Objective journalism is blamed frequently for all sorts of journalistic failures and weaknesses, but the critiques typically are flawed because their authors fail to understand objectivity or to define it precisely. This defense of objective journalism defines objectivity and suggests that it is indispensable in a free society, summarizes major critiques of and alternatives to objectivity, and proposes that critics and defenders might serve journalism best by seeking common ground.
Ethicists in and out of the profession have argued that a journalist's precept to report only the truth is deduced, say, from utilitarianism's appeal to social utility or Rawls' appeal to justice as fairness. The mistake in this is indicated by an argument that the physician owes his or her professional ethic to the human need for health and the lawyer's to the human need for justice. The journalist, therefore, may well owe his or her professional regard for truthful reporting (...) to everyone's need for news?a critical element in a democratic society. So, instead of basing journalisticethics in the fashionable moral philosophies of the modern era, it is better to argue that it grows out of the special nature of the craft, as imbedded in a more venerable notion of self fulfilling social responsibility. (shrink)
El Paso Times journalists routinely face ethical dilemmas as they cover difficult stories amid all of the violence in neighboring Ciudad Juarez. This ethnographic study, which utilizes participant-observation and in-depth interviews, examines how journalists deal with tough ethical choices. It reveals how reporters and editors at the El Paso Times consider the needs of the public and the ramifications of their stories. The journalists strive to be accurate and fair while protecting their sources and themselves. They weigh the importance of (...) each story with its potential for risk. (shrink)
This paper uses Beijing Youth Daily , the second biggest local newspaper in Beijing, as a case study to examine Chinese news people's perceptions of their professional roles and unethical practices. The author argues that Chinese journalistic professionalism has developed. Journalists see their most fundamental role as that of disseminator. Their concepts of professional roles and virtues are surprisingly similar to those held by journalists in liberal democratic countries. However, Chinese journalists' partial representation of the party/state and their tolerance (...) towards unethical practices such as paid journalism or “red envelopes” suggest they are more likely to be under pressures from both politics and commerce. (shrink)
Government has played a pervasive and largely overlooked role in journalists' ethical decision making. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules governing program content, and a libel law system run amok, are only two wats government influences journalists' behavior. This substitution of government ethics for private ethics creates minimum standards of conduct rather than challenging journalists to an ethical ideal. More subtly, government erects structural barriers to the development of the very technologies (like cable TV) that can offer journalists a (...) more ethically hospitable environment. In the information age, ethicists will need to be aware of, and wary of, government attempts to control development of the very media that hold the greatest ethical promise. (shrink)
A 1998 Cincinnati Enquirer investigation into the Central American labor practices of Chiquita Brands International was substantiated by the taped words of company officials themselves. Yet, soon after publication, the Enquirer ran a stunning front-page retraction and disavowed the report without challenging its claims. The Gannett Corporation, the paper's owner, paid Chiquita $14 million to avoid a suit. The resultant outcry by journalists was directed not at Gannett, but at lead reporter Michael Gallagher, who had surreptitiously accessed Chiquita voice mail (...) to support his allegations. Rather than being lauded as a tough investigative reporter serving a greater good, Gallagher was fired, convicted, sued by Chiquita, and vilified in the media. Was the backlash driven simply by higher ethical standards or also by anxieties about intrusive technology? A reexamination of the case suggests the latter explanation and helps frame an evolving debate about electronic eavesdropping by the media. (shrink)
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)
Many philosophers approach values by defining what is good, what has value or, often, what ought to be. The concept that humankind's values could be measured has brought social sciences into the valuation realm. Social scientists began value measurement in the 1900s. At the same time, the concept of fundamental human values spread. The widely-used Rokeach Value Survey is adapted to test for value differences among cosmopolitan and community journalists. Journalists have common values, but other factors such as community heterogeneity (...) or pluralism, and occupational and organizational influences, may affect the way journalists prioritize values. (shrink)
ABSTRACTEthical scandals involving journalists in English-speaking West African countries have been documented to include conflict of interest, freebies, intellectual theft, deception, carelessness, kowtowing to advertisers and politicians, use of dubious evidence, and outright bias. This study explores how pronounced and clear the rules relating to these breaches are in the codes of these countries and whether the similarities and dissimilarities in wording indicate the influence of individual actors involved in writing them. Relying on thematic and qualitative document analysis methods, the (...) study found that rules in the codes addressing the ethical breaches are pronounced and clear. Although largely similar in content, the codes also feature important differences that are strongly related to the composition of the groups that wrote them. This study discusses why ethical challenges in these countries persist in the midst well-written code of ethics. (shrink)
Many journalists, readers and scholars exhibit confusion concerning the nature and justification of deception. In this article, we clarify those acts that should count as deception. Before discussing if any cases of deception can be construed as morally justified, we clarify which investigative, interrogative, and information-giving techniques are deceptive on their face. We also bracket borderline cases.
