Foreward_and_Preface

Foreward_and_Preface - FOREWORD To be a journalist today is...

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Unformatted text preview: FOREWORD To be a journalist today is to know that there are people out there who do not like what you do, how you do it, or the explanations you offer for both. We all grew up with that old refrain, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” It is one that the public applies with growing fervor to the nation’s media, whose allepervasive reach touches and brings under scrutiny virtually every aspect of life. If you have ever been victimized by a poorly done news story, or know someone who has, it is not hard to sympathize with the sentiment, but it comes at a very real problem from the wrong direction. To suggest that the media should shut up, turn off the spotlight, and go away is to offer a prescription for the sure death of important freedoms in this country. What the situation requires is that the media rethink the way they—we—approach our work. It is time that the ethical vacuum that lies at the heart of most media institutions be filled with something better than situation ethics or a value—free approach that substitutes a hazy concept of the general welfare for a more rigorous moral accountability. To put the matter in plain language, the domain of the mass media today is an ethical jungle in which pragmatism is king, agreed principles as to daily practice are few, and many of the inhabitants pride themselves on the anarchy of their surroundings. This reality stands in stark relief against a background of profound media change over the past several decades. The archetypical newspaperrnan of The Front Page is no more, if in fact the hardrdrinking moral illiterates who populated that prize—winning play were ever more than caricatures. Education, including the upper reaches of higher education, is more prized today than the school of hard knocks. The apprentice reporter or producer must bring a great deal more than enthusiasm to the job if he or she hopes to succeed. The level of technical competence has risen significantly. The machines are extraordinary, as must be the imaginative creativity of those who use them. By contrast, when it comes to ethical values, the media would rather punt than play. Of course there are the hour—long handwringing sessions at the profes— sional organizations’ annual meetings, preferably in the early morning ghettos of convention scheduling. There are the anguished editorial—page responses to a xi xii FOREWORD anet Cooke scandal or a New York Times interview that wasn’t. Behind that thin line lies nothing—no systematic study of media ethics, no media/wide set of standards, no serious attempt to include such study or standards in the basic training for entryalevel hopefuls. In a profession that specializes in bringing judgment to bear on everyone else, this amounts either to hypocrisy or to something worse, a blatant protectionism that tries to silence outsiders’ criticism by claiming there are no agreed grounds for judgment. What the public sees is the vast corporate enterprise of communi— cation, presenting daily critiques of the rectitude and performance of others while refusing to concede that it should be subjected to an identical evaluation based on the same kind of standards. At work here is less the arrogant abuse of power than the blind response of institutions practically untutored in ethical considerations. In the realm I know best, daily journalism, many of us are acutely uncomfortable with any discussion of the subject. What excites our interest is the surface quality of the product. The highest accolades are reserved for a display of skill. “It may not have been much of a story, but it was great television." When the conversation turns to whether a particular approach or account did harm to those depicted or failed to meet certain ethical tests, there is considerable throat—clearing, followed by a quick change of topic. We are uncomfortable because the terrain is unfamiliar, but it is terrain for which Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning is a firstarate guide. It speaks in the language of the case study and asks hard questions about situations that are as familiar as this moming’s headlines and tonight’s evening news. But it does something more valuable than simply ask questions, which, after all, journalism does regularly. It also provides the framework for thinking and reacting ethically in the workaday world in which most of us find ourselves. This book is, in short, an invaluable addition to the literature on and about the media. It offers a wealth of insight to student, teacher, professional, and layperson alike. By bringing ethics down from the theoretical to the practical dimension of known dilemmas, it all but eliminates any excuse for ignoring the challenges they pose. Some people in my business claim to believe that the public's antagonism and mistrust of what we do is primarily the result of the human instinct to blame the messenger for the news. “We don’t make it, we just report it" is one of our favorite clichés. This attitude is contemptuous of the people and plain wrong to boot. While, as I suggested earlier, there are those who wish the media would concentrate on “good news," most Americans know better. They do not want pap. They know it is a tough world out there. What they do want is to be able to understand the principles that guide the media and to have some assurance that there is as much media practice as media preaching when it comes to those principles. What the public senses is the FOREWORD xiii reality that there are no articulated guidelines, no ethical philosophy worthy of the name that undergirds the way the media work. We in journalism in particular presume to speak in the name of the people and to offer ourselves as their surrogates in the battle with those who would diminish liberty, despoil the world, or assault the common good. The people have the right to demand in return that we worship at some higher altar than that of professional expertise. Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning provides a blueprint for building one. Hodding Carter III Editor‘in—Chief and Chief Correspondent—“Capital Journal” PREFACE Media ethics has been traveling a rough road at the junction of theory and practice. Occasionally textbooks will include an ethics chapter at the beginning, but will not integrate it with the workaday problems that follow. Principle and practice do not merge well in such endeavors, nor in our daily actions. The rush of events forces us to make ethical decisions by reflex more than by reflection, like a driver wheeling around potholes, mindful that a blowout sends him into a courtroom at one ditch and into public scorn at the other. Two different mindsets are involved, making fusion difficult. The study of ethics requires deliberation, careful distinctions, and extended discussion. The newsroom tends to emphasize other virtues: toughness and the ability to make rapid decisions in the face of daily crises. Advertising and public relations profes— sionals are expected to be competitive and enterprising. Entertainment writers and producers value skepticism, confident independence, and hot blood. For the teaching of ethics to be worthwhile, the critical capacity must emerge; reasoning processes need to remain paramount. Yet executives of media firms tend to value people of action, those who produce in a highvpressure environment. If media ethics is to gain significance, the gap between daily media practices and serious study must be bridged creatively. As with the first edition, this revision attempts to integrate ethics and media situations by using cases and commentaries. Communication is a practice— oriented field. Reporters for daily newspapers tend to work with episodes, typi— cally pursuing one story after another as they happen. Advertisers ordinarily deal with accounts and design campaigns for specific products. Actors and writers move from program to program. Communication is case oriented and media ethics is uninteresting and abstract unless practical experiences are addressed. However, media ethics ought to be more than a description of practitioners’ ethics. Therefore, in this book, cases are analyzed and connected with the ethical guidelines set forth in the Introduction. Those who work through these pages will be prodded and stimulated to think ethically. Considering situations from a systematic framework advances our problem—solving capacity; it prevents us from treating each case independently and thereby reinventing the wheel too often. "i PREFACE The commentaries do not insist on one correct answer but pinpoint some crucial issues and introduce enough salient material to aid in resolving the case responsi— bly. Much of the book’s inspiration has come from Robert Veatch’s award’ winning Case Studies in Medical Ethics, published in 1977 by the Harvard University Press. Veatch mixed his commentaries, and we have followed suit— raising questions for further reflection in some, introducing relevant ethical theories in others, and pushing toward closure where that seems appropriate. All the cases are taken from actual experiences. In order to ensure anonymity and increase clarity, names and places are changed in many of them. Though our adjustments do not make these cases timeless, they help prevent them from becoming prematurely dated and shopwom. We attempted to find ongoing issues that occur often in ordinary media practice and did not only select exotic, once— inva—Iifetime encounters. In situations based on court records or in a few in— stances of historic significance where real names aid in the analysis, the cases have not been modified. As the integration of theory and practice in ethics is important, so is the integration of news with other aspects of the information system. The three sections of this book reflect the three major media functions: reporting news, promoting products, and entertaining. Since we want readers to do ethics rather than puzzle over their immediate experience, we have chosen a broad range of media situations. Many times by encountering similar issues in several phases of the communication process, new insights can be gained and sharper perspectives result. As the Cases by Issues list in the Appendix indicates, deception, eco» nomic temptation, and sensationalism, for example, are common in reporting, advertising, and entertainment. The issue of how violence is handled can be explored in reporting as well as in entertainment. Stereotyping is deep seated and pervasive in every form of public communication; cases dealing with this issue occur in all three sections. Moreover, the wider spectrum of this book allows specialists in one medium—television, newspapers, or magazines, for example, to investigate that medium across all its uses. The Cases by Medium list in the Appendix organizes the cases according to the major media involved. Often practitioners of journalism, advertising, and entertainment are part of the same corporation and encounter other media areas indirectly in their work. As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court has specifically included journalism, advertis— ing, and entertainment under First Amendment protection. The Potter Box is included in the Introduction as a technique for uncovering the important steps in moral reasoning. It is a model of social ethics, in harmony with our overall concern in this volume for social responsibility. It can be used for analyzing each case and reaching responsible conclusions about it. This book is intended for use as a classroom text or in workshops for professionals. We are especially eager that communication educators and practitioners read and think their way through the book on their own. Whether using this volume as a text or .e 5? ér PREFACE xvu for personal reading, the Introduction can be employed flexibly. Under normal circumstances we recommend that the Potter Box be studied first and the theo' retical perspective at the beginning be learned thoroughly before proceeding to the cases. However, readers can fruitfully start elsewhere in the book With a chapter of their choosing and then return to the Introduction for greater depth. Whether used in an instructional setting or not, the book has two primary goals. First, it seeks to develop analytical skills. Ethical appraisals are often disputed; further training and study can improve the debate and help lay aSide rationalizations. Advancement in media ethics requires more attention to eVi— dence, more skill in valid argument, and more patience with complexity. With‘ out explicit procedures, as Edward R. Murrow reportedly complained on occasion: “What is called thinking is often merely a rearranging of our preju— - n ices. d