Monday, August 29, 2016

Philosophical Theories That Could Help Journalists?

Emily Cunningham
It is no secret that many people in today’s world are questioning ethics in journalism. “Moral Reasoning for Journalists” accurately states that “because of corruption, bias, or sloth, journalists are not living up to their moral obligations to report and write certain things and in certain ways.” Journalists are doing everything they possibly can to increase profits, status, ratings, circulations, etc.

I understand that journalists struggle with making ethical decisions when reporting and writing stories for their audiences. However, I think it is important for them to understand that the choices they make directly affect our society as a whole. The only way to fix this spiraling problem is to have journalists make better ethical choices. When making ethical choices, one uses reasoning to decide. Unethical choices are decided upon by using “assumption, emotion, or reflex” (Moral Reasoning for Journalist’s).

Actually, I really enjoyed reading “Moral Reasoning for Journalists” because it defined a number of philosophical theories that I believe would help a journalist make ethically and morally right decisions. The three theories that stood out to me the most were ethical egoism, teleology, and utilitarianism.

Ethical egoism would be used if a journalist wanted to make a decision that resulted in an outcome that best fit his or her needs. In today’s world we see a lot of journalists using ethical egoism to make decisions. They come up with solutions that will benefit themselves the most.

The theory of teleology is also one that a journalist could use to help make better ethical decisions. When using teleology as a decision making tool, a journalist will need to consider what could happen in both cases. Then make a choice depending on which one provides the most “good.”

Utilitarianism philosophy is similar to teleology, but with a slight difference. If a journalist was going to use utilitarianism to make an ethical decision, they would make a choice that produces the most “good,” for the most amount of people.  (When researching utilitarianism, I found a great article that delves into further examples of all three theories, that could be helpful to someone who is more interested).

I’ve sat for a while now thinking about which theory would be the best one for a journalist to use when making an ethical decision. I threw out ethical egoism first. There is too much of that kind of decision making being used on a daily basis by journalists. To be frank, it is obviously not helping our current ethical problem in journalism.

Mulling back and forth between using teleology or utilitarian ethical decision making, I ran across a video that helped me decide which was best, “The Most Important Ethical Issues in Journalism Are the Human ones.” This video of a journalist who told of a time when he used real last names in a story, which caused the featured family to be ridiculed by many.


Watching the video made me realize journalists should use a utilitarian way of making ethical decisions. People are the reason why journalists have something to report about. People are also the reason that journalists still have jobs; they are the ones that are reading the stories. When making ethical decisions, I whole heartedly believe that journalists should make choices that provide not only the most “good,” but the most “good” for the greatest amount of people. People are the reason why journalism exists, so why not make ethical decisions that will most benefit the people.

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