Ethics and the Press: Readings in Mass Media Morality

Ethics and the Press: Readings in Mass Media Morality

Ethics and the Press: Readings in Mass Media Morality

Ethics and the Press: Readings in Mass Media Morality

Excerpt

In recent years journalists and journalism students have turned increasingly to the scientists -- especially the behavioral scientists -- for their insights and their methods. They have put their faith in sophisticated audience analysis techniques, and in a multitude of theoretical models to help them define and direct their activities. And at the same time they have become enamored with a proliferation of electronic and computerized gadgets which have thrust themselves into the newsrooms. How their journalism is done -- the methodology of their craft -- has distracted their attention from the motivations and consequences of their work. Morality, if it is considered at all, has taken a kind of peripheral position to the mechanisms of technology and an obsession with methodology.

The Watergate Affair, however, may have been a turning point. Journalism students are more concerned with morality -- at least with press morality; and they, among many others, are questioning the ethical foundations of journalism. There is a growing insistence that more emphasis be placed on journalistic philosophy. This is a hopeful sign.

Basic problems of journalism are, and always have been, philosophical -- and mainly ethical, even when the chief concern has been with epistemology. So it is rather strange that since the early 1930's little attention has been given to journalistic ethics -- at least in a systematic way. Few books and articles have focused on the subject, whereas the literature of the 20's and 30's was filled with discussions of morality.

It may well be, however, that a groundswell of criticism of the media, probably beginning in the 1940's with the Commission on Freedom of the Press . . .

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