Encouraging conversation about ethics
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Encouraging conversation about ethics

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Presentation for the Reynolds High School Institute, Reynolds School of Journalism

Presentation for the Reynolds High School Institute, Reynolds School of Journalism

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  • Ethics are about relationships: do I lie to my parents, do I cheat on my boyfriend, do I drink and drive, do I lie on this job application, do I cheat on a test, do I call in sick, do I report a friend who cheats, what do I do about a friend who’s confided a terrible secret and made me promise not to tell?In line with the theme that journalism education is education for life, ethics conversations are especially useful. They will help students improve their decisionmaking skills and reason through problems more fully and logically.
  • Vincent Ryan Ruggiero, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at Delhi, is recognized internationally as a pioneer in the movement to make the teaching of thinking a central emphasis in education.
  • The challenge comes when our obligations conflict – then we have to pick the one that is most important under the circumstances.
  • When ideals conflict, determine which ideal represents the greater good or the lesser evil, and choose the action which will result in the greater good.

Encouraging conversation about ethics Encouraging conversation about ethics Presentation Transcript

  • promptingconversations about ethics
    Reynolds High School Journalism Institute
    July 2010
    DonicaMensing, Reynolds School of Journalism
  • Survey results
    30% admitted stealing from a store within the past year
    23% said they stole something from a parent or other relative
    42% said that they sometimes lie to save money
    64% said they cheated on a test during the past yearSource: http://charactercounts.org/programs/reportcard/2008/index.html
  • What prevents ethical action?
    Inexperience / lack of awareness
    Emphasis on alternative criteria (economics, self-promotion)
    Indifference / intolerance
    Expediency / deadlines
  • What is ethics?
    Law is focused on the question of what do I have to do?
    Religion is focused on the question of what does God want me to do?
    Ethics is focused on the question: what should I do?
  • Ethical dilemmas
    When moral ideals conflict: honesty vs. loyalty, fairness vs. compassion, privacy vs. truth-telling
    When an action causes harm no matter what choice is made
    Put the focus on reasoning, not rules
  • What are some journalistic dilemmas you’ve encountered in your journalism work?
    Conflicts of interest
    Invasion of privacy
    Use of anonymous sources
    Plagiarism
    Sensationalism
    Coverage of sensitive topics
    Proportion, accuracy, judgment
  • Reasoning through dilemmas
    Consider relevant facts carefully
    Define your obligations
    Identify your ideals
    Consider the consequences
    Make a decision
    (Vincent Ryan Ruggiero, Thinking Critically about Ethical Issues)
  • Obligations
    Personal (respect others)
    Professional (SPJ Code of Ethics):
    Seek truth and report it
    Minimize harm
    Act independently
    Be accountable
  • Ideals
    Ideals are notions of excellence
    truthfulness
    fairness
    tolerance
    compassion
    loyalty
    forgiveness
    Integrity
    justice
    courage
  • Consequences
    Who will be affected by this action? In what ways?
    What short-term consequences are likely to occur? Long-term?
    If harm is unavoidable, can it be mitigated?
  • Decide which action is most ethical
    Talk through the dilemma with trusted colleagues or experienced journalists
    Consider alternative actions that could avoid the dilemma altogether
    Choose the alternative that you believe will result in the greater good or the lesser harm
  • Fallacies to avoid
    Watch for double standards: apply the same rules to yourself as you do to others
    Avoid unwarranted assumptions
    Avoid oversimplification
    Avoid hasty conclusions
  • Intellectual/ethical development
    There are right and wrong answers to every problem and authorities know what they are
    There are conflicting answers to most problems and only the individual knows what is right so it doesn’t matter which answer you choose
    All proposed solutions are supported by reasons within context
    Student integrates knowledge with personal experience and makes a commitment to responsibility
    (Simplified summary of William Perry’s nine steps of intellectual and ethical development in college students)
  • Dilemma
    A horrific two-car car accident occurred in front of the high school after a dance. Eight students were injured. Your best photographer happened to be there and got a hundred photos from before authorities arrived to the full rescue by police and medics.
    Your reporters have witnesses who said the drivers of both cars had been seen drinking outside the dance.
    Your paper only prints every other week and the deadline is in two days. Do you print a story? Front page or inside? What photos do you use? What names do you provide? What do you write about the cause of the accident?
  • Your assignment
    Get in groups of 3 to 4; you are now a small newspaper staff. You have to decide the details of the story you will print, where you will place it, the size and content of the accompanying photos
    Follow Ruggiero’s guidelines and be prepared to share the key facts, obligations, ideals and consequences that were most important to your decision
  • Your editor wants to print a story about the assault. The Hispanic student has agreed to describe what happened but he wants his identity kept confidential.
  • Culture makes a difference
    Ask questions about ethics, guide discussions, raise red flags; don’t wait for a crisis to have a conversation
    Encourage questions, make time for reconsideration, value multiple perspectives
    Understand that the outcome of a decision doesn’t necessarily bring relief, but sometimes doubt
    Keep track of outcomes, discuss consequences, mitigate harm