Ethical Decision-Making in Journalism

As Journalists we have the important obligation to provide the public with the news.  As we obtain information and write what we find, we must follow specific guidelines. Journalists must avoid being biased.  When documenting a story, our experiences and own opinions must be left out.  We must provide the facts and the facts only. Journalists must learn how to obtain accurate information to produce a valid story without offending anyone along the way, getting permission from those whom may be featured, and providing the public with the most credibility.

The rules above may seem easy to follow however when out in the field searching for a story these guidelines are extremely hard to follow but as respectable journalists we must challenge ourselves and do our best to obey them.  If one discovers an interesting story with controversial content, they must consider the following – Before publishing the story, ask yourself if your content will offend anyone – what consequences might I face?, have your peers review your information and see what they think, and choose other alternatives – what might be others ways I can produce this story?

With examples provided in the Ethical Decision-Making course, I understood how the guidelines could be ambiguous and somewhat difficult to follow.  I was confused as to whether or not the story broadcasted about a 4 year old child visiting her father on death row should have been published.  I understand why many disagreed with its broadcast.  Was it right for the reporter to feature a story that sensitizing with a criminal? Although it featured a family whose unconditional love aids them in their struggles, it may have romanticized the idea that the man featured was a murderer.  I believe that this specific was a great example as to whether good ethical decision-making practices were put into good use.  Did this reporter ask her colleagues for their input? Did she understand what consequences she might face for broadcasting a young child exposed to the horrible reality of her father’s future? Did she examine other alternatives in writing the story that may have differing consequences? Because people were offended by the story, it is evident that the reporter did not ask herself these questions. 

I think it is obvious that after investigating and producing a story several precautions must come into play before it is published to avoid any hurtful consequences that may affect the public or the writer themself.


About LSinclair

I am a Junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying Journalism and Anthropology. I am interested in photojournalism. I hope to some day travel the world and write for National Geographic
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