Second, this book aims to improve ethical awareness. Often the ethical dimenr sion goes unrecognized. The authors are not merely content to exerCise the intellect; they believe that the moral imagination must be stimulated until real human beings and their welfare become central. Surprising as it may seem, improving ethical awareness is in many ways more elusive than honing analytical skills. In stark cases, such as the Janet Cooke affair, we realize instantly the cheating and deception involved. But often the ethical issues escape our notice. What about the Abscam coverage cited in case 14? The legal questions regarding entrapment are relatively clear, but what is unethical about using leaked informa— tion from the Justice Department outside the courts and jury? or naminga shoplifter, photographic coverage of grieving parents whose children just died in a fire, writing about the sexual escapades of a senator,.exposing a prominent right'torlifer concealing an abortion, or revealing secret information about. gov‘ emment policy that contradicts public statements. Identifying the ethical issues here is not always self—evident; thus actual and hypothetical cases become a primary tool for firing the moral imagination. . ~ I . Improving analytical skills and raising moral senSitiVity are lifelong endeavors that involve many facets of human behavior. Studied consc1entiously, the terms, arguments, and principles introduced in these chapters may also improve the quality of discourse in the larger area of applied ethics. We trust that usmg the Potter Box motif for the 82 cases in this volume will aid in building a conceptual apparatus that facilitates the growth of media ethics over the long range. - We are fully aware of the criticism from various kinds of radical soc1al sc1ence that ethics is a euphemism for playing mental games, while the status quo remains intact. That objection warrants more discussion than this preface per; mits. However, it should be noted briefly that we find this charge too indiscrimi- nate. Much of the current work in professional ethics is largely a matter of semantics and isolated incidents, but this volume does not belong to that class. The social ethics we advocate wrestles forthrightly with organizational structures. xviii PREFACE Many of the commentaries, and even entire chapters, probe directly into signifi— cant institutional issues. Certainly that is the cumulative effect also. Reading the volume through in its entirety brings into focus substantive questions about economics, management and bureaucracy, allocation of resources, the press’s raison d’étre, and distributive justice. While raising and addressing these funda— mental questions, we also have felt constrained to communicate effectively. The case and commentary combination, we believe, has instructional benefits— allowing us to dissect issues into their understandable dimensions without slip— ping into tiny problems of no consequence on the one hand, yet discouraging a complete dissolution of the democratic order on the other. Serious students will recognize that we maintain the traditional distinction between ethics and morality. Ethics we understand as the liberal arts discipline that appraises voluntary human conduct insofar as it can be judged right or wrong in reference to determinative principles. The original meaning of eethos (Greek) was “sent,” “haunt,” “abode,” “accustomed dwelling place,” that is, the place from which we proceed, from which we start out, the “home base.” From eethos is derived eethilcos meaning “of or for morals.” This word came to stand in the Greek philosophical tradition for the systematic study of the principles that ought to underlie behavior. On the other hand, morality is of Latin origin, not Greek. The Latin noun mos (pl. mores) and the adjective moralis signify a way, manner, or customary behavior. The Romans had no word that is the exact equivalent of the Greek eethos. Unlike the Greeks, they paid less attention to the inner disposition, the hidden roots of conduct, the basic principles of behavior, than they did to its external pattern. This accords with the Roman genius for order, arrangement, and organization, and with its generally unphilosophical bent of mind. The Romans looked to the outside more than to the inside. The Latin mores has come into the English language without modification (meaning folkways, how people behave). However, in English usage, the morals of a people are not the same as its morality. Morality refers to practice and ethics to a basic system of principles. We incurred many debts while preparing this volume. The McCormick Foun— dation generously supported our research into ethical dilemmas among media professionals; many of the cases and the questions surrounding them emerged from this research. Ralph Potter encouraged our adaptation of his social ethics model. Louis Hodges wrote the initial drafts for the commentaries in cases 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 14, 15, 20, 23, 25 and 26, and read earlier editions of the Introduction and Part 1. Richard Streckfuss prepared the first draft of cases 2, 4, 7, 9, 12—15, 19—20, 23, 2526. David Protess wrote case and commentary number 7. Robert Reid provided a detailed response to a previous version of the manuscript and spared us several inadequacies. Dick Christian and Jim Fish appraised many of the advertising cases from the wealth of their practical experience. Elizabeth PREFACE xxx Eckstrom and Ralph Sudfeld compiled material for the entertainment cases. Jay Van Hook and John Herré edited the Introduction along with other chapters. Diane Weddington recommended the Potter Box as the organizing idea and wrote the original draft applying it to the Cinema theatre. Several teachers, students, and professionals who used the first edition provided worthwhile suggestions that we have incorporated into this revision. The growing interest in public relations required that we include at least a chapter on that subject this time. Throughout the editorial process, Gordon Anderson of Longman has demonstrated integrity and good judgment. We absolve these friends of all responsibility for the weak‘ nesses that remain. Clifford G. Chn'stians Kim B. Rotzoll Mark Fackler ...
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Foreward_and_Preface - FOREWORD To be a journalist today is...

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