Monday, September 12, 2016

Julia Brown

As journalists and strategic communicators, we’ve established many codes of ethics, which are good in theory.  But after establishing what our values should be, what comes next?  We have to put them into practice somehow.

Why Do We Have Ethical Standards?

This question feels a little redundant, but it’s important to emphasize the reason for our ethical standards.  Without ethics, journalism would become a mockery.  One of the most embarrassing moments in American journalism history is the period of yellow journalism. News was sensationalized to the point of being untrue, which basically turned newspapers into tabloids of little to no journalistic worth.

Journalists should strive to maintain an honest and ethical relationship with their audience. If readers feel like they can’t put any trust in authors and editors, what’s the point of consuming their content? Journalists have to maintain morality in their work, especially in this uncertain and ever-changing environment of the dawn of the digital age.

Photo from:
Finding a Moral Compass

Once journalists decide the morals they want to adhere to, they have to then decide how to apply those decisions in their everyday job. 

Seasoned reporters will probably have less trouble deciding what is ethically sound, and what decision to make in accordance with their ethics. Newer journalists, however, have little experience in determining what is morally sound. Luckily enough, Bob Steele wrote a list of the questions journalists need to ask themselves in order to make good ethical decisions for the Poynter Institute. 

One of the most important questions that Steele suggests is that of what if the roles were reversed?  Empathy is one of the most important assets journalists can have because it makes one seriously consider the outcome of a decision before the decision is made and often yields ethical results.

If you're interested, Poynter also has several additional articles about ethics, like the moral things journalists should consider as consumers of the news.

Public Relations, Private Turmoil

In public relations and strategic communication work, oftentimes, the ethical decisions that need to be rectified are not personal, but instead represent an entire company or brand. 

In this case, PR firms must walk a fine line between reputational damage and complete transparency with the public.  In these instances, it is important to remember that public relations professionals have a duty to both their client and to the audience at large. 

For this reason, many questions that PR professionals must ask themselves have to do with thinking about how their decisions will affect the way scandals are handled in the future.  For example, in an column for PRSA, James E. Lukaszewski states that an important question to ask is “What lessons can the organization learn as this dilemma is resolved?”  This allows for the company to grow and change in order to better themselves, and make it easier to avoid future mistakes.

Lukaszewski also mentions that the questions he establishes should be asked as early as possible so that a mistake is avoided all together, instead of having to pick up the pieces of a scandal after the fact. 

If you would like to hone your skills in determining what constitutes an ethical decision, the Society of Professional Journalists has several case studies that make for good ethics practice.

No comments:

Post a Comment