Ethics is a fundamental part of journalism that can be hard to understand at times. Ethics is not a black and white thing. Everyone has different opinions and different views on what is and isn’t ethical, which often produces passionate arguments.
One way to navigate this sometimes turbulent arena is to use the Potter Box. The Potter box helps you evaluate the situation through facts, values, principles, and loyalties. After going through these sections it is important to go back through and again and even go through it with someone else to help you understand what the right thing to do is.
Along with many different ways to evaluate ethics in a situation there are also many different perspectives that ethics can be viewed from. There is utilitarianism, consequentialism, non-consequentialism, along with value ethics, situation ethics, and moral absolutism. Utilitarianism favors action that produces the greatest among of happiness or good for the greatest amount of people. Consequentialism says that the ends justify the means. If the end result is good it doesn’t matter how you got to the result. Non-consequentialism on the other hand is concerned with actions themselves and not with the consequences.
Virtue ethics looks at virtue or moral character rather than ethical duties or consequences of actions. Situation ethics rejects prescriptive rules and argues that individual ethical decisions should be made based on a specific situation. Moral absolutism says that there are underlying moral rules and guidelines that everyone must abide by. None of these perspectives is wrong or right. That is what makes ethics so complex.
With all of these different ideas and perspectives it can be hard to decide what is ethical or not. While there is never an absolute right or wrong in ethics Aristotle’s Golden Mean provides a pretty good guide to follow. It says that the best solution comes between the two extremes. If one leans too much to any one perspective that can be bad, but when a combination of these different ideas and perspectives is used the best solution can be found.
The best way to sort out ethical problems is through discussion. When everyone is throwing around different ideas and the positives and negatives of each perspective is discussed it becomes easier to find a balance.
Many journalists today still act unethically. In one example a reporter cuts off the person she is interviewing and inserts her own opinion. If that isn’t bad enough at the end of her segment she called out and insulted the news stations rivals. This is a problem that will always be found in society, but when we take time to understand the basics of ethics and how we can overcome ethical problems we can make better and more informed decisions.