Why Ethics Matters in Media? - Media and Ethics - Ethical Theory


Why should journalists practice sound ethics?

Usually, responses can be divided into two broad categories:

1. The moral incentive

  • Journalists should be ethical because they see themselves as decent and honest human beings.
  • To crave self-esteem, which is very natural
  • To get the respect of others
  • A psychic reward for doing something good-for don't want to be known as someone who has exploited someone.

2. The practical incentive

  • In the long term, it promotes news organizations' credibility and thus its acceptance in public.
  • This translates into commercial success- just as a consumer would choose a product with a trusted brand name over a no-name alternative when seeking quality.

Ethics is a set of moral principles, a code- often unwritten- that guides a person's conduct. Media and Ethics. Ethical Theory.

Defining Ethics

Ethics is a set of moral principles, a code- often unwritten- that guides a person's conduct. According to Michael Josephson, there are two aspects to ethics:

1. The first involves discerning right from wrong, good from evil, and decency from impropriety.

2. The second involves committing to do what is right, sound, and proper.

So ethics is about how we meet the challenge of doing the right thing when that will cost more than we want to pay.

According to Keith Woods:

Ethics is the pursuit of right when wrong is a strong possibility

The origins of Ethical Theory

  • The ethical theory evolved in ancient societies as a basis for justice and the orderly functioning of the group, a purpose it still serves today.
  • Ten Commandments 1500BC- they were admonished not to steal, kill, or lie
  • Ethics from Greek word- ethos- meaning character- a Greek citizen would be honest simply because it would be unthinkable to be dishonest
  • Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato believed that: the individual, in living a virtuous life, would form part of an overall ethical community
  • Socrates: the unexamined life is not worth living.
  • Golden Rule: the essence of being an ethical person which is to consider the needs of others  Or Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

The criterion of reversibility as stated by Rush M. Kidder:

  • Bible(Mathew): all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
  • Jews(Talmud): that you hold as detestable do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole law: the rest is but commentary.
  • Islam: None of you is a believer if he does not desire for his brother what he wishes for himself.
  • Confucius(551-479 BCE) is undoubtedly the golden maxim: Do not do to others what we do not want them to do to us.

Transmitting a Society's Ethical values

Over time values were passed down through socialization- the new generation absorbed the importance of the community. Louis A. Day identifies four main conduits for transmitting values

  1. Family
  2. Peer groups-friends etc.- a powerful urge to go with the crowd
  3. Role models-famous people; or someone they knew personally- urged to emulate them
  4. Societal institutions-media- drama, television ,cinema

How we fix our beliefs

Charles Peirce (1839-1914), an American pragmatist, philosopher, mathematician, and physicist, explored how we know what we think we know how we fix our beliefs. He concluded that individuals and societies rely upon four basic and hierarchical ways of knowing.

  1. Tenacity - merely believing in something out of blind prejudice or through unquestioned adherence to traditions- learned through our Parents, places of worship, teachers, coaches professional colleagues. Once we latch onto these simple, all-encompassing explanations, we use them automatically to define and resolve continuing problems and as shortcuts to handling new situations. Holding tenaciously and dogmatically to our beliefs is more accessible than grappling with troubling nuances. That is why dogmatic and visceral people make decisions quickly and seemingly with more certainty.
  2. Authority - to accept ideas passed on to us by various authority figures- secular or religious person or institution, etc. the extent to which we tentatively or wholeheartedly accept opinions from authority figures says a lot about how open or closed-minded we are. Careful, rational filtering of ideas from authorities is a sign of mental and moral maturity; blind obedience and willful deference are not. In some environments, elders clarify that experience and opinions are to be challenged; authority serves as a form of social control. In other cases, an open environment encourages exploration and even tolerates some mistakes.
  3. Intuition - beyond authority-based beliefs are the ones we generate by our intuition, best judgments. Through a wide variety of opinions and observations, we are running them through our filters- filters created by our particular lot in life, our professional backgrounds, our demographic(age, sex, gender, income, place of residence, etc), and psychographic variables(our values and motivations), our attentiveness or indifference our self-interests, etc.
  4. Science - after we have transcended tenacity and authority and have come to rely on good intuition, what happens when the well-meaning impulses or one person are not in accord with the well-meaning intentions of others? What happens when good people see the world differently because their filters are dissimilar? How then do we reach a meaningful consensus? Peirce's answer was to use the scientific method. Science does not decide until evidence is gathered; it asks to be objective in assessing ideas and experiences rather than jumping to conclusions. It says our opinions and conclusions should stand up to public scrutiny. In essence, we are describing Principled decision making.

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Ethical Dilemma - A Conflict in Ethical Values


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