Monday, September 5, 2016

The Ethics Code Trust Fall: Can Our Audience Trust Us?

Gabby Hollowell

Warning: the following statistic may be upsetting for anyone in the media profession. Journalists and advertisers are ranked as two of the most distrusted professions, with low honesty and ethical standards.

It is a journalist's job to be ethical. Our content is put in front of millions of eyes every second of every day. Journalism organizations, such as the Society of Professional Journalists, have their own ethics codes. They are all along the same lines: be honest, truthful, transparent, act independently, take accountability for consequences and show our expertise. If we aren't trusted, our publication fails, and we risk losing our jobs. The ethics codes don't necessarily apply to just print journalists. They apply to photojournalists, advertisers and public relations professionals, editors and publishers, and radio journalists. Each have their own ethics code.

The person falling is our audience, and they must trust us to catch their fall. Source: Ad Week

Journalism Ethics

As journalists, we deliver the news to society. We are faced with a wide range of ethical decisions that need to be made -- from deciding if a photo is too sensitive to be published on the front page of a newspaper, to purposefully publishing false or incomplete information in order to be the first source to break the news. Decision-making is hard and stressful, thus forcing us to sometimes make those decisions unethically.

Advertising Ethics

As advertisers, we market a product or service. As a student studying advertising, I believe that ethics need to be taken into consideration when developing an advertisement of any kind. Deceptive advertising is. We need to be honest with our target market, because why would anyone buy Crest toothpaste if they found out 4/5 dentists do not recommend Crest toothpaste? It kills me to be in a profession that's so untrusted. We need to be careful not to confuse advertising with editorial content.

>> Check out the Principles and Practices for Advertising Ethics

Should ethics codes be enforced?

Quality journalism is a result of good ethical practice. Whether or not they are enforced by organizations, ethics codes should still be adhered to. Decision-making is tough, and journalists are faced with making ethical decisions day-in and day-out. Here are three perspectives on enforcing the ethics code:

No enforcement: The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) does not enforce its code of ethics. Why? It preserves journalists' freedom of expression. This I can agree with, as long as these codes are taken into consideration when making a decision.

Strict enforcement: The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has its members pledge to follow a code of ethics. Failure to comply with PRSA's ethics code can result in an end of membership.

Used as a guideline: The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) "does not dictate what journalists should do in every ethical predicament." Ethical codes are often used as guidelines and aid journalists in making the most ethical decisions.

I don't believe in strict enforcement of an ethics code, but I think they absolutely need to be used as a guideline. Even if it means we aren't the first to break the news, it is more valuable to be a trusted, respected journalist.

It's hard being a journalist, but if we hated this kind of critical thinking, we wouldn't be in this profession.

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