ETHICS The Importance of in SCHOLASTIC JOURNALISM Maggie Cogar Kent State University
“Ethics requires that intelligence fuse with intuition, that the process be internalized, and that decisions be made quickly and naturally." - Rushworth Kidder
Why is it important to teach ethics to high school journalism students? Teaching journalism is to teach more than a subject. It is to teach a craft, a profession – a responsibility. If high school students want to publish content as if they are professionals, they must first realize that power and responsibility. That’s where teaching ethics comes in. “Thinking about ethics is to think about what journalism is and what journalists do.” – Karen Sanders
“All we have to lose is our credibility.” – H.L. Hall A 2006 Gallup Poll on Honesty & Ethics revealed that journalists were ranked 13th out of 23 professions as 26% of respondents said journalists had high or very high ethical standards…Overall, journalists were listed above state governors, business executives, and lawyers, but below chiropractors, bankers, and psychiatrists. A 1996 Harris Poll on revealed that 75% of American adults said journalism is politically biased, and only 33% said news media dealt fairly with all sides. Are these results disturbing?
YES. For a profession in which prides itself on truth and accuracy – for a profession in which, in this new age of media, relies on their audience to believe in their truth and accuracy to survive. The lack of sound ethical decisions equals the lack of credibility in the eyes of the public.
And it all starts with student journalists… Ethical decision making skills can be taught, can be practiced,and indeed they SHOULD be taught to and practiced by journalism students. There are many ways to do this at the scholastic level, but always keep in mind teaching ethics is a process. 3 Keys to Teaching Journalism Ethics: #1 - Questioning #2 - Discussion #3 - Reflection
Questioning. Students must question their actions, their motives, and the expected outcome.
Discussion. Students must discuss with others, challenge their views and beliefs and come to an editorial decision.
Reflection. Students must be given time to reflect and process their personal beliefs and viewpoints.
10 Questions to Ask Before Publishing* • What do I know? What do I need to know? • What is my journalistic purpose? • What are my ethical concerns? • What organizational policies and professional guidelines should I consider? *Questions created by ASNE’s Ethics Committee
10 Questions, Continued… • How can I include other people, with different perspectives and diverse ideas, in the decision-making process? • What are the stakeholders – those affected by my decision? What are their motivations? Which are legitimate? • What if the roles were reversed? How would I feel if I were in the shoes of one of the stakeholders?
10 Questions, Continued… • What are the possible consequences of my actions? Short term? Long term? • What are my alternatives to maximize my truth-telling responsibility and minimize harm? • Can I clearly and fully justify my thinking and my decision? To my colleagues? To the stakeholders? To the public?