Ethical Issues in Journalism

Topics: Mass media, Journalism, Ethics Pages: 9 (2922 words) Published: October 28, 2012

Journalists are professional people, trying to work within a code of professional ethics. This includes the need to be fair to all parties involved in any news story.

However, journalists cannot operate in a vacuum, doing what they think is right without pressures being put on them. Journalists face pressure from a variety of sources, all trying to make the journalist behave in a way which is not the way the journalist would choose.

It is important that you try to resist all these forms of pressure, as far as possible.

Of course, you will sometimes fail. This is an imperfect world, and journalists are also imperfect. Nevertheless, you should always try to resist the kinds of pressure. Some of the issues facing journalists are;-

2.1 Fair play
A newspaper should not publish an unofficial charge affecting reputation or moral character without opportunity given to the accused to be heard; right practice demands the giving of such opportunity in all cases of serious accusations outside a judicial proceeding. A newspaper should not invade private rights or feelings without sure warrant of public right as distinguished from public curiosity. It is the privilege, as it is the duty, of a newspaper to make prompt and complete correction of its own mistakes of fact or opinion, whatever their origin. [Taken from the American Code.]

This was yet another area in which both The Standard and The Daily Nation showed good example of mature professionalism either due to good editorship or because of "guidance" from proprietors.

One thing was certain: that unlike a KANU [Acronym for Kenya African National Union, the ruling political party. ]-owned publication, The Kenya Times, which, for some strange reasons, appeared to be immune to libel cases, The Standard and The Nation were careful about making false accusations against anyone because publication of such stories often led to libel suits.

If there was one issue which made African newspaper proprietors shake in their boots, it was the issue of libel cases in which newspapers were found "guilty" of publishing false accusations against respectable members of the society. Apart from losing a lot of money paid as damages and for legal fees, editors who habitually went to court and lost libel cases also lost their professional integrity and credibility.

Many participants at the workshops knew of a number of newspapers in Europe and United States which employed lawyers fulltime as members of the editorial department if only to look at copy likely to land editors and owners in court. Editors of those newspapers listened when the lawyers suggested any changes in the presentation of any "dangerous" story.

Participants revealed that the increased number of privately owned newspapers in the majority of English speaking countries had made the use of lawyers to vet stories before publication more and more common.

Whenever that happened, journalists in general and editors in particular welcomed the move to avoid an increasing number of libel cases. The workshops were told newspaper managers in Kenya were already persuading some of the newly qualified lawyers to train as journalists with a view to using them as anti-libel watchdogs on newspapers. Similar trends are happening in a number of English speaking countries of Africa. 2.2 Employer

Your employer pays your salary. In return, they expect to say how you will do your job. This can lead to ethical problems for journalists.

If you work for a government-owned news organization, then your government will be your employer. This could make it very difficult for you to report critically on things which the government is doing.

Ministers will often put pressure on public service journalists to report things which are favorable to the government (even when they are not newsworthy) and not to report things which are unfavorable to the government. They can enforce public service discipline, to...
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