to position themselves for the best possible leverage. Agents want to put their clients in the best possible situations. Owners want to drum up positive PR. Sportswriters want to sell copy (or clicks or whatever it is we sell these days). Rumors that have any merit at all start from someone leaking information to someone else for a purpose. Most of the time it only tells a portion of the story that benefits the leaker. Really good NBA writers will follow up with additional inquiries to dig to the bottom of an issue and will try to present the facts as rationally as possible. But at some point they are only as good as their sources and if they are being lied to, that's not necessarily on them.

2. Not all media are created equal. As I mentioned in the point above, good writers will vet their sources and develop long term working relationships with people in “the know.” They will sit on information if it isn't corroborated and they will hold off breaking something until getting the other side of the story. Not-so-good writers will break any juicy tidbit that drops into their laps via the ballboy’s math tutor. Then there are the spam-level “news” sites that simply look to generate clicks by re-posting anything they read, no matter how far fetched. There’s a lot of grey area between “good” and “bad” media and frankly I’m not always sure where blogs land on that spectrum, but we do our best to be responsible on this blog.

6. Listen to everything, believe nothing. I get it, it is fun to find a rumor on a message board and imagine that you’ve got inside information that the rest of the world hasn’t been made privy to yet. Hearing about something first can be a thrill. But don’t get roped in. I always assume it is a false report and seek out some kind confirmation before trusting a random source. I been emailed with rumors that sounded legit and I had no reason to question but I didn’t run with them because I didn’t have collaboration and frankly I’m not in the business of being an insider (it is a thankless, messy, mostly fruitless job).

7. Have fun with it. Remember that this is all in good fun. Debates are fun and rumors are great fodder for debating. Just be nice to the people you are debating with. Don’t shoot the messenger. Don’t be “that guy” that assumes everyone else is an idiot and can’t believe everyone doesn’t see things their way. Nobody likes a smarmy or combative person. We all have blind spots and in the right environment we can all learn from each other which makes the experience richer. That’s the goal here. Remember my golden rule: respect each other.

So think things through and enjoy rumor season responsibly. Cheers.

- NBA trade rumor season - my annual reminder to believe nothing, by Jeff Clark,, December 16, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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