In a Web-based survey of 740 investigative journalists, competition and medium emerge as the 2 most salient predictors of journalists' tolerance of deception. Journalists who view competition as an important consideration in ethical decision making are more tolerant of deception. Television journalists have a higher tolerance of deception than print journalists. Overall, organizational factors such as medium and organization size are better predictors of deception tolerance than individual-level variables such as age, education, work experience, journalism as a college major, or (...) media ethics instruction. (shrink)
With a category system drawn from the ethical elements listed in the American Society of Newspaper Editors' (ASNE) Canons of Journalism, this analysis examines Editor & Publisher's discussion and debate of the problems of journalism on its editorial page in the more than 20 years leading up to ASNE's adoption in 1923 of the first nationwide code of ethics for the newspaper industry. This study confirmed the presumption that the code was a culmination of an ongoing and historical conversation (...) about the normative standards of journalism in the newspaper industry's primary trade journal. It showed that Editor & Publisher raised every one of the ethical issues and problems of journalism outlined in the Canons, to include responsibility of the press, truthfulness and accuracy, partisanship, independence, freedom of the press, propaganda, and sensationalism. (shrink)
Ethics for Journalists tackles many of the issues which journalists face in their everyday lives-- from the media's supposed obsession with sex, sleaze and sensationalism, to issues of regulation and censorship. Its accessible style and question and answer approach highlights the relevance of ethical issues for everyone involved in journalism, both trainees and professionals, whether working in print, broadcast or new media.
What are ethics? -- News : towards a definition -- Morality of reporting -- The good journalist -- Truth, accuracy, objectivity and trust -- Privacy and intrusion -- Reputation -- Gathering the news -- Reporting the vulnerable -- Deciding what to publish -- Taste and decency : harm and offence -- Professional practice -- Regulation -- History of print regulation -- History of broadcast regulation -- Codes of conduct as a regulatory system -- Press regulation systems in the UK (...) and Ireland -- Broadcast regulation systems in the UK and Ireland -- The experience abroad. (shrink)
This study identifies citizen journalists' role conceptions regarding their news contributing activities and their perceptions of professional journalists' roles. Specifically, the ethical criterion of media credibility was assessed to identify predictors on their perceptions of roles. Analyses reveal citizen journalists perceive their roles to be generally similar to professional journalists and even rated certain roles more prominently for themselves. Further, their perceptions of media credibility were found to function as a core belief in how they assessed their roles and also (...) those of professional journalists, which has implications for a system of open ethics. (shrink)
Journalism's trade magazines were established just as press members began debating the value of professionalism. These magazines had the potential to become important voices in the professionalizing debate because of their national distribution. This study reveals that although journalists remained divided over the value of professionalism, they valued Editor & Publisher more than The Journalist because Editor & Publisher took a leadership role on the professionalism debate, defining professionalism and explaining what standards and group norms were expected from professional journalists. (...) The Journalist' s downward circulation spiral appears largely linked to its inabilities to provide journalists with a commanding voice on professionalism. (shrink)
Ethics in Journalism examines journalism ethics in practice. It examines the social context of the newsroom, the economics of the news industry and cultural expectations of what constitutes news. Covering ethical issues in the multimedia journalism environment of the 21st Century, Ethics in Journalism updates theory and history through a discussion of contemporary and recent case studies that are aligned with the underlying principles of various codes of ethics and charters of editorial practice. The book provides (...) contextualized case studies and discussion questions for classroom use, covering ethical issues in a logical manner, beginning with broad principles before focusing on specific examples. (shrink)
Each story is presented as a narrative, so readers can ponder: What would I do if this happened to me? When they've finished the book, they'll feel prepared with an array of theoretical and practical approaches for thinking on their feet.
Since the introduction of radio and television news, journalism has gone through multiple transformations, but each time it has been sustained by a commitment to basic values and best practices. Journalism Ethics is a reminder, a defense and an elucidation of core journalistic values, with particular emphasis on the interplay of theory, conceptual analysis and practice. The book begins with a sophisticated model for ethical decision-making, one that connects classical theories with the central purposes of journalism. Top scholars (...) from philosophy, journalism and communications offer essays on such topics as objectivity, privacy, confidentiality, conflict of interest, the history of journalism, online journalism, and the definition of a journalist. The result is a guide to ethically sound and socially justified journalism-in whatever form that practice emerges. Journalism Ethics will appeal to students and teachers of journalism ethics, as well as journalists and practical ethicists in general. (shrink)
What are ethics? Why does ethical journalism matter? How do ethics affect good journalism? Ethics and Journalism provides a comprehensive overview of the main approaches to ethical enquiry in Western journalism. It examines the ethical dilemmas faced by journalists in all areas of the media and sets our ways of achieving ethical journalism. Ethics and Journalism: - Explores such subjects as: private lives and the public interest, relations to sources and coverage of death, disease and destruction (...) - Examines the role of regulation and self-regulation of the media industry - Discusses strategies of good journalism - Thoroughly examines the role of industry codes. Ethics and Journalism is informed by interviews with top journalists and editors and is written in a clear and accessible style. It includes an exhaustive bibliography as well as an excellent list of relevant web-sites. It will be essential reading for all journalism, media and politics students studying journalism and ethics, as well as for those who already work in the media and are interested in understanding ethical issues. (shrink)
This article argues that basic ethical principles of U.S. journalism as described in the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics are the result of, and a response to, cognitive bias and error. Cognitive biases and errors necessitate journalistic best practices to correct or attenuate them. Social cognitive processes explored include stereotyping, confirmation bias, and attribution. These concepts are noteworthy because each may be activated by the practice of journalism, and each has been shown to be susceptible to (...) attenuation through specific practices. The article concludes with ideas for integrating cognition into journalism education. (shrink)
(2013). Is Ideological Coverage On Cable Television An Ethical Journalistic Practice? An Examination of Duty, Responsibility, and Consequence. Journal of Mass Media Ethics: Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 1-14. doi: 10.1080/08900523.2012.746533.
