Media Code Of Ethics Essay, Research Paper
Media Ethics Definition
Webster s New World Pocket Dictionary defines ethics as moral standards and as a system of morals. Webster s then defines moral as, of or dealing with right or wrong. Similarly, media ethics are moral standards that are applied to the media. An example of this is the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics(1), a standardized list of items that members of the SPJ use as a guide in their strides to be effective journalists. In a similar manner, media professionals sometimes use their code of ethics as a device to shield themselves from attacks that are often led by individuals from the public who are dissatisfied with the journalist s work. Just as codes of ethics are utilized in various ways, the definition of media ethics is multifaceted.
There is no single, ruling definition of media ethics. Instead, the concept of media ethics exists in many forms that are all based on a similar premise of acting as a blueprint from which media personnel can base their practices and their decisions. Ethics are not absolute rules, and individuals who work with codes of ethics are not legally bound to them. But, a media worker may be held professionally responsible for their actions if they are in conflict with their profession s code of ethics. For example, if a journalist was to include racist remarks in their newspaper story about an Asians American politician, that journalist would not likely be arrested, but they would certainly be fired from their job. Even though ethics are not as absolute as laws, individuals can still be held accountable both socially and professionally, if they intentionally or carelessly break the code of ethics that they work from.
Ethics vary from individual to individual in the same way that they vary from organization to organization. In Webster s definition of ethics as a system of morals, it is important to recognize that the definition of morals can vary greatly form one person to another. My personal moral standards are substantially different from the moral standards of a Catholic Bishop, who was raised in a strict Roman Catholic household. This is to say that my ideas of what is right and what is wrong would be considerably different from a Bishop s concept of right and wrong. This is what makes the term ethics, and specifically media ethics difficult to define, because there is not a universal mindset as to what is morally correct.
Luckily, there is enough of a standard among the different media professions to allow for a general outline of ethical standards that is accepted by the large majority of media workers. This general standardization grants the media credibility that it would not otherwise receive from its ever-watchful public, who it relies as both a source of material and also as a source of income.
Revised Sutdent Ethics Code
My group has chosen to adopt the SPJ Code of Ethics as our model code of journalistic ethics. We based our decisions on the premise that we were building an ideal code that would be applied to our journalistic efforts as editors and reporters on a student-run campus publication
After carefully reviewing the SPJ Code of Ethics, we decided to utilize a majority of the code as it was already written. We did make some changes as they applied to our own campus publication. The SPJ Code is written around the same central purpose of public enlightenment that our group believes is the most important task of the journalists. Our group decided that the overall order of the SPJ Code of Ethics follows along with the same general order that we assigned to the ethical values of the code. As a group, we did decide that we would change the order and wording of some of the points in each of the SPJ s four sections. I personally feel strongly about the changes that we made because I believe that they are necessary to help guarantee that our paper will be the best that it can be.
In the report section of Seek Truth and Report It, I made more changes than I did in any of the other three sections. SPJ s third standard, to identify sources whenever feasible, does not meet standards for our newspaper. I think that it is crucial that our publication identifies all of its sources that we use for our information. This is because the public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources reliability and their identity. By giving sources’ identity we are taking every possible step to report the truth and to discourage people from using anonymity as a mask for their own biased intentions. Along with changing this standard, I also changed the following standard that read, Always question sources motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises. In my new code I will never promise anonymity, therefor I changed the standard to read, Always question sources motives. Clarify conditions involved in exchanging information. Make no promises. The sixth SPJ standard, which states that the content of news photos or videos should never be distorted, is effective, but it is not specific enough. Our group believed that no image should ever be altered by our publication, not even flipping a picture to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Also, I think that the seventh standard should be moved to the very bottom of the Seek Truth section because it does rarely applies to a campus publication. I also moved the 15th standard towards the top of the section because I think that distinguishing between advocacy and news reporting is very important. All analysis and commentary should be clearly labeled and not confused with the news content of our paper.
The SPJ s section under Minimize Harm is written clearly and it closely fits with our publication s ethical standards. Minimizing harm is a responsibility that is an inherent part of journalism that I believe all journalists should include in both their professional lives and their private lives. All of the SPJ s standards are very important and they do a good job of covering the aspects of minimizing harm. There are two adjustments that I made to the SPJ s list that I think made the Code even more focused and effective. I chose to move the fifth standard that reads, Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, to the very top of the list. I did this because if a journalist shows good taste, they will already be acting in accordance to the other six standards. The other change that I made was to the sixth standard. I changed the last part of the phase, Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes. I deleted the words, or victims of sex crimes, because I strongly believe that sex crimes and their victims should be treated like any other violent crime. It is my belief that a victim s name should always be printed, just like it would be if they had been beaten or shot. By excluding the victim s name, journalists are helping to perpetuate the notions that rape is a shameful crime and that the victim is somehow at fault.
Acting independently is something that all journalists must do. This is especially important for our campus publication because we have great freedom to act independently of big business and other interest groups, unlike the major publications in our area. The first change that I made to the SPJ s code was to move the fifth standard to the very top of the list. This is because if all journalists Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable, then they will be taking a large step towards enacting all of the other six standards. The second change that I made was to change the fourth standard to read, Disclose all unavoidable conflicts in a clear and effective disclaimer. This would help to free the publication from criticism that says that it is not doing all that it can to recognize and address all conflicts that may arise from the coverage or content of the paper.
When I read the sub-heading to the SPJ s section of Be Accountable, I made a minor change that I feel is necessary to our code. I added the word equally to the phrase, Journalists are equally accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other. This is a minor clarification but it does force the reader to change the way that they think about the five standards. The only other change that I made to this section was to move the second standard to the bottom of the list. This is because of the fact that if all of the other standards are emphasized and closely followed, the public will likely have fewer grievances against the news media that they would want to voice. I do think that encouraging the public to voice their grievances is important but hopefully it will become less necessary as the journalists do a better job of following the other four standards.
Overall, the SPJ Code of Ethics is a very solid platform from which we created our new code of ethics. I know that an effective code of ethics can play a large role in uniting journalists in their dedication to ethical behavior. Our new journalistic code of ethics perfectly addresses all of the behaviors that play an integral role in making our campus publication a true showcase of journalistic ideas.