Media professionals spend a great deal of time talking about “doing the right thing. ” Why is it then that the consumers of mass media perennially find so much fault with the “ethics” of the disseminators of news, information, and entertainment? What has led the purveyors of mass communication to believe and act the way they do? Do they have a special obligation for ethical behavior that ordinary citizens do not; or do they, in fact, have a special waiver of the basic moral tenets that the rest of us must accept in order that we may have access to a “free marketplace of ideas”? These are the questions we must ask ourselves if we are to be moral agents of the mass media.
This book is designed to familiarize you with the tools needed to make moral decisions regarding the use of mass media, both as a consumer of the “products” of the media and as a potential or actual working member of the media. You should realize from the outset that there are no “right” answers in this book–only answers that are “most appropriate” in certain situations. To whom they are the most appropriate is a major concern of this book. Many questions will be asked, and many answers will be discussed. Ultimately, it will be up to you to draw your own conclusions about the rightness of the answers you choose to accept. It is to be hoped that you will come away with a greater appreciation for the complexities of making a moral decision. At the very least, you will be forced to develop a personal yardstick by which to measure your decisions.