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Journalism and Ethics

Every human being is guided by a set of moral principles that guide in decisions making. This is called the application of ethics, which affects personal and professional lives. Ethics is a term used to refer to conduct or behavior within a society. In other words, it includes actions that are seen as morally right within a social setting. The term “ethic” originates from a Greek word for a character – which constitutes the morality of an individual. Ethics demands that people should check if their behavior is acceptable in a specific circumstance, but they are not limited to the individual; they extend to the moral actions of the corporate world, the government, professionals, the laymen, and whatever lies between. Ethics is a mirror that reflects a person’s fundamental values and purposes addition value to the community. It is an imposition of norms and standards to known and unknown situations.

Generally, ethics may not become a concern until a unique situation arises that may require and individual to apply their belief in what is right or wrong. They will be required to choose between the correct and incorrect, from their perfective and the expectation of the society. In journalism, ethical issues arise when one is asked to reveal their sources. It happens in an open court where the confidentiality of the informant’s information must be promised. And this is one of the biggest headaches for a journalist. Another scenario is when the journalist may be forced to invade and the individual’s privacy to investigate something on behalf of the public. In this case, it depends on where the side one which the viewer stands. Of course, the person whose privacy has been invaded will feel the journalist behaved wrongly; but someone in the public to whom the information for helpful will feel the professional did a great job.

The truth is, humans, behave unethically on very many occasions. Society faces many problems because of the selfishness of specific individuals. And the sources of disagreement comes from how we, the society, should uncover such actions. It may be surprising, but we are living in a world where every individual is entitled to their point of view. Most people are egocentric; hence they put their welfare and those of the people they care about above the needs of the society.

Ethics, in many instances, may be seen as inflexible. However, a case of right or wrong, black or white may mean ignoring some underlying complex issues. But this is not to say we should ignore journalist rules. The laws are there to offer guidance and as a reference when making ethical decisions. Note, therefore, that there is no moral principle in which “one size fits all.”Many times, situations may come that require decisions that push the acceptable ethical responses to the other side.

Consider this; we must look at ethics as a dynamic aspect whose application requires a high level of critical thinking and problem-solving approaches. There are always changing circumstances the call for a re-evaluation of ethics. A good example is gay marriages in society. A few centuries ago, homosexuality was highly condemned. It was seen as a psychological aberration, which may cause one to be jailed. Today, these have changed. The older generation, however, still consider this unacceptable behavior in society.

Today, each successive generation appears to loosen up as the society leans towards an age where every behavior seems acceptable. Hence, the study of ethics is becoming more and more complex. Generally, new social attitudes and technologies, fluid economies can change political paradigm contribute significantly to burning ethics.

Ethical models and ranges

People seem to be caring less and less about ethics and how it affects their lives and society. Hence, the recurring subjects of ethical theories include rights, virtues, and communal relations. The rights theme poses a question of whether a behavior affects the right o others. In contrast, the themes of virtue and communal relations seek to establish whether the action impacts decency, character, and integrity of another, and the relations of other people in a society.

Hence, ethics are often categories in terms of teleological ethics, deontological ethics, and virtue ethics. Teleological ethics encourages maximizing outcomes and reduction of harm based on a decision and an action. It can be summarized as ‘looking at the greater good for the largest number of people.’ Deontological approaches deal with justice and fairness; the sense of duty comes before the interests of an individual or a group. Virtue seeks to build a society with civic-minded and virtuous individuals; it is motivated by the need to train others about their moral purpose.

Regarding ethical ranges, it might be surprising to know that ethics falls along the lines of human experiences. There are the issues of personal ethics where one has their own positions on right and wrong, and professional ethics that guide Practitioners of a particular field. In many instances, personal and professional ethics clash. In a recent incident, a government employee refused to issues a gay couple with a marriage certificate despite legalization. Ethics may also extend to social and political realms where justice and rights are involved. In simple terms, ethics is a wide and growing field that may take a long time to study and understand.

Ethics and journalism

Just like any other area, it is important or journalists to apply professional standards in the industry. Journalistic ethics are principles that have been filtered through broad philosophical parameters as socially and politically acceptable. For instance, it is the duty of a journalist to keep the public informed about the wrongdoings of a government. A journalism student or a practicing journalist should be aware of these guidelines in their duties. Ethical issues may arise from time to time during their service. A journalist is imposed with the obligation of offering unbiased reporting; they should ensure a diverse and comprehensive presentation of their story. They must, therefore, understand the ethical functions of their profession, always looking to improve society. Here are some ethical duties of a journalist:

- Offering the reader, fair, and unbiased presentations on fact.

- Disallow personal relations with their sourcesJournalism and Ethics, which may tarnish the truth/

- Obey news laws.

- Allow the competition to taint their professional responsibilities

- Participate in public life.

- The must disclose potential conflicts.

- Render services to their employer.

- They must not present themselves as news mouthpiece for their sources.

 All these roles indicate that a journalist has to behave in a manner acceptable to society and individuals. They should not use their power to intimidate others.

Author: James Hamilton


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