This exploratory study investigated the ramifications of e-mail and listservs as modes of journalistic ethical discussion. Results of the e-mail questionnaire to online newspaper journalists indicated that, although American online journalists overwhelmingly use e-mail to conduct both professional and personal business, it is unlikely that many are logging on to electronic discussion groups to discuss ethical issues. Moreover, this study suggests that the "informality" of listservs may reflect their perceived ineffectiveness and consequent underutilization by journalists. Journalists who do participate (...) in listservs may view the "ethical" component as a minor element of their overall Web activities. (shrink)
The anti-commodification and social responsibility traditions of media criticism emphasize journalism's function as a public good. This commentary supplements that perspective by calling attention to the status of journalistic authority as a “positional” good. Such goods can be possessed only by a limited number of people in relation to others. For news producers, the reputation of journalistic authority cannot itself be a public good. When news is conveyed to mass audiences, some voices will be perceived to have that (...) authority while most will not. To illustrate the social laws of competition for journalistic authority, a theme in media criticism from the liberal blogosphere is discussed. The point of this discussion is to highlight the social dynamic that informs perceptions of journalistic authority when that authority cannot always be inspected through rational-critical analysis. (shrink)
This paper makes the case for conceptualizing news as a contested commodity. It offers an unprecedented application of commodification theory to the problem of the sustainability of a free press in a democracy. When the news media are expected to be purveyors of the public interest while pursuing profits for their corporate owners, the result often is a clash of capitalist and journalistic imperatives. The amoral values of the market system conflict with the moral agency of a free press, (...) and the two are inherently incompatible. This study presents a synthesis of otherwise divergent theoretical perspectives to examine the free press-free market paradox from a new vista. The author concludes regulatory reforms are needed to insulate the press from the predatory expansion of a free market system that permeates every aspect of social life, including the production of news. “American mainstream media have become the watchdog and guardian of the corporate bottom line instead of the vanguard of democracy and the public interest…. Driven by profit maximization … Instead of protecting against abuses of government power by keeping the public adequately informed, they have become complicit in destabilizing and undermining American democracy.” —Elliot D. Cohen (2005a, p. 17). (shrink)
The Moral Media provides readers with preliminary answers to questions about ethical thinking in a professional environment. Representing one of the first publications of journalists' and advertising practitioners' response to the Defining Issues Test (DIT), this book compares thinking about ethics by these two groups with the thinking of other professionals. This text is divided into three parts: *Part I includes chapters that explain the DIT and place it within the larger history of three fields: psychology, philosophy, and mass (...) communication. It also provides both a statistical (quantitative) and narrative (qualitative) analysis of journalists' responses to the DIT. *Part II adds to scholarship theory building in these three disciplines and makes changes in the DIT that adds an element of visual information processing to the test. *Part III explores the larger meaning of this effort overall and links the results to theory and practice in these three fields. The Moral Media pursues connections among various intellectual disciplines, between the academy and the profession of journalism, and among those who believe that what journalists do is essential. As a result, this book is appropriate for aspiring journalists; scholars in journalism and mass communication; psychologists, particularly those interested in human development and behavior; and philosophers. (shrink)
Public dissatisfaction with the news media frequently gives rise to calls for journalists to live up to the ethical standards of their profession. But what if the fault lies in part with the standards themselves?Jeremy Iggers argues that journalism’s institutionalized conversation about ethics largely evades the most important issues regarding the public interest and the civic responsibilities of the press. Changes in the ownership and organization of the news media make these issues especially timely; although journalism’s ethics rest (...) on the idea of journalism as a profession, the rise of market-driven journalism has undermined journalists’ professional status.Ultimately, argues Iggers, journalism is impossible without a public that cares about the common life. A more meaningful approach to journalism ethics must begin with a consideration of the role of the news media in a democratic society and proceed to look for practical ways in which journalism can contribute to the vitality of public life.Written in an accessible style, Good News, Bad News is important reading for journalists, communication scholars, and students. (shrink)