Making Ethical Decisions

In an era of 24/7 news coverage that demands both accuracy and immediacy from providers, plagiarism and fabrication unfortunately appeal to those who feel tortured by looming deadlines and resort to these extremes to outperform the competition. Not only do these unethical choices damage the guilty individual’s reputation, but it stigmatizes all journalists.

In an effort to thwart such indecencies in journalism, many editors rely on the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics to present information in an authentic way and maintain loyalty to readers. With temptations lurking around every corner and technological advancements making these temptations all the more appealing and easier to carry out, journalists must also formulate their own moral compass to determine whether they are being ethical.

When analyzing just what the SPJ’s code stands for, it is important to understand its four aspects that it so noteworthy:

1. Seek Truth and Report it: Journalists’ primary obligation is to inform citizens about factual events and happenings that are taking place in the world around them so they can make their own decisions. Readers have the right to know the truth and nothing less. Being truthful is what some stressed out reporters forget to do when they choose plagiarism and fabrication over genuineness.

2. Minimize Harm: Although presenting truthful news is a must, journalists must also contemplate the possible consequences that will arise from their reporting. If disclosing an individual’s name and job description will jeopardize their safety, it is not ethical to report on it. By showing compassion for those discussed, readers will respect the news organization much more. Also, sometimes innocent people are thrust into the news, so journalists must do their best to treat them as human beings.

3. Act Independently: Conflicts of interests get journalists in trouble when they allow their affiliation to compromise journalistic integrity and thus allow biases to infiltrate coverage. Whether actual or perceived, conflicts of interest discourage readers from relying on news organizations for accurate material and will turn elsewhere for more objective coverage of an event.

4. Be Accountable: Journalists have a moral responsibility to their readers, first and foremost. Being as transparent as possible with them will strengthen loyalty and allow for open discussion when reporters make mistakes. Providing a forum for such discussion is key to attracting a devoted following.

In the words of Albert Einstein: “I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.”

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