Ethics and New Media Technology

Ethics and New Media Technology

Ethics and New Media Technology

Ethics and New Media Technology

Synopsis

This special issue shows that "old ethics" don't always provide ready answers to problems raised by new technology. Exploring the perplexing topic of ethics in new media, this special issue: examines the ethics of the highly controversial 1998 Cincinnati Enquirer expose of Chiquita Brands International; reports on a pilot project involving online journalists and online journalism graduate students; investigates the extent to which e-mail and listservs are-and could be-effective fora for journalists interested in exploring matters of ethics; and provides a useful annotated webliography of information resources.

Excerpt

Once again the Journal of Mass Media Ethics (JMME) explores the perplexing topic of ethics in new media. Four articles and a Cases and Commentary show that “old ethics” do not always provide ready answers to problems raised by new technology.

The first article, “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree, ” examines the ethics of the highly controversial 1998 Cincinnati Enquirer exposé of Chiquita Brands International. Donald Challenger of Syracuse University and Cecilia Friend of Utica College of Syracuse University carefully trace the reporting and subsequent retraction involved in the “Chiquita” case. They assess Gannett Corporation's payment of $14 million to Chiquita (some say it was much more) to avoid a lawsuit after Chiquita officials claimed that Enquirer reporter Michael Gallagher surreptitiously accessed Chiquita executives' voice mail system. Challenger and Friend analyzed the paradox of this particular form of journalistic deception and focused on what they call “uncharted territory regarding the ethics of electronic surve illance in general and the use of voice mail in particular. ” Arguments over whether voice mail is fundamentally “voice” or fundamentally “mail, ” whether voice mail is communal or private, are “mutually exclusive categories for thinking about modes of discourse” that the authors say are obsolete. the authors conclude that “voice mail and related electronic modes of discourse raise a new ensemble of ethical and legal challenges for which journalism does not yet have a nuanced understanding or even a full vocabulary. ”

Our second article comes from the Netherlands—jmme's first publication from that nation. Mark Deuze and Daphna Yeshua of the Amsterdam School of Communications report on a pilot project involving online journalists and online journalism graduate students. the respondents relayed their experiences and professional views on ethical dilemmas specifically related to the Internet. Deuze and Yeshua provide an overview of the relatively limited literature on new media ethics, focus on seven specific issues confronting the online journalist, and gauge the relative impact of the new technology on the self-perception and daily practices of online journalists in the Netherlands. Issues creating dilemmas for the Dutch journalists included commercial pressure, use of hyperlinks, problems with accuracy, use of sources, invasion of privacy, governmental regulation, and various news gathering methods. the authors conclude that while there is “no agreement whatsoever among Internet journalists . . .

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