Global Journalism Ethics

Article excerpt

Ward, Stephen J.A. (2010). Global Journalism Ethics. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, pp. 296.

Ward notes that traditional journalism values and practices are being questioned due to the global nature of modern journalism and the rapid changes brought about by digital and wireless technologies. Ward concludes that journalists are struggling to maintain a "credible ethical identity as they sail the roiling sea" of the modern media world (p. 3). Ward's bold objective is to look at journalism's future and offer conceptual inventions to help move journalism ethics forward, with an eventual goal of converging theoretical foundations and practical proposals. Although those looking for concrete practical proposals to follow in a global setting might be disappointed that Ward doesn't get quite that far, his impressive theoretical framework provides an excellent starting point for scholars interested in journalism ethics in a wired, globalized world. As Ward writes, the goal of the book is to supply "the basic philosophical concepts to begin the invention of a detailed and theoretically solid global [journalism] ethics" (p. 235).

The book is divided into two sections, although it covers three distinct topics. In the first and longest section, Ward explains his approach to ethics and presents his general theory of ethics. In chapter one, Ward explains the basic idea of ethics and his naturalistic approach, which conceives of ethics as a rational, human invention. In chapter two, he describes his holistic approach to "reflective engagement," explains his three-level theory of ethical reasoning, and presents an accompanying model of journalism ethics informed by that theory. Ward uses chapter three to argue that the aim of ethics should be a congruence of the good - a theory that humans should strive to flourish or grow on four levels - and the right - "a Rawlsian theory of right for a liberal democratic society or well-ordered society" (p. 103). Ward argues this congruence leads to ethical flourishing or a combination of "the good" and "the right." Ultimately, the goal of these first chapters is to argue that the true aim of ethics is the creation of a liberal democracy in which citizens are truly free to govern themselves with meaningful decisions that actually influence the structure and function of government. In the second section, Ward expands on his theoretical foundations and discusses how his theories of ethics form the basic concepts of global journalism ethics, with an emphasis on how journalism can advance democracy. In chapter six, Ward presents his third topic, and finally applies his ethical framework to a practical question: To what extent can a global journalist be a patriot?

The book's greatest strength is Ward's presentation of his personal approach to ethics and his systematic theoretical discussion of ethics and philosophy, as he lays the foundations for his vision of ethics and global journalism ethics. Ward's intelligence is evident, and his deep appreciation for and understanding of the classic works of political and moral philosophy greatly inform his work. His approach to ethics is rooted in social contract theory, classic liberal democratic theory, John Rawls's theories of justice and the human good, and cosmopolitan ethics, an ethical system that asserts "the equal value and dignity of all people as members of a common humanity" (p. …