Ethics for Journalists/Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice

Article excerpt

* Keeble, Richard (2009). Ethics for Journalists (2d ed.). New York: Routledge, pp. 326.

* Plaisance, Patrick Lee (2009). Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, pp. 255.

Ethics for fournalists and Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice both address familiar media ethics issues, such as invasion of privacy, but take widely varied approaches to the topics. Ethics for fournalists deals primarily with British media and provides extended discussion on a range of issues - from journalists' relationships with sources to portrayals of race and gender in the media to coverage of war. Media Ethics focuses on the theoretical underpinnings of six ethical principles but also includes examples of real-life situations where these principles can be applied. In addition, Media Ethics includes examples from public relations and advertising, as well as journalism, with a special focus on ethics in cyberspace.

The purpose of the second edition of Ethics for Journalists, says author Richard Keeble of the U.K.'s University of Lincoln, remains the same as for the first edition: "the basic roles of the journalist are to promote peace and understanding, to work with honesty, clarity and compassion; to give voice to the voiceless, the desperately poor, the oppressed; to challenge stereotyping and expose corruption and lying - and to respect diversity and difference" (p. ix). Because he organizes the book around questions and answers, readers can quickly find material addressing specific topics.

The wide-ranging first chapter sets the stage for the book by identifying today's prominent ethical dilemmas and outlining philosophical and practical perspectives on these. The chapter concludes with question-and-answer interviews with four prominent journalists on topics such as journalists' reliance on elite sources, "dumbing down" of mass media content, and citizen journalism. Chapter 3 addresses regulation of the mainstream news media through ethics codes and organizations such as the Press Complaints Commission, which allows American journalists and students to make comparisons between British and American codes and regulatory bodies.

Chapters on mass media portrayals of race and ethnicity (chapter 7) and on mass media representations of gender, disabilities, and gays/lesbians (chapter 8) provide insightful examples from British mass media. Keeble cites examples of negative mass media portrayals of Gypsies, immigrants, and ethnic minorities. He attributes this, in part, to a lack of minority representation among journalists. In the chapter on mass media representations, he encourages journalists to avoid sexist language and portray those with mental illness in less stereotypical ways - suggestions that would benefit journalists in many countries.

Keeble's book is extensively documented with numerous examples of each topic discussed. For example, the chapter on "sleaze coverage" and privacy contains ten pages of bulleted points tracing the history of privacy regulation in Britain. At times, the number of examples and expert quotes seems a bit mind-boggling, particularly for American readers unfamiliar with some of the incidents and people he describes. At the same time, Keeble's exhaustive research adds to his credibility. Also, broad ethical questions he addresses throughout the book resonate with American journalists and journalism students because similar challenges confront U.S. news media.

The chapter on news media coverage of war demonstrates Keeble's passion for the topic. He explores such questions as whether news media should automatically support war efforts in which their country is involved, whether news media succumbed to government manipulation during the Persian Gulf conflict of 1991, and whether news media were correct to agree to a news blackout over Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan in 2008. Acknowledging his own commitment to "peace journalism," Keeble notes that he launched a group called Journalists Against Nuclear Extermination to work for peace through the National Union for Journalists. …