Ethical behavior and journalists


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Ethical behavior and journalists

  1. 1. The most difficult challenge faced by journalists is to:1 – get the facts right2 – tell the story fairlyETHICAL BEHAVIOR ANDJOURNALISTS
  2. 2. What is ethical behavior? Certain professions adopt guidelines for ethical behaviors that “should” be followed by members of that profession, including:  Doctors, lawyers, real estate agents and journalists  The Society of Professional Journalists adopted a Code of Ethics that focuses on four main points:  Seek the truth and report it  Minimize harm  Act independently  Be accountable
  3. 3. The musts… Ethics must be both learned and developed. You must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility – a moral compass Each of us must be willing to voice these differences. This is one of the greatest parts about working for a free press.
  4. 4. It’s your job to be ethical Ethical errors are a great sin. You could make or break the lives of the people you cover. You could make an ethical error by:  Gathering info hurriedly, wanting to be the first to break a story, not thinking through the ramifications of a story, not questioning a source hard enough or using sloppy sourcing
  5. 5. So, how do you do it? Doing ethics is reasoned, principled, and consistent thinking about how you can maximize your truth telling obligation while minimizing harm to vulnerable news sources and consumers (your readers) It’s a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality such as:  Good and evil  Right and wrong  Virtue and vice  Justice and crime
  6. 6. Ethics and morals Ethics is your beliefs rather than what is actually right or wrong It’s basically your rights granted by the First Amendment and various court cases and rulings, vs. your moral obligation – why and how you make ethical decisions while on the job, which brings me to another point.
  7. 7. Work ethics How businesses or companies think you should behave Be polite Professional Respectful Dress for the job you want, not the job you have
  8. 8. Personal ethics You may strongly believe you should act or behave in a certain way Table manners How you speak to professors and your superiors How you react to those same people
  9. 9. Checkbook journalism When an organization pays for an interview or photograph – is that ethical? It happens a lot of time on TV
  10. 10. More terms Libel: defamation by written or printed words, pictures or any form other than spoken words or gestures (spoken is slander). Statements must be:  False  Defamatory  Published  With identifiable plaintiffs  Fault of the defendant – through negligence or malice
  11. 11. How to defend against libel Truth Consent Privilege (freedom to report on newsworthy statements and public controversies, including legislative and judicial proceedings)
  12. 12. False light When you run a story, photo, headline or even a caption that portrays someone in an inaccurate way, as something he or she is not Example: a news station shows a live shot of a street corner where prostitutes are said to frequent. Then, a lady walks by in the shot. She sued for false light and won.
  13. 13. 7 deadly sins of journalism Deception – lying or misrepresenting yourself to obtain information Conflict of interest – accepting gifts or favors from sources or promoting social and political causes Bias – slanting a story by manipulating facts to sway readers’ opinions Fabrication – manufacturing quotes or imaginary sources or writing anything you know to be untrue Theft – obtaining information unlawfully or without a source’s permission Burning a source – deceiving or betraying the confidence of those who provide information for a story Plagiarism – passing off someone else’s words or ideas as your own
  14. 14. Ethics matter As journalist’s, you will be torn between the right of the public to know and some other moral tenet – perhaps the invasion of an individual’s privacy, which would militate against publication. Although no one philosophy can always explain a persons motivation, generally speaking, a basic knowledge of the following ethical philosophies will help you learn of your personal perspectives.
  15. 15. 1 Aristotle’s Golden Mean Aristotle wanted everyone to be happy So, he adopted the Golden Mean principle, which is living neither to excess nor to frugality but in moderation somewhere between the two Courage lies between cowardice and recklessness, or think of this as picking the mean and avoiding the extremes However, there are some problems with this. Some virtues are absolute, like truth.
  16. 16. 2 Immanuel Kant’sCategorical Imperative Act according to the maxim that you would wish all other rational people to follow, as if it were a universal law. This means you would act by asking yourself the question, “What if everyone acted this way?”
  17. 17. 3 John Stuart Mill and Unity Instead of that being the good which serves ones own interest and provides for ones own pleasure, the utilitarians take that which produces the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number of people This is the principle of UTILITY, which is about producing the maximum amount of happiness.
  18. 18. 4 John Rawl’s Veil ofIgnorance Seeing everyone through a veil, without noticing age, race, sex, and so on maintains "basic respect for all humans…” What would rational beings decide was best in situations where not all the humans involved are equal in physical conditions, social or economic circumstance? Basically, treat all people equally without regard to their political, economical, social positions There are no advantages for any one class of people when all are reduced to their basic position in life.
  19. 19. The Potter Box The four-step model for deciding ethical dilemmas The first step is to define the facts at hand Second step is to identify your values (breaking the story first, being fair, being accurate, etc.) Third is to apply the ethical principle and how it works in journalism Four is to find your loyalties – for a journalist, pursing the truth that the audience needs to know is a paramount loyalty, but so is your allegiance to the profession, being fair to sources and accurate
  20. 20. The Potter Box
  21. 21. Values Moral Values Aesthetic The values areProximity Truthtelling Harmonious differentFirstness Humanness Pleasing everywhere. InImpact/magnitude Justice/fairness Imaginative Britain, forRecency Freedom instance, theConflict Independence LogicalHuman Interest Stewardship press respects ConsistentEntertainment Honesty the court when CompetentNovelty Nonviolence Knowledge- withholdingToughness Commitment able names ofThoroughness Self-control juveniles. InImmediacy Socio-cultural America, weIndependence Thrift don’t.No prior restraint Hard work We believePublic’s right to Energy everyone has aknow Restraint right to knowWatchdog Heterosexuality the truth.
