The proliferation of news and information sources has motivated a need to identify those providing legitimate journalism. One temptation is to go the route of such fields as medicine and law, namely to formally professionalize. This gives a clear method for determining who is a member, with an array of associated responsibilities and rewards. We argue that making such a formal move in journalism is a mistake: Journalism does not meet the traditional criteria, and its core ethos is in conflict (...) with the professional mindset. We thus shift the focus from whether the person is journalist to whether the work satisfies the conditions that characterize legitimate journalism. In explaining those conditions we also look at mechanisms for enhancing the power of persons doing journalism, drawing upon lessons from the labor movement. We also consider a self-declaration model while urging increased literacy from all participants in the news gathering and consuming enterprise. (shrink)
The goal of this article is to try to resolve two key problems in the duty-based approach of W. D. Ross: the source of principles and a process for moving from prima facie to actual duty. I use a naturalistic explanation for the former and a nine-step method for making concrete ethical decisions as they could be applied to journalism. Consistent with Ross's position, the process is complicated, particularly in tougher problems, and it cannot guarantee correct choices. Again consistent with (...) Ross, such complexity and uncertainty speak in the method's favor, given the difficulty?factual, motivational, and organizational?of ethics problems and decision making. (shrink)
Although we think 1 of the basic purposes of journalism is to provide information vital to enhancing citizen autonomy, we also see this goal as being in direct tension with the power news media hold and wield, power that may serve to undercut, rather than enhance, citizen autonomy. We argue that the news media are ethically constrained by proceduralism, resulting in journalists asserting power inappropriately at the individual level, and unwittingly surrendering moral authority institutionally and globally. Anonymity, institutionalization, and routinization (...) cloak power relationships among citizens, journalists and the institutions of which they are a part, ultimately inculcating these distinctly Western values in the global community. (shrink)
Much of the work in professional ethics sees ethical problems as resulting from ethical ignorance, ethical failure or evil intent. While this approach gets at real and valid concerns, it does not capture the whole story because it does not take into account the underlying professional or institutional culture in which moral decision making is imbedded. My argument in this paper is that this culture plays a powerful and sometimes determinant role in establishing the nature of the ethical debate; i.e., (...) it helps to define what are viable action options, what is the organization’s genuine mission, and what behaviors will be rewarded or criticized. Given these conclusions, I also argue that consulting ethicists need more than an understanding of ethics theory, concepts and principles; they also need a sufficiently rich understanding of organizational culture and a willingness and an ability to critique that culture. (shrink)
In this article I describe the theoretical underpinnings of 20th-century British philosopher W. D. Ross's approach to linking deontological and teleological decision making. I attempt to fill in what Ross left on the whole unanswered, that is, how to use his duties to resolve dilemmas. A case study in journalism demonstrates how to apply the theory. I conclude with an analysis of what I take to be the strengths and weaknesses in Ross's theory.
In this article I argue, first, that genuinely effective ombudsmen could help restore news credibility-thereby staving off other, more intrusive external intervention-and that the position must have true sanctioning authority, much like that of the ethics officer in many corporations. I also argue that the effective ombudsman will be one who sufficiently understands the workings of journalism but who is not immersed in its ethos. This distancing is necessary for genuine critical appraisal to be possible.
Journalists are regularly criticized for causing harm to others, such as invading privacy, printing, or airing offensive material, and so forth. Although most sensitive journalists readily acknowledge these harms, they frequently argue that the pursuit and coverage of news is nonetheless justified because it fulfills a greater moral purpose - satisfaction of the public's right to know. This article argues that although "the public s right to know" does justify some harmful journalistic behavior, too often the phrase is used without (...) the conceptual precision necessary to justify the competing harm. That is, journalists often confuse having a right to know with having an interest or curiosity in knowing and such conceptual confusion too often allows journalistic behavior to occur that would otherwise be seen as unethical. (shrink)