What are ethics? What are some critical elements that should be considered as part of journalism ethics?
Ethics are a set of principles people use to make morally sound decisions. In addition to principles, ethics are made up of elements as well. Principles tell a person what is expected and elements explain how to fulfill those expectations. Together, elements and principles guide journalists to make the best decisions for their writing. In “The Elements of Journalism,” the authors list a principle of journalism called the “discipline of verification” (Kovach and Rosenstiel 79). Essentially it means that a journalist must verify his or her information carefully so the reader is getting the most accurate information possible. To follow this principle, the authors provided a list of elements “that form the foundation of the discipline of verification” (89). Those elements include never adding anything that was not there, never deceiving the audience, being as transparent as possible about your methods and motives, relying on your own original reporting, and exercising humility (89). All these elements should be considered a part of journalism ethics because they reinforce the principle of verification. By utilizing these elements journalists appear to be more trustworthy sources of information and appear to be more loyal to the general public.
The K&R text talks about a “hierarchy of truth” in Chapter 2. Do you think there should also be a “hierarchy of ethics?” If so what might that look like?
The “hierarchy of truth” was the belief held by Middle Age monks that some truths were more important than others. This “hierarchy of truth” came about because of the monks’ priorities. They were most concerned about the state of the universe, then how to live a moral life, then the spread of stories’ moral meaning, and lastly the matters the monks considered irrelevant. Therefore, at the highest level of the hierarchy were messages about the fate of the universe, then moral truth, then allegorical truth, and lastly literal truth. Just like monks, journalists have principles they considered more important than others. The authors of “The Elements of Journalism” stated that the primary principle of journalism is the “obligation is to tell the truth” (Kovah and Rosenstiel 36). When looking at some critical elements of journalism, one can see that some elements have to deal with telling the truth more than others. Journalists’ primary purpose is to tell the truth. Therefore, a “hierarchy of ethics” would evolve. Using the elements provided by the authors in The Elements of Journalism, at the highest would be transparency about one’s methods and motives, then never adding what was not there and never deceiving the audience, then relying on one’s own reporting, and lastly, exercising humility (89).