A Checklist for Ethical
Throughout the preceding chapters we have seen how ethical behavior on the part of the mass media might be governed. We have looked at a great many theories proposed by some of the finest minds in philosophy. We have seen how the opposing ideals of professional autonomy and societal obligation can, and frequently do, clash during the process of moral decision making. What we haven't seen is a synthesis of these ideas and philosophies into a working model for decision making. That's what this chapter is all about.
Without a method whereby moral decision making becomes routine–so ingrained in our thought processes that we cannot separate it from our other decision-making tools–we will continue to flounder in the waters of inconsistency. Mass media practitioners must learn to approach decisions with ethical ramifications in the same, sensible way they do other choices. They must avoid the temptation to answer with pat aphorisms such as “buyer beware, ” or “the public's right to know. ” They must resist the urge to hide behind the protection of the First Amendment, for that law protects only legally, not ethically–and it typically protects only the perpetrator, not the victim.
In short, the mass media must consider their actions, and they must show their constituencies that they have done so with the best interests of everyone at heart. Ultimately, the media show that they care by their actions, not their justifications for those actions; however, in the rarified air of the mass communication industries, legitimate justification is often as hard to come by as pirate's gold and equally as valuable. The polls show that the public doesn't respect the media–any part of it. It has been