This week I learned about ethics in both my communications classes, which is interesting to me because I go to BYU. It’s really important to my professors (and probably to the school) that we communications students go into the world to practice ethical business. It would seem like ethics are an in-born part of people, but if that were so I would not be learning about them in classes. And it’s important to have good ethics in the workplace – here’s an example of what constitutes good workplace ethics.
Ethical cases are a good way to learn ethics, like these from the Indiana University School of Journalism. But basically journalistic ethics come down to four things as decided on by the Society of Professional Journalists:
1. Seek Truth and Report It
2. Minimize Harm
3. Be Accountable
4. Act Independently
Personally, I think ethics is about putting yourself in the place of the people your actions will affect. Would you want people to treat you as you are about to treat them? Is the story so important to the nation that harming people in reporting it is appropriate? Each case is different, and so it’s hard to straight-up set certain rules and follow them in every case like Kant’s Categorical Imperative commands. For example, by Kant’s C.I. if it is wrong to lie in one case than it must be wrong in all cases. But, to give a popular example, what if you are hiding Jews in the attic and the Nazis come and ask if you are hiding anyone? Do you lie to protect lives or do you tell the truth because lying is wrong? Ethics can be sticky, but I think if you have the best interest of people other than you at heart you’ll make it out okay.
Last note: journalism is flooding into online publications, and the rules of ethics for online reporting is different. Here are some pointers I found on having ethics online.