Role of Journalists' Gender, Work Experience and Education in Ethical Decision Making

By Motlagh, Nafise E.; Hassan, Md Salleh Bin Hj et al. | Asian Social Science, July 2013 | Go to article overview

Role of Journalists' Gender, Work Experience and Education in Ethical Decision Making


Motlagh, Nafise E., Hassan, Md Salleh Bin Hj, Bolong, Jusang Bin, Osman, Mohd Nizam, Asian Social Science


Abstract

This research was conducted to determine the role of journalists' gender, work experience and education in their ethical decisions in uncertain situations. The instrument used was structured and self-administered questionnaire. This quantitative descriptive study selected 231 full-time Malaysian journalists from five highly-circulated newspapers in April 2011. Non-probability sampling (convenience) was applied to collect the data and to estimate the characteristics of the whole population. The results showed that more than half (51.8%) of the 228 journalists made unfair decisions about seven short presumptive statuses, which were designed based on the Malaysia National Union of Journalists' codes of ethics. According to this study, neither gender nor journalism education made any difference in journalists' ethical decisions. The findings also showed the more work experience the journalists had, the more fair decisions they made in uncertain situations.

Keywords: journalism ethics, gender, work experience, journalism education, ethical decision-making, media ethics

1. Introduction

Journalism ethics is a branch of philosophy concerned with the actions that are morally permissible and those that are not. In Journalism, ethics is important because it controls what gets published. Media ethics help media workers in deciding what is right, and how to choose the best from several alternatives. "Media ethics" constitutes a normative science of conduct and must therefore apply voluntarily.

Professional journalists should be honest, truthful and reveal all crucial facts. They must be sensitive at times of grief and trauma. They should never suppress information or deform them and never allow personal believes or commitments to alter the story. As Hoo and Yeing (2010) said, journalists play an important role in reporting the news to the public for greater understanding on latest issues. Their responsibility is to gather information and to report it to the public. They have to act ethically and be professional in reporting news exactly and correctly. Although journalists may not consciously be distorting their reporting, they may, nonetheless, be reporting the events in a manner conducive to the interests and values of a particular section or society.

There are many examples regarding to the lack of ethics in journalism such as giving wrong information, deception, and conflict of interests. These practices not only upset or harm others, but also can make people stop trusting journalists. Journalists are the society's delegated recorders of reality. They are given access to people and events way beyond that of the average member of the public, but the unspoken condition is that they should report the truth back. They should not allow their account to be influenced by their personal biases, by conflicts of interests, or by monetary inducements. They have to try to represent any situation as fairly and accurately as they can. They have to treat the public with respect. It is on this basis that they exercise power. If they violate, they risk losing their credibility and reputation; heavy penalties from which it is hard to recover and colleagues and employers are dishonored too (Tanner, Phillips, Smyth & Tapsall, 2005).

Nowadays, many companies and associations in different fields including journalism try to conduct their employees based on the relevant codes of ethics. According to Kaptein (2004) fifty-eight percent of the 100 largest companies in the world employ ethical codes. Codes articulate ethical boundaries of an organization - what is acceptable and what is not? (Stevens, 2008). Respect for truth and the public's right to information are overriding principles for all journalists. In pursuance of these principles, journalists commit themselves to ethical and professional standards. Codes of ethics provide some guidelines to help them in decision-making. Without them, journalists' actions may be random and unguided. …

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