The Unbridled Pragmatist
smart enough to know how dumb we are

The Juice on Ethics

The debate presented between ethical issues and journalistic integrity is not new or recently developed.  Journalists have been balancing the possible outcomes over publishing controversial stories against the possible harm of those stories for decades.  Such ambiguous areas make a definitive “correct ethical choice” nearly impossible, as each individual must make there own decisions.           

This does not preclude that journalists use ethics throughout the reporting process.  Reporters must be fair in dealing with sources, confidentiality and attribution.  Reporters need to treat all information skeptically; facts should be double and triple checked.  Ethics demand morally responsible behavior; this includes confirmation of potentially damning facts prior to publishing.

Personal loyalties certainly can cloud judgment.  This is as true in reporting as any other profession, the difference being that in other professions loyalties will not be shown to the public.  Loyalties, as strong as they may be, need to be removed from reporting.  If the reporter cannot separate loyalties from reporting the ethical decision is to remove one self due to a conflict of interest.

In today’s modern media any reporting done without full disclosure of personal loyalties will certainly be brought up by the competing media.  Recent examples of this include the controversy surrounding Mike Wallace interviewing Roger Clemens on 60 Minutes regarding his recent steroid allegations.  Wallace is a Yankee season ticket holder and known to be a friend to Yankee owner George Steinbrenner; the Yankees also happen to be the team Clemens achieved his highest level of success winning a World Series.  Thus when Wallace did not fire tough follow up questions that begged to be asked during the interview many media outlets cried foul at Wallace’s loyalties to both the Yankees and to Clemens.  Was the criticism warranted?  The Wallace interview certainly left more questions open than previous Wallace work with much tougher subjects. 

Ethical issues will always permeate the world of journalism while skepticism must remain a tool in the journalist’s belt.  Thinking that personal loyalties will not be brought to light is naïve in modern journalism.


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