The Unbridled Pragmatist
smart enough to know how dumb we are

Decency in Media

Decency and taste in journalism have long been issues in the journalism world.  The advent of the internet has only heightened public awareness of the vulgarities on display throughout the world. The information, particularly visual, available online has changed what the public sees and is aware of.


The information available online leaves the journalist in a precarious spot; the public has access to often graphic pictures yet the journalist is hamstrung in reporting by public realms of decency.  The present administration has only furthered the grip on decency standards to the point that journalists often err on the side of caution rather than draw hefty fines or penalties. 


The reality is in a country as large as the US, and with the incredibly varied opinions throughout its citizenry, there can be no one definition of decency.  Much like Supreme Court Justice Stewart’s explanation of pornography, “I know it when I see it”, decency and taste are boundaries most noticeable when crossed.  When the Associated Press snapped the now infamous picture of Kim Phuc running naked from her burning Vietnamese village there was outrage, though that picture was necessary to illustrate to the world the horrors that were happening in South East Asia at the time.  Conversely, when Brittany Spears appears without clothing all over the internet there is no context that validates that as newsworthy, decency and taste would be trampled if those photos were ever published by a reputable news source.


Government regulation of decency and taste often applies a sword where a scalpel is necessary.  There is no perfect solution, individual journalists should be held to high standards to only report and display newsworthy and decent material.




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