The Issue of Ethics

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When journalism involves crime and justice, the issue of ethics is often called into question. Confidentiality is frequently one such issue. A journalist may be caught between protecting private information for a source and breaking this trust when ordered to give up information to a court judge. When a source trusts the journalist with information that breaks the law, the journalist must decide whether or not to turn the source in to police officials.

Journalists also call into question the issue of ethics when using a victim’s emotions in order to boost attention to their article. A crying victim may create an emotional response in readers and cause more people to read the article, but may stir up emotions of the victim as well because the image captured was so personal and private. Journalists may also make events more overdramatic then they are in order to boost sales.

When dealing with victims and the families of victims, journalists must also be careful. They should be respectful and understanding of what the victim and those affected have gone through, and must know what lines should not be crossed. At the same time, they need to be able to gather the facts and information necessary to build a good story.

Many other issues regarding ethics and reporting crime exist. I think today’s news sometimes pushes the borders of ethics more than it should. Personal, private, and sometimes violent images and videos are available for all to see. Hardly anyone has any sort of privacy, partly because private matters are always being leaked onto the internet.

Photo Credit: Creative Commons


KatieSchober February 2, 2011 at 10:12 AM  

I think this is a very timely article, especially in light of the Cedric Everson trial recently. It was pointed out to me by Professor Bandy at Simpson College that at one point a newscast introduced the rape accusation and discussed that story, then segweyed to Everson's football career. How disgustingly unethical is that?

Zach James February 2, 2011 at 11:22 AM  

There should be absolutely no excuse for journalists to be unethical. It bothers me to see media personnel "kissing up" to certain figures in the media when one is in a trial. Just focus on the matter at hand, and leave all biases aside.

Morgan Fleener February 7, 2011 at 6:01 PM  

I feel journalists should respect a family's privacy and not ask too personal of questions. At the INA Convention and Trade Show last week, Aaron Thomas explained how helpful it was to his family that Midwest journalists respected the privacy of their family. Journalists should maintain respect when questioning people while gathering information. However, each person reacts to a situation different. How do we as journalists know what questions to ask and what to not ask?

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