The Unbridled Pragmatist
smart enough to know how dumb we are

Ethics

New year, new semester, new classes.  I will be posting my weekly discussion essays from Conversations about Journalism and Ethics, below is my first entry.  For those not interested please use the categories on the right to find your interest.  Still not interested, go read AOL news or something because you’re just not on my level.   Now, on with the chlorophyll…

Journalism is a difficult term to define.  Multiple definitions arise if the discussion is focused on Journalism as a profession or Journalism as a product the public views.  Further the rise of digital media makes defining Journalism significantly more complex.  Is a blog written by an 18 year old with no proper education considered journalism?  Does first hand knowledge create expertise?  Conversely what about entertainment rumors reported by professionally trained journalists?  Where does the line between hard news and Hollywood conjecture blur?  Most importantly, for this essay anyway, where do ethics fit in?

The ethical dilemmas confronted by modern day journalists are vast.  Access to information is so fast, so easy, that factual information is almost taken for granted.  This information overload allows for falsehoods to fester where previously unthinkable.  What is the ethical response to a journalist receiving a tip from a source unwilling to divulge anything more than a screen name or website?

Journalists must operate with ethics; working for the public interest in for profit venture mandates this.  As the Society of Professional Journalists decree in there Code of Ethics journalists should seek and report the truth while realizing these actions impact those persons or groups reported on.  To report the truth context is absolutely necessary.  The famed Aesops Fables have proven to be just that; rarely is right and wrong clear with context the tool that allows the public to push through the haze, forming there own opinions. 

Ethics should act as a driving force for journalists; motivation stemming from a desire to inform rather than a desire to persuade.  Persuasion does not fit within any definition of journalism, regardless of how varied those definitions may be. Find the truth ethically, report that truth responsibly; my attempt at simple yet effective definition of ethical journalism. 

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