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Ethics in Journalism

Dec 09, 2001 932 Words
The public's reliance on the media appears to be at its peak. The Media has more of a responsibility than ever to maintain an ethical standard in reporting the News. This standard should be carried out in not only the authenticity of the information dispersed, but also the means through which the information is obtained. However, many argue that not all unethical practices in obtaining information are a liability. These people reason that if the results sought are of great public interest, the ends justify the means.

Some of the media's procedures in attaining information are arguably unethical regardless of the public interest. Hidden cameras, establishing false business locations to entice a person into doing something wrong, and deception on documentation are just some examples of procedures that are surrounded by a question of ethics. The types of methods are certainly deceptive and therefore contradicting. The reason that the means are conflict with ends is that using one manner of deception to discover another is fraudulent. However, the question of the difference in severity between the deception used by the media and the deception that they uncover is what creates valid argument supporting the usage of these tactics.

The utilization of the hidden camera has become a common mannerism in investigative news reporting. The idea of placing a camera in place where the agent performing illegal act is unaware of its existence, has become the routine way to uncover a story. The media's employment of hidden cameras is viewed many as a violation of privacy and therefore, illegal. Conversely, the material that is uncovered by media when using hidden cameras is usually of great public interest; it contributes towards the improvement of area that is being affected. The use of hidden cameras is valid when it uncovers illegal practices that put the general public safety at risk.

Unlike hidden cameras, establishing false business locations to entice a person into doing something wrong is not justified. In this case the media is not performing a public service. Although the people who do fall into the media trap are potential criminals, they are not acting without influence. For example, ABC's prime time set up a phony doctors office surrounded by hidden camera to show people partaking in insurance fraud. This practice is unethical. Although many of these people were minimally influenced, some may have been completely tempted by the setup. These people may have not acted in such a way if not so influenced by the false clinic. Another unethical factor of this method is that is clearly a violation of the law. Police officers have to take many precautions to insure that they do not present a situation similar to what ABC did. If the police were to do anything even remotely similar to the phony doctor's office, it would be considered entrapment and none of the perpetrators could be found guilty.

The final questionable media practice, deception on documentation, is also an unethical tactic. The use deception in documentation cannot be justified because it compromises the integrity of the media. The use of hidden cameras is a practice that withholds the truth from the target but never directly lies, whereas to give false information on document is to blatantly lie. The media cannot rightfully condemn anyone for acting in a manner that defies the ideals of public safety when they are acting in the same way. To lie on documents such as job applications places the other workers and the consumers, who are under the impression that all the workers are experienced, in danger. Consequently, it is clearly unethical to lie on documents.

The lawsuit case concerning Food Lion and ABC is centered on the question of ethics in the means through which the media acquires its information. There are some aspects of the case that lead me to disagree with both parties on certain portions of their arguments and the verdict. Yet, I do believe that to use the hidden cameras was a logical and valid action in this case. The mishandling of food is a very serious subject and should be made public. However, to lie on the applications is not a valid action. Many of those undercover reporters were at their respective place of employment of a long period of time. During this time many of the other workers and the Food Lions' consumers were potentially in danger by the inadequacies of these reporters. If one of the reporters were required to operate a piece of machinery and did not know what they were doing, the reporter and/or fellow worker may have been seriously injured because of stupid mistake. I feel that Food Lion did deserve to win the case on the grounds of false representation on the application. Nevertheless, I do not feel that they deserve such a large reward. Although ABC may not have completely performed an ethical or legal procedure, the information they obtain is of great public interest and may insure public safety.

The public places a great deal of emphasis on the media. People generally consider media figures to be reliable and accurate sources of information. In light of that fact, the media has a great responsibility to the public. This responsibility includes but extend pass providing the public with accurate information. The media is also expected to maintain an ethical disposition when acquiring information. If the media compromises its integrity than the public will no longer view the media with admiralty and trust. As a result, the public's reliance and desire for the media will desist

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