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Ethics online


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Discussion guide for Florida Atlantic University Journalism 4342-001

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Ethics online

  1. 1. Ethics in media Florida Atlantic University Journalism 4342-001 With thanks to Al Tompkins, Poynter Institute, whose columns form the basis of these slides.,
  2. 2. What is ethics anyway? What it's not : – What is legal. – Whatever society accepts Societies can become corrupt. Ethics are not determined by taking a vote.
  3. 3. What is ethics? <ul><li>A standard of right and wrong </li></ul><ul><li>based on examination and thought </li></ul><ul><li>That's why it's important to have discussions like this. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Case study <ul><li>Olympic Luger killed in practice run at Olympics. </li></ul><ul><li>Entire incident is caught on video. </li></ul><ul><li>What should media organizations do with the video? </li></ul><ul><li>Let's talk about your first thoughts.... </li></ul>
  5. 5. The case for airing the video <ul><li>First, let's consider only the issue of airing this on TV. (We'll talk about online later.) </li></ul><ul><li>Let's list the reasons for airing it – good and bad. </li></ul>
  6. 6. The case for airing the video <ul><li>It is news. Olympic Games are a world event. </li></ul><ul><li>Accountability. IOC answers to nobody. Video is important to understanding how this can be prevented. </li></ul><ul><li>It is interesting. Sounds crass; but news is partly what people are talking about. </li></ul><ul><li>It is the truth. It tells the story more clearly than words. </li></ul>
  7. 7. The case against airing the video
  8. 8. The case against airing the video <ul><li>The video isn't clear enough to really show what happened. </li></ul><ul><li>The news value of the video itself is limited; you'd only show it to pander (or for ratings.) </li></ul><ul><li>“ I wouldn't want it on TV it if it were my brother.” </li></ul><ul><li>We can run it online, where people can choose to watch or not watch. </li></ul>
  9. 9. If you run it, there are ways to do it better <ul><li>Explain why you are using the video </li></ul><ul><li>Watch the tone and degree of coverage. (If it's OK to show it once, is it OK to show it 50 times?) </li></ul><ul><li>Offer a way for people to give feedback and discuss. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Does it matter where it is used? <ul><li>Is it right to use it in some ways and not others? (Example: in the newscast vs. as a promo to the newscast.) </li></ul><ul><li>What is similar and what is different on the web? </li></ul><ul><li>Online, does the media still serve as gatekeepers? Or has the decision moved into the hands of the audience? </li></ul>
  11. 11. There are similar issues in print <ul><li>Graphic photos cause big debate in newsrooms. Can you think of recent examples? </li></ul><ul><li>Many newspapers have “the breakfast test” </li></ul><ul><li>Deciding which image to use also determines the nature of your Olympic coverage. Only one photo can dominate the front page. The luge accident? Or opening ceremonies? </li></ul><ul><li>A few sample front pages..... </li></ul>
  12. 12. . <ul><li>Dramatic photo. </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasizes accident rather than opening events. </li></ul>
  13. 13. . <ul><li>Blow-by-blow </li></ul><ul><li>photos show </li></ul><ul><li>exactly how it </li></ul><ul><li>happened. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Papers that ran this bloody photo heard a lot of complaints. (Note they used stop-action photos too.) </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Evocative, artistic choice. Is it effective? What do you think? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Another case study <ul><li>How is the Sea World killer-whale-attack video different? </li></ul><ul><li>If that video becomes available, should it be aired? </li></ul><ul><li>Let's try out these questions, designed to help the media make ethical decisions. </li></ul>
  17. 17. Questions to ask yourself <ul><li>In 2004, Radio-Television Digital News Association Ethics Committee issued guidelines for how to handle graphic videos, which included considering these questions: </li></ul>
  18. 18. Questions to ask <ul><li>What is the journalistic purpose? </li></ul><ul><li>Does it clarify or help people understand the story? </li></ul><ul><li>Is this an issue of great public importance? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the graphic material the only way to tell the story? Are there alternatives? </li></ul>
  19. 19. Questions to ask <ul><li>If asked to defend the decision to stakeholders (family) how will you justify it? </li></ul><ul><li>Is story important enough to justify replaying? </li></ul><ul><li>Will there be a time limit after which material will no longer be aired? </li></ul><ul><li>Will you have a notice to warn people in advance? </li></ul>
  20. 20. One media critic's view Poynter's Al Tompkins wrote: <ul><li>Video is from a private security camera, not a government one. The public has a stronger need to see what the government is up to on our behalf. </li></ul><ul><li>Nobody has been accused of a crime. </li></ul><ul><li>Family does not seem to be searching for answers or seeking justice. In fact, they say airing the video would only worsen their grief. </li></ul>
  21. 21. How much does it matter? <ul><li>If the killer-whale video finds its way to You-Tube – and it probably will – does that eliminate the journalist's ethical dilemma? (“We might as well post it; it's already on YouTube.”) </li></ul>
  22. 22. Other ethical issues: Reader comments <ul><li>What guidelines should rule a media organization's use of reader comments? </li></ul><ul><li>Increasingly, news is a conversation. </li></ul><ul><li>Most sites let comments go live before review and remove them after they violate standards. </li></ul><ul><li>Let's look at some comments I posted on </li></ul>
  23. 23. Ethical issues for bloggers <ul><li>You write a food blog: PomWonderful sends you a case of pomegranate juice. What do you do? </li></ul><ul><li>You cut-and-paste several paragraphs of another writer's work without attribution. </li></ul><ul><li>You use Photoshop to change a photo of a news event to make it more dramatic. </li></ul>
  24. 24. code of ethics Bloggers should: <ul><li>Never plagiarize. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify and link to sources whenever feasible. </li></ul><ul><li>Make certain that Weblog entries, quotations, headlines, photos and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context. </li></ul><ul><li>Never distort the content of photos without disclosing what has been changed. Image enhancement is only acceptable for technical clarity. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Blogger ethics...Bloggers should: <ul><li>Never publish information they know is inaccurate -- and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it's in doubt. </li></ul><ul><li>Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact </li></ul><ul><li>Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Blogger ethics...Bloggers should: <ul><li>Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by Weblog content. </li></ul><ul><li>Be sensitive when covering those affected by tragedy or grief. </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Blogger ethics....Bloggers should: <ul><li>Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. </li></ul><ul><li>Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity. </li></ul><ul><li>Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes and criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges. </li></ul>
  28. 28. Blogger ethics...Bloggers should: <ul><li>Admit mistakes and correct them promptly. </li></ul><ul><li>Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas. </li></ul><ul><li>Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers. </li></ul>