Monday, September 5, 2016

The Public's Code

Russell Heltman

Ethics would be nothing to journalists without the codes needed to guide them on their path to a truthful and just story. The codes of ethics in the journalism and strategic communication worlds may seem different but they share many similarities and one thing that binds them all, is the balancing act needed to juggle the conflicting responsibilities Ethics throws at us.

The Codes and Their Mechanics

There are a multitude of Ethics codes in the realm of communication, but whether or not its radio, photography, or advertising, they all share the same goal of producing truthful content through a fair and moral process.

For traditional journalists, they are told to follow the idea of seeking the truth from a story and reporting it accordingly. This means taking responsibility for what is reported, avoiding shady practices and deals to obtain information and asking the questions other people have overlooked.

In public relations the same truth values are held with the added twist of advocating on behalf of another entity. This wrinkle can sometimes present a challenge to the industry when looking at the validity of some advertisements and their agenda.

The Odyssey

The pursuit of truth in journalism is greatly important, but it cannot come at the expense of the public’s well being. Just because something can be published doesn’t mean it should be if someone can be harmed in the process, this violates the moral components of the codes.

In Photojournalism, it is crucial not to invade the privacy of vulnerable people, while not altering the event being photographed in a way that would change the audience’s reaction

The same rings true in public relations, one should always protect confidential information gained from a client or other party with care and avoid conflicts of interests in the workplace.

The final main theme that all of these codes share is the idea of acting independently and transparently. This means presenting stories without bias, avoiding in dealings with sources that could damage the credibility of a story, and above all else take responsibility for the work and explain how the conclusion was met.

Public relations idea of transparency resides in telling the public who is represented and distinguish between sponsored content and news.

The Importance of the Codes and Enforcement

Without the codes of ethics, journalism would fail to meet its number one responsibility, providing people with the news they need to shape an informed view of the world and how they want to experience that world.

Journalism would end up crumbling into useless information steeped in lies and people wouldn’t know what to think of everyday events and their effect, making these codes that much more important.

With an alternative I just described, it may seem that these codes are strictly enforced sets of rules, but in reality the fact that these codes must often compromise with one another makes them very hard to enforce at a high level.

This paired with an ever expanding world of digital storytelling, makes the probability of strict enforcement more and more unlikely, leaving the future of ethical codes in the hands of journalists.

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