Unformatted text preview: Chapter Seventeen
ETHICS AND OTHER INFORMAL CONTROLS The big picture
The last chapter was devoted to principles of conduct required by law that govern individuals and businesses engaged in mass communication. This chapter is about ethics, or voluntary principles of conduct. In mass communication, discussions of ethical conduct frequently center on two principal domains: free flow of information vs. privacy free flow of information vs. profit Five selected ethical principles applied to media gatekeeping golden mean (moderation rather than extremes) categorical (unconditional) imperative (what is right for one is right for all) veil of ignorance (fairness without social differentiation) self determination (because every person has unique value apart from any and all circumstances, no individual should be used as a means to accomplish a goal) utilitarianism (greatest good for the greatest number; maximization of value or minimization of loss; focus on consequences of actions) Utilitarianism is the principal ethical system of businesses in the U.S. Two factors known to affect decision-making among journalists socialization, background similarities among those who choose to become journalists (e.g., idealism) acculturation, the tendency for reporters to adopt the ideas, attitudes, and opinions of their news sources The application of ethics to media industries occurs at three levels: industrywide performance codes internal controls within specific organizations external influences Principal voluntary industry-wide performance codes in mass communication
JOURNALISM Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ, 1909 present; designed to guide reporters working in all media) American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE, 1923present; emerged during the era of jazz journalism) RADIOTV National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Code of Good Practice (focused on advertising and program content from 19291983; discontinued when courts ruled that it placed undue restrictions on advertising) The NAB currently posts voluntary guidelines (e.g., avoidance of gratuitous violence and the glamorization of drug use). Radio and Television News Directors Association (RTNDA, 1946present; 11part code focused on newsgathering procedures) MOTION PICTURES Various industry production codes designed to prevent government interference emerged prior to 1930. Production codes limited the type of content contained in motion pictures. The most enduring was the Motion Picture Production Code of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA, 19301968). Production codes were replaced by the audience rating system of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA; 1968present; in cooperation with the National Association of Theater Owners and the Independent Film Importers and Distributors of America). Films now contain almost any type of content, but certain scenes might limit the potential audience due to rating (G to NC17). ADVERTISING and PUBLIC RELATIONS American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) Standards of Practice (1924, present) Public Relations Society of America (PRSA, 1954 present) Principal types of voluntary internal controls in media organizations television network departments of standards and practices company policies stipulating guidelines for gatekeeping employees when interacting with news sources (e.g., freebies and junkets) and making editorial decisions (e.g., limits on altering photographs or quoted material) ombudspersons (from ombudsman, Swedish term denoting a government official appointed to receive or investigate complaints; an idea imported from Europe but adopted by only a small number of U.S. media, mostly newspapers) Principal types of external influences on the mass media
ECONOMIC PRESSURES avoidance of news stories that might offend advertisers product placements in motion pictures and television, paid for by advertisers trading news coverage for advertising space or time complementary copy in newspapers and magazines, provided by journalists to reinforce ads OTHER OUTSIDE INFLUENCES citizen pressure groups (e.g., Legion of Decency, 19341980) voluntary membership in news councils (an idea imported from Europe that was not compatible with U.S. press independence and First Amendment freedoms) education (specific courses on mass communication and society and media literacy) ...
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