Blog Essay Week 2

“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.

ME Ch.1

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.

DQ

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

ethicsMy 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.

Vocabulary

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.

Mina Radman

mradman29@ufl.edu/minaradman29@gmail.com

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4 thoughts on “Blog Essay Week 2

  1. Your DQ really got me thinking. It is hard to determine beforehand what impact a photo will have. But, if you can be certain that the harm certainly outweighs the potential benefit, then I would not print the photo.

  2. Your discussion question is a little vague to me because I think it could go multiple ways. I don’t think that the purpose of running photos is to positively impact society. My answer to this question weighs heavily on what the photo is of and why I wanted to run it in the first place. I don’t think that it is right to cause pain to a victim’s family, but if it is a newsworthy photo that adds to a story it is the circumstances that would sway my decision one way or the other.

    I agree that defining a journalist is a difficult task, however I would call myself as a journalist when working in WUFT. As someone who works in the newsroom, there are guidelines I am expected to follow, such as making sure I present two sides to a story. While outside of the classroom I would not consider myself a journalist. If I report on something that does not have to do with WUFT, I know that I don’t think about every side. I post about what I see, which usually is not the whole story.

    I question your reasoning as to why you wouldn’t be able to run the story and “knowingly destroy a man’s career”. Would you actually feel responsible for ruining his career and take all the blame away from him?

    As far as your ethical issue of the week is concerned, I don’t think that it’s unethical to use your voice to criticize someone in this way. Although I don’t agree with her personal opinion, as a journalist who was writing for the opinion section, I think that Lisa Adam’s was free to say what she wanted. Would I criticize the tweets of a cancer patient? Absolutely not. I don’t even really understand why Lisa Adam’s thought that Emma Keller’s tweets were inappropriate in the first place, but to each his own.

  3. I very much agree with your comments on the EJ reading. I enjoyed the preface and introduction, but I also felt social media was not addressed nearly enough.

    In regard to your comments in the ME reading and PR scenario, I remembered some internal questions I thought to myself while I held an internship at a PR firm between my freshman and sophomore years. I was trying to figure out if Journalism was the right major for me or maybe a different major in the College of Journalism and Communications. I thought to myself a lot with some of the cases we handled and wondered what I would do in situations that compromised my personal political, religious, and other ethical beliefs. I decided journalism was more for me than PR because it would be, and is, incredibly hard for me to support a company or product I believe doesn’t align with my ethics and values.

    To answer your Discussion Question, I think it would depend on the issue of whether I would publish a photograph or story that has no guarantee to positively impact society. It’s definitely a hard choice to make. There are several tragic stories and photographs, such as those from 9/11 and issues in the Middle East, that come to mind when I think of this question. Because we cannot know how people will react (families or public), I think it depends on if the issue is something that is the public’s right to know. There are definitely ways to minimize negative effects of a story or photograph I would implement depending on its nature. Regarding photographs, they could be published in black and white, hidden within a paper rather than publishing on the front page, and reduced to a smaller size.

    Looks like we picked the same ethical issue of the week! I didn’t know about the op-ed part of this issue from the husband when I published my blog. The whole issue has an even more serious tone to it now that I know that. I agree that using a journalist platform is not the appropriate way to disseminate this couple’s opinions on such a topic as cancer patients tweeting their experience.

  4. I don’t have a definitive answer to your discussion question. I think whether or not I would publish a story or picture that could cause pain for the victim’s family would vary on a case by case basis. In your question you ask if you would publish if there was no guarantee that society would be positively impacted, which means depending on the situation society could benefit. When it comes to making a decision like that I would have to evaluate if there was some truth that I felt I was obligated to report as a journalist.
    Your ethical issue was interesting. I think that as an opinion writer Emma Keller is technically free to write about what she wants to, although I suppose it was unethical to violate the code for the publication she was writing for. In terms of the criticism of a cancer patient, I definitely feel that is morally wrong, but when it comes to journalism ethics there is some gray area.

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