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Journalism Ethics: A Philosophical Approach

By Christopher Meyers | Go to book overview

PART VII
Approaching the News:
Reporters and
Consumers

Introduction

This part is, in many ways, the heart of the book, especially from a practitioner’s perspective. The chapters directly address what it means to be an ethical producer or consumer of news, considering this via specific issues, like torn loyalties, conflict of interest, and source protection.

As I noted in the main introduction and as should be clear from the book’s structure, I don’t think one can effectively address practical ethics problems until one has first developed an informed and sophisticated theoretical and conceptual foundation. Without these, ethics analyses are typically case-driven and ad hoc; hence the predominantly theoretical and conceptual focus on Section One’s four parts.

Such abstractions, though, have to eventually find a home; otherwise, ethics remains at a theoretical level only. That home, for journalists, is rich with ethical choices. Among the myriad choices faced on any given day are whether to treat subjects and sources as a mere means to a story; whether one can live with an editing process that tends to reduce complex problems to simple ones, so as to fit a shrinking news hole; whether acquiring or disseminating a piece of information invades others’ privacy and, if so, whether doing so is nonetheless justified; whether scoop competition produces better or just faster stories; whether one may accept a lunch offer from a future potential news source; whether the nature of contemporary market forces allows for sophisticated and critical reporting; and what counts as proper attribution. Furthermore, as Wendy Wyatt argues, consumers also have choices to make, in particular of whether to be literate enough and engaged enough to demand real journalism from news organizations.

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