“Who’s a Journalist?”
I think that defining journalists apart from those who share information with the public isn’t as difficult as it appears. In my opinion, a journalist is a person who adheres to a code of ethics to disseminate news in a objective, focused way. A journalist is a person who, regardless of whether they work for a media organization, interviews experts on their topic, refuses to provide or accept payment and does not allow him or herself to appear biased on the topic. For example, I do not define myself as a journalist, despite my major. When asked, I would say that I am a student majoring in journalist who would like to pursue a career as a writer and storyteller, because I do not consider myself to be able to be objective on the subjects I write about. I think that defining a journalist concisely will allow federal shield laws to work the way they are intended to, and I agree with the set of ethical guidelines that Mr. Kent wrote about in his post.
EJ Preface and Introduction
I loved this introduction, and I believe that it should be an excerpt read to every potential journalism major in Introduction to Journalism. I think the fundamental principles of journalism have been lost in today’s 24/7 news world, where a majority of us get our news from Twitter or consider Buzzfeed.com a legitimate news organization. However, I do believe that this book is already dated because it barely mentioned the prominence of Twitter in news-gathering and reporting.
The part of the chapter that stuck in my head was the discussion on ethics and morals. The chapter says ethical dilemmas do not come from right and wrong, but rather from two equally compelling alternatives of “better and worse” and “poor and good” and how we examine what works best for our situation. For example, when I was a staff writer at the Alligator, a source told me confidential information on-the-record about the closing of a business in town. After he said the information, he tried to take it back and say it was confidential, but I had heard him. I was torn between the internal dilemma of pursuing that information, as it would be important information for students to know, and respecting the source’s wishes to not follow up on it. I didn’t feel like one option was right or wrong but rather what would be better or worse for me to do. I did end up pursuing the information – and got screamed at by the source in the meantime – but I felt awful about doing so. One of the scenarios mentioned in the chapter was about a public relations professional needing to decide whether to divulge important information about drug interactions to medical experts, and that reminded me no matter what career path I choose, similar ethical dilemmas will exist.
Bok’s Model: Employing the first step of this model, conscience, I would not be able to write this story and knowingly destroy a man’s career and a charity’s fundraising efforts. In the second step, alternatives, would choose the first alternative, running the release, because I think divulging the other facts would cause more harm than good, regardless of whether it’s the truth. In the third step, dialogue, I would attempt to talk to the parties involved but, like I said, I know what I would do.
Case Study 1-A
If you employ Bok’s Model in this case study, you have to look at conscience, alternatives and dialogue. My conscience would tell me to not publish this photograph as it shows the last moments of a young woman’s life. However, when you factor the alternatives, the girls have died and publishing the photograph may lead to public dialogue about the safety of fire escapes across the nation, which it did, and that could lead to many more lives saved over time.
When you employ each guideline of ethical decision-making, you get the same idea. Using Aristotle’s Golden Mean, the virtue you’re showcasing is humility. The last moments of someone’s life caught on camera, and you have it. You need to make the decision of whether it needs to be shared with the world. Using Kant’s guideline, you need to evaluate whether you would want that photograph published if it were you. Personally, I would absolutely not want that published because I would not want my loved ones to have to see it. Using utilitarianism, you would publish the photograph because the outcome is more important that the means: fire escape guidelines and safety measures are changed across the country and more lives are saved. Using Ross’s guideline, you have to weigh the improvement this photograph could have on multiple communities versus the grief it would cause the woman’s loved ones. To me, the grief is painful to deal with. And, finally, using communitarianism, you want to analyze if publishing the photograph has a positive impact on society, which it does. Overall, I do believe that publishing the photograph was the correct call.
Would you cause pain to a victim’s family by publishing a photograph or story that has no guarantee to positively impact society?
Link to ethical issue of the week
My choice for the ethical issue of the week is The Guardian’s decision to remove a blog post by Emma Keller criticizing a cancer patient for live-tweeting her battle and the overall ethics behind blatantly attacking someone for sharing their story. On January 8, Emma Keller wrote an article saying that Lisa Adams’s decision to live-tweet her stage-4 cancer experience was inappropriate. Soon after, her husband, Bill Keller, a New York Times journalist, followed up on her article with an op-ed in a similar tone. This caused Internet uproar because it came across as a married couple using two media organization’s platforms to share the same opinion. Today, the Guardian took down the post (I’ve attached a screenshot of it). They updated the message earlier this afternoon. To me, it’s unethical to use your voice as a journalist to criticize someone in this way.
Ethics vs. Morals: Ethics is a rational process founded on certain agreed-upon terms, whereas morals is based in religious beliefs.
Aristotle’s Golden Mean: Aristotle’s philosophy on ethics. His belief was that to act ethically, you 1) must know what you are doing, 2) select the act for its own sake in order to flourish, and 3) the act must come from firm character so you must genuinely believe in what you choose to do. He believed that the person was more important tahn the act.
Kant’s Categorical Imperative: This ethical guideline is stated in two ways: 1) an individual should act as if choices made could become universal law, and 2) you should act so that you treat each individual as an end and not merely a means. He believed that the act itself was more important that the person.
Utilitarianism: The right act is decided by its contribution to the right end. This guideline focuses on the outcome.
Ross’ Pluralistic Theory of Value: The belief that there is more than one ethical decision competing for our attention when faced with a dilemma.
Communitarianism: This guideline focuses on the outcome of individual ethical decisions when they apply to society as a whole.