Every day there are ethical decisions that impact the hundreds or thousands of people who watch, read, listen, and/or click on a media source. The foundation for making the right decision starts with ethics classes in college. Students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism will use this blog to reflect on ethical questions in the media today.
Monday, August 29, 2016
Philosophical Theories That Could Help Journalists?
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,
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.