The Handbook of Mass Media Ethics

The Handbook of Mass Media Ethics

The Handbook of Mass Media Ethics

The Handbook of Mass Media Ethics


This Handbookencapsulates the intellectual history of mass media ethics over the past twenty-five years. Chapters serve as a summary of existing research and thinking in the field, as well as setting agenda items for future research.

Key features include:

  • up-to-date and comprehensive coverage of media ethics, one of the hottest topics in the media community
  • 'one-stop shopping' for historical and current research in media ethics
  • experienced, top-tier editors, advisory board, and contributors.

It will be an essential reference on media ethics theory and research for scholars, graduate students, and researchers in media, mass communication, and journalism.


Lee Wilkins and Clifford G. Christians

This handbook is designed to fulfill five purposes.

First, as is noted in the chapter on the history of US media ethics, scholarly and professional attention to this broad topic has intensified since 1980. This work is scattered through a variety of academic journals, college-level texts, scholarly books and what academics refer to as the trade press—or the popular media of the day. It is time to bring the major insights in the field together— under a single roof. This book is intended to do that, in a thorough but not exhaustive, manner.

Second, the volume is intended to chart the progress in thinking about media ethics. What began as a largely professional quest to improve professional journalistic performance is now able, in a modest way, to contribute to that effort as well as academic efforts to further the insights of moral philosophy. The editors as well as the authors contend that mediated communication is essential to democratic functioning at the institutional level and to flourishing communities and individuals at other levels. Along the way, media ethics allows scholars to ask big questions: is technology morally neutral, is dialogue truly the best way to capture a world-wide conversation, are the understandings of classical ethical philosophy the best lens through which to make ethically based decisions involving entities as disparate as corporations, nation states, communities, and individuals. Readers will not find complete answers to any of these questions in this book; what they will discover is the state of intellectual progress that foregrounds ethical thinking in examining questions where mediated communication play a central role.

Third, the volume’s authors attempt to set a research agenda for the field. Further, this agenda is grounded in both philosophy and in some of the social sciences. We believe this blend is unique and important. The facts of social science can inform ethical decision making; they cannot replace the central role of philosophy in that process. The chapters in this book model the effort to allow these often too separate areas of academic work to inform one another. The research questions posed here have both range and vision; the answers to them have the capacity to inform contemporary philosophical understandings as well as to change professional performance.

Fourth, the editors hope that students and citizens with some curiosity about particular issues will find individual chapters in this book a good place to start. Each chapter includes a section that summarizes current understandings and research in the field. In this way, each chapter has a bit of an encyclopedic feel. Readers curious about what scholars believe they know will find in this book a good grounding with which to begin more in-depth and individualized explorations. The extensive bibliographies for each chapter will aid that process. The editors hope that reading one chapter will lead to explorations in others.

Fifth, this book introduces students and their teachers to some of the best minds in the field. Contributors are an international group, and while most of them are Americans, their collective vision extends beyond that country. Many have worked as journalists, public relations . . .

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