Category Archives: Journalism

Making Choices: Journalists and the Mean

Lee Peck, Ohio University

Many journalists rely on a “quick-and-easy” formula for making ethical decisions. Based on Aristotle’s doctrine of the mean, it involves casting out the two extremes (vices) of an ethical dilemma and acting on a middle point in the ethics spectrum. This paper explores what Aristotle intended with his doctrine of the mean and suggests ways journalists might better understand it.

Journalists are provided codes of ethics on which to model their behavior. But Aristotle cautioned that knowing the rules is not enough to ensure moral virtue. Journalists, like all people, cannot hope to understand the doctrine of the mean unless they have been brought up well by parents and early teachers. Teaching at this stage focuses on habituation — the practice of making morally correct decisions becomes second nature.

Codes of ethics cannot take the place of teachers and mentors. As Aristotle might say: it’s not enough to know the good; journalists must become good. This paper offers suggestions that might help journalists better understand what Aristotle meant by the doctrine of the mean.

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Journalism Ethics & New Trends in Communication

Wayne Waters, Ohio University

The ethics of journalism and mass communications are undergoing serious reevaluation these days. Concepts derived from three major phenomena — the social responsibility theory exemplified by the Hutchins Commission on Freedom of the Press, the developmental journalism brought out by the MacBride Commission on “Communication and Society Today and Tomorrow,” and the advent of public/civic/communitarian journalism — associated with mass communication seem most pertinent to the debate.

In all three cases there have been serious challenges to the most conservative views of the proper ethical parameters for journalistic endeavors. One can see within this debate a general broadening of ethical considerations from purely individualistic ethics to organizational ethics; from organizational to sociological and political concerns; from a negatively defined perspective of “do no evil” to a positive, proactive sensibility of facilitating public involvement; from the narrow tip of top-down reporting to the broad-based bottom-up approach.

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Good News / Bad News: Ethics Codes, Moral Codes, & Newsroom Practice

Patricia Ferrier, Ohio University

No abstract available