Media Ethics

This week’s resources:

Media ethics is an interesting topic. We all know a media source that could learn a thing or two by reviewing the professional journalist code of ethics. However, I think that people are generally good, and this applies to journalists as well. According to the journalistic code of ethics, these are the guidelines that journalists (generally) follow: seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable.

I have to say; the week in class where we covered media ethics was by far the best class I have ever attended in my entire history of attending school. It was incredibly interesting, and had me googling every topic (no, I promise that wasn’t me texting) as they were presented.

First I want to bring up the Yes Men. These guys are great. In class, I was in the group that reported on the Yes Men and the Chamber of Commerce/climate change issue. Basically, one of them posed as a member of the Chamber and held a press conference, saying that the Chamber had changed it’s views on climate change. This was just one of many “pranks” these guys have pulled where they bring light to more controversial topics in the media. When the Chamber of Commerce/climate change incident occurred, the news media took the story and rolled with it, broadcasting it across the country, before they even knew it was a hoax. Oops. This made me think that, in terms of media ethics, these news sources that shared the story had, well, not very good ones. They didn’t double check the story. They didn’t verify the credentials of the man that was speaking at the press conference. They just took the story and ran. And they certainly didn’t seek the truth and report it. All they sought out was a breaking news story.

In the Weekday podcast, The Moral Dilemma of Advertising, an interesting topic was brought up about a newspaper in Seattle that has an “adult” advertiser that is exploiting underage prostitution. This advertiser has posts from 3rd parties, and don’t come right out and say “underage prostitution! Come and get it!” As one of the guests on the show put it, a person would really have to know what they are looking for, as it would be in a kind of “code.” It makes me think of that movie the Mechanic. Jason Statham (swoon) is a hit man, and he places advertisements in the newspaper and the like for his services as a mechanic. However, certain people know that he is actually a hit man because of the way he writes his advertisement. Kind of like an “underground” advertising type deal. So, according to the Communications Decency Act, this deems the advertiser not responsible for what people post. It’s not the advertisers work, so they can’t be held responsible for something they didn’t do. And this makes the Mayor of Seattle very angry, because he wants the media source to drop this advertiser. The source, however, disagrees with the mayor, because it is not their fault that there is an underage prostitution problem. In fact, the representative of the media source goes on to say that it is in this way that predators are caught. The Mayor thinks this is a horrible way to look at it. But the media source has a good point.

So, is it ethical that they want to keep these advertisements? I think so. While I may not agree with these “adult” advertisements, it is a good way to catch these bad people. Plus, they don’t know what a “bad” advertisement is. If these are the kinds of people this source wants to advertise to, then it’s their choice.

Tuning into all of these resources made me think of something: the media reports what they think the people want to hear/see/experience. Why would they report something that would highly offend? They want viewers, and unethical reporting would turn them away. As I stated before, people are generally good, and will therefore report on things that (typically) won’t offend.

After reviewing Project Censored, it made me a little sick to think of all the things that were being censored from us. Some of these things are very important topics, yet we will never get to hear about them. Same with lots of other things not listed on that site. It kind of freaks you out. What else are we missing out on? What important topics are we missing out on, just because the media decides we don’t need to hear it? Actually, its quite sickening. The media plays a big role in how we see the world. If it decided that every kind of sickness needed to be covered (thinking along the lines of the recent Ebola “scare”), then we would think that we were going to catch a bunch of different things at any given time. Or if they decided to cover nothing but happy, positive stories, then we would think the world was a relatively happy, fuzzy place.

How do you think the media shapes how you view the world?


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