  22. 22. Loyalties1. Duty to ourselves2. Duty to clients / subscribers / supporters3. Duty to our organization or firm4. Duty to professional colleagues5. Duty to society Ethical decision-making must be marked by a sincere sense of social responsibility and a genuine concern for the citizenry In the Potter Box the loyalty component necessitates the acknowledgment of the implications of a decision for institutions and social groups before an ethical decision is made.
  23. 23. Dilemma #1: Would you use information for a news story that you got from messages posted by discussion groups (special interest email lists) without contacting the people who posted the message? So, your writing a story and check a discussion group that is open to the public from the women’s center at school. You find messages posted by three women who claim to have been sexually molested by a professor. You tried unsuccessfully to contact them by email and phone. The professor refuses to respond to you by email, by phone or in person. Will you use quotes from the discussion group in your story? Will you name the professor? The women? You are on deadline and this is a competitive story…what do you do?
  24. 24. Dilemma #1: The definition: Should we run the comments? The values: accuracy, truth, fairness, privacy Ethical principle: Loyalties:
  25. 25. Dilemma #1: Decision: Journalists should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise to avoid inadvertent error. Journalists should diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them an opportunity to respond to allegations of wrong doing.
  26. 26. Dilemma #2: Should we use obscenities in quotes? What do you do if a source tells you not to quote him after the interview, but before you go to press? We shouldn’t use obscene words unless there is a reason: if the obscenities are crucial, replace them with the first letter and an ellipsis: f… The decision to withdraw quotes after an interview is difficult. Hopefully, you made it clear you were on the record before the interview started. Try negotiating with the source, because you do have the right to use the information because you identified your purpose clearly.
  27. 27. Dilemma #2: The definition: Should we withdraw the quotes? The values: Ethical values: decency, fairness, accuracy, responsibility to readers and sources, credibility Ethical principle: Loyalties:
  28. 28. Dilemma #2: Decision: If it’s more important to be fair to the readers than to be fair to the source, run the quotes. But then again, if you are jeopardizing your newspaper’s credibility against the source’s will, don’t run them. Are the quotes essential to the story?
  29. 29. More dilemmas: You belong to a campus club that is hosting a charity-sponsored event that would make a good story. Should you write it? SPJ says journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know. You should avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived, and should disclose unavoidable information.
  30. 30. More dilemmas: Should you show your story to a source between publication? Journalists are usually opposed to prepublication review by a source in most newsrooms because of fears that the source may recant the statements or may wish to change the copy. Check the story with a source, instead, reading back the technical parts or areas you need clarification. SPJ says journalists should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error? What do you think?
  31. 31. More dilemmas: Should you accept gifts from a source? Does the value of the gift make a difference? Your interviewing a band and the lead singer gives you some swag, a free CD, T-shirt and hat. You do not plan to write a review of the CD. The total value is about $35. Should you accept all, some or none of these gifts? What are your values?
  32. 32. More dilemmas: Values would include credibility, conflict of interest… SPJ says journalists should refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office, and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
  33. 33. More dilemmas: How truthful should you be when faced with a conflict between protecting your client and dealing with the media? You work for a PR firm and deals with a baby crib manufacturing company. Two babies have died when their cribs collapsed. The CEO is reluctant to issue a recall because it would cost the company a fortune.
  34. 34. More dilemmas: The CEO wants you to reassure the media that the cribs are safe and not a direct result of any faulty crib parts. He tells you the product development team warned him a few years ago that the sides of the crib were not secure, but it would be too costly to replace them. If the media asks, he wants you to deny the company ever had any indication the cribs might be defective. Will you lie or withhold information? What steps will you propose to the CEO?
  35. 35. More dilemmas: Values? Truth, credibility, fairness, loyalty to your client The Public Relations Society of America says that a member shall adhere to truth and accuracy and to generally accepted standards of good taste. A member shall safeguard the confidences or present and former clients. A member shall not engage in any practice that tends to corrupt the integrity of channels of communication or the processes of government.
  36. 36. Undercover dilemma Would you go undercover? You received complaints from black students that apartment managers are discriminating against them, saying all the apartments had just been rented in the white neighborhoods. A white and black reporter on staff decide to go undercover by seeking apartments separately and then reporting back to see about different responses. Is deception the only way to get this story?
  37. 37. Undercover dilemma Values – truth and public interest, along with fairness Guidelines: SPJ says to avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public.
  38. 38. One more dilemma How much should you reveal about a person in a profile? What is your responsibility for the consequence? A reporter profiles an illegal Mexican immigrant. She asks if he understood that his name and picture would be in the newspaper. He said he understood and if he got deported, it was his destiny. So, the story ran and immigration officials apprehended him. The Hispanic community was outraged. The newspaper wrote a column defending the story but said the people should have thought more about the impact. What do you think?
  39. 39. One more dilemma Would you have included the name and picture? How much responsibility do you have for the consequences of a profile if the source gives you information that could be damaging? Guidelines: on one hand, SPJ says, “seek the truth and report it.” On the other, the code of ethics says, “Minimize harm.” Which is the greater good?