“In July 1996 McKeown had pumped five bullets into the back of

“In July 1996 McKeown had pumped five bullets into the back of McGoldrick’s head
from close range in a professional paramilitary killing………….after swearing me to
silence about the killing, he then boasted about it to me…….despite the difficulty of
going against a source this was a promise I eventually felt……that I could not keep”
This is how ex journalist Nick Martin Clarke explains his decision to appear in court
for the prosecution of McKeown, who eventually received a minimum of 24 years
imprisonment for the crime. Further justifying his position he claims “An absolutist
stance on confidentiality is akin to total pacifism or to not telling a lie even to save a
life. It is an eccentricity that has little to offer real-world journalism…….. the
principle of confidentiality, important though it is, is not an end in itself, but
ultimately a means to disclosure which must remain for journalists……our primary
Arguing against this, current Northern Ireland journalist John Coulter claims “For me,
the fundamental ethical principle of journalism is that we have a moral imperative to
give a guarantee of anonymity to genuine confidential sources providing bona fide
information. There can be no [lack of] transparency in the trust that our sources must
have in us as professional journalists. If we sacrifice that trust, we betray our
credibility as reporters of the truth. Likewise, if there is no trust between the
confidential source and the journalist, it destroys the concept of honesty in the
verification of the evidence given by that source….. There is an old maxim, if you
can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Applied to the journalistic issue of source
protection it reads if you can’t keep your word, don’t do the story”
Please comment - up to 200 words maximum, on what you believe Nick Martin
Clarke should have down, and why.
Comment 1
If I was Nick Martin Clarke, I would have kept silent. In journalism, there's a fine line
between publishing the truth and keeping trust with your sources. It would have been
useful here to quote perhaps something out of the NUJ code of conduct on this – or at
least from Sanders or Bivins. It's all well and good printing things that are in the
public interest Here – you should define the public interest (especially in a huge
murder case), but if you start revealing sources and betraying trust, then you lose all
credibility as a journalist and people will not want to deal with you in future.
However, not telling anyone that you know who has committed such a grievous crime
such as this would eat away at your conscience for the rest of your life, and that
obviously that would not be a good thing... Although coming clean would morally be
the best thing to do, Why would it? Is it always in every possible circumstance? Is this
taking a Kantian perspective? If so – quote Kant, it wouldn't be right in this
Comment 2
The journalist is only the mediator of the final news that are know by the people, but
they are still people. People that have in their own hand information of high value, but
its has more value the justice than the profession itself. Thats why i will act as he did.
Some issues here of clarity – Afraid I wasn’t quite sure of exactly what was meant.
Comment 3
In this case I wouldn't have followed the line of action Nick Martin Clarke took. As a
journalist you are often given information by sources in confidence. This could be
expanded – why does this happen?
That is a trust that has been built up between a journalist and the source, whoever they
are. Nick Martin Clarke betrayed this trust and for me that is unforgivable.
Whilst he might have thought he was doing the right thing for his own moral
conscience and the public interest, he has completely misjudged the situation and has
ruined his own career as a journalist in the future.
The decision would have been an extremely difficult one for him to make but
sometimes in life you have to put yourself first. Do you perhaps mean you have to put
your professional values first? He should have kept to the journalistic rule of
confidentiality and kept his credibility above board.
Comment 4
My professional morale (morals, or ‘moral code’/ ethical code’?) and my personal
morale would conflict. My professional morale Values? as a journalist would dictate
not to tell because the source has given me his story in confidence my personal
morale, however, would dictate to tell because murder is a horrible crime and a
person should be punished for such a crime. Is it your job to help punish? Or just to
publish the news? You might be a journalist in the newsroom When you received this
information, were you a ‘journalist’ or a ‘human being’? but fact is that you're a
human being when you leave work. In this sutiation Sp I would probably go with
what I as a human being know is right and wrong (and to kill someone is very wrong)
and I would have told because I have to be able to live with myself. Would you have
left journalism then?
Comment 5
I think that I would have kept silent if I was in Nick Martin Clarke's situation.
Revealing sources is very damaging, and I would lose my credibility as a journalist. Is
this an ‘egoist’ point of view? If I was to break that trust then my career would be
considered over. I know that it would be very difficult to have this information on my
conscience without doing something about it, but in the circumstances it would be
better not to reveal it. What are the motives then for not revealing it? Can you quote
an ethical position?
Comment 6
In this case I wouldn't have followed the line of action taken by Nick Martin Clarke.
As a journalist, a lot of time is spent building up trust with sources in order to get
stories, and to betray that trust over anything would be absolutely fatal to your career.
Are you taking an egoistical position here, or is ‘not betraying a trust’ a ‘rule’
(Kantian) which need to keep to? Even in a case such as this where Clarke clearly felt
he was serving the public interest, it was the wrong decision given he is now on
witness protection and will never be trusted again by anyone when it comes to
keeping things confidential. Might you want to say anything about the wider
circumstances? Have you read the Coulter article? If so, why not make it obvious you
have – that’s what will get you marks.
Comment 7
Keeping this to yourself would be very difficult and would eat at you for the rest of
your life, especially if he were never prosecuted. However, I don't think I would have
betrayed his trust. It destroys your reputation as a journalist, shatters any illusion of
your trustworthiness, turns your -- and your family's -- world upside down (because
you're going into witness protection) and would probably lead to other journalists
being pressured to break confidences and reveal sources. So this is ‘consequentialism’
– you should point this out.
Comment 8
Often as a journalist all you have to rely on is your reputation, Is there a quote from
Bivins/ Sanders that could back this up – or is it just an assertion? and if you shatter
that by revealing sources