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Ethical decision making


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Ethical decision making

  1. 1. D O I N G T H E R I G H T T H I N G A T T H E R I G H T T I M E ETHICAL DECISION MAKING Michelle Balmeo @michellebalmeo
  3. 3. FIVE NEARLY ABSOLUTE PRINCIPLES 1. Be a humane truth-teller. 2. Be heedful of the rights of others. 3. Do your work fairly. 4. Promote justice wherever possible within the limits of your craft/profession. 5. Be mindful that independence and freedom are possible only if journalism itself acts as a steward of free expression. From University of Missouri professor Edmund Lambeth's book, Committed Journalism
  4. 4. SPJ CODE OF ETHICS • Post in your newsroom. • Ask, “Which of these apply?” • Explain Ed. Board decisions to the entire staff.
  5. 5. POTTER’S BOX
  6. 6. WHAT IT IS (AND ISN’T) • IT IS a method of analyzing an ethical dilemma • IT IS based on the idea that there are four key components to every decision: definition, values, principles, loyalties • IT IS a process, not a solution • IT IS NOT going to lead all individuals to the same solution
  7. 7. DEFINITION • In this box, you need to give a summary of the situation. This should include all known facts. Do not include unverified rumors or suspicions. Just the facts! • Do this in the form of a bulleted list.
  8. 8. VALUES • State the values involved for you as a member of the press and for others involved in the situation. • Professional values (e.g. truth seeking, public’s right to know, transparency in government, person’s right to privacy) • Legal values (e.g. law supersedes emotion, all persons deserve equal treatment under the law) • Patriotic values (e.g. love thy country, respect the flag, uphold constitutional rights) • Religious values (e.g. do unto others, thou shalt not kill) • Freedom-based values (e.g. freedom of speech, right to a trial by jury, right to not incriminate oneself)
  9. 9. PRINCIPLES Aristotle’s Mean “Moral virtue is a middle state determined by practical wisdom.” Virtuous people will arrive at a fair and reasonable agreement for the legitimate claims of both sides in the middle of two extreme claims. Kant’s Categorical Imperative “Act on that maxim which will become a universal law.” It implies what is right for one is right for all, which establishes precedent, universality of an underlying principle.
  10. 10. PRINCIPLES Mill’s Principle of Utility “Seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number.” Consider the consequences, produce the greatest possible balance of good over evil, and distribute this as widely as possible. Act with the greater good in mind. Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance “Justice emerges when negotiating without social differentiations.” Step away from real circumstances into an “original position” behind a barrier where roles and social differences are eliminated. Place yourself in the position of those your decisions may influence.
  11. 11. PRINCIPLES Judeo-Christian Persons as Ends “Love they neighbor as yourself.” Unselfish, cooperative. The “Golden Rule.”
  12. 12. LOYALTIES • Determine to whom your primary loyalty belongs in this situation. Begin by listing out all of your loyalties and then prioritize them. • Evaluate how each of those loyalties comes into play in this decision. For this, you should consider: Duty to self Duty to audience Duty to organization Duty to the profession Duty to promiseholders Duty to society
  13. 13. POTTER’S BOX • How does this process influence your thinking? Does it change your decision? Does it help in justifying the decision made?
  14. 14. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? A parent of a student at your school is very vocally taking on a teacher in the science department for alleged incompetence. The parent has filed suit against the district and sent various emails and a survey about the teacher to other students and parents. Do you cover the story? Do you use the teacher’s name, which is very widely known?
  15. 15. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? A reporter has learned, on the eve of the playoffs, that your championship football team is involved in serious incidents of hazing during the pre-season overnight football camp held on campus. Should you print the story? What should the reporters/editors consider? What's the ethical thing to do?
  16. 16. HANDLING MANAGEMENT ISSUES A reporter on staff submits the first draft of a story late. It’s incomplete, but he has had an interview with the main subject. While you are editing the draft, the subject of the story comes into the newsroom and happens to see it on the computer. She says that the reporter has not yet interviewed her and that the quotations attributed to her are fabricated. You confront the reporter who admits to submitting a fabricated story, but says he has an interview scheduled and had planned to swap out the real information before the final draft. What do you do?
  17. 17. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? In a story about abortion, a sophomore girl admits to having had an abortion as a freshman. She is willing to go on the record, but you suspect it's in part because she wants to get back at her parents, with whom she does not get along. Should you print her name? Should you print the story? What caveats do you have for the reporters and editors working on this story? What's the ethical thing to do?
  18. 18. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? For a story about teenage pregnancy, a teenage mother identifies the father, who is still a student. He doesn't want his name in the story and is officially denying paternity. Should you print his name? What should the reporters/editors consider? What's the ethical thing to do?
  19. 19. WHAT SHOULD YOU DO? A teacher tells you something in an interview that she later asks you not to print because of her concern that her comments will result in her perhaps being fired from her job. She knows the comments were on the record, but she has since decided that the comments were inappropriate and inflammatory. Should you print her comments? What should the reporters/editors consider? What's the ethical thing to do?
  20. 20. HANDLING MANAGEMENT ISSUES You are in the final week of production, and you notice that one reporter’s page has an alternative copy on it that quotes four sources who you know are all friends. It’s late in the process and re-doing the page would take considerable time. However, you feel strongly that the staff loses credibility with the obviously biased content. What do you do?