– Public thinks media is unethical
– Reasons why
– Sins to always avoid
– Other issues: grey areas
– Guidelines for handling ethics
– Sample scenarios
– Final advice
Lack of trust in media
• A recent study found that 62 percent of
Americans say they don’t trust the media.
• Fifty-nine percent think newspapers are more
concerned about making profits than serving
the public interest.
• And 58 percent don’t think journalists care
about complaints of inaccuracies.
• 80% believe "journalists chase sensational
stories because they think it will sell papers,
not because they think it is important news. ”
• 85% believes that "newspapers frequently
over-dramatize some news stories just to sell
• 80% believe sensational stories receive lots of
news coverage simply because they are
exciting, not because they are important.
But most journalists aren’t evil
• They don’t plagiarize, fabricate.
• They want to get facts right.
• But they may be understaffed or overworked.
• Deadline pressures can affect accuracy and
• And hairy situations may be unavoidable …
being a journalist often involves ethical
dilemmas: newsworthiness v. privacy
• To help deal with these dilemmas, many
media outlets follow the code of ethics
written by the Society of Professional
Journalists. It’s organized around four
SPJ Code of Ethics
1. Seek truth and report it: Journalists should be honest, fair,
objective and accurate.
2. Minimize harm: Realize that you’re covering human beings. Be
respectful, tasteful and sensitive. Note that it says “minimize”
harm. You may not be able to completely avoid it. If you’re doing
investigative reporting, for example, your story may expose
corruption and cause someone to get fired. But, in the end, the
greater good will be served by your reporting.
3. Act independently: Don’t accept gifts or favors. Your only
obligation is to serve the public’s interest. This is why it’s so
important to avoid conflicts of interests, as we discussed during
the first week of class.
4. Be accountable: Correct mistakes and expose unethical practices
by journalists. The New Republic’s staff was criticized for their role
in the Glass scandal because they ignored known problems with
Glass until they no longer could.
Test your knowledge
Source: Inside Reporting by Tim Harrower