Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The "ethical paradox"

Sabrina Fawley

Journalism Ethics, Codes and Values

In journalism there are golden rules, codes, ethics and morals - all of which help us decide what to do when we face an "ethical paradox." These things are tools to a journalist. Alone, they cannot help you make a decision about an "ethical paradox." Codes and ethics are guidelines to help you decide what to do.  As a journalist - you have to be able to justify your choices. A journalist's reputation relies on being able to think about the outcomes of his/her actions, what may result from those actions and who it may affect. 

Reviews, Critics and Free Gifts
"Love Those Perks! Critics Sound Off on the Ethics of Music Journalism" covered the ethical dilemma of free concerts, free promo CDs and developing "relationships" with musicians and publicists. In this article, every critic did not agree with what "gifts" they would and wouldn't accept when reviewing music, although most agreed that it's almost impossible to do the job without free promotional CDs.  In the article, Joel Selvin, a San Francisco Chronicle critic, said something that I thought is universally true of any ethical dilemma: "I think everybody has to kind of draw their own lines of what is compromising in their hearts."                  
There are a vast amount of products being reviewed and they all face similar ethical dilemmas: How much do I accept in free gifts, and how far is too far?  This blog post, "The Ethics of Video Game Journalism," discusses the similar types of problems when reviewing video games.

"Bottled Prose: The Ethical Paradox of the Wine Press" examines how the information about wine is changing - from opinions and reviews to hard news. The fact that the wine industry is not covered strictly in one way by critics and reviewers makes the decision of accepting free gifts: wine, free vineyard stays, etc. that much more of a problem.  The reputation of the reporter/critic who covers wine is being looked at in an entirely new way because the critics are becoming reporters. 

Difficult or Personal Stories  
Even the way you cover a story and the choice of getting involved or not could break your reputation as a reporter.  Anna Song, the reporter who gave an eulogy for  two girls who were kidnapped and murdered in Oregon City,  broke the rule of objectivity.

The "rules" and codes of journalism can be more lax in certain situations, depending on what type of publication one is writing for.  For example, when writing on a blog it's more acceptable to get personal. You don't have that leeway in other forms of journalism because the public expects objectivity.

In many cases journalists are bystanders in very difficult situations, and the article "The Rules of Engagement" points out many of the ethical dilemmas of "getting involved." The article introduces Anderson Cooper's memoir "Dispatches from the Edge," where Cooper describes covering Hurricane Katrina. The article later on gives what it calls the "rules of engagement" when covering news:

Photo Credit: The New York Times

  • Intervene when first on the scene, others can be helped and you know how to help
  • Do not intervene in situations in which you might endanger a life, including your own
  • Understand that holding the camera or recording what you see and hear may be the most effective way of intervening   
A journalist cannot solely rely on just ethics, codes and morals because these resources aren't always going to give you concrete answers. A journalist has to be actively thinking about the consequences of an action and the reactions the action may produce. 

1 comment:

  1. Good reference, "The Rules of Engagement"! Really gets into the question of reporter involvement.

    Mary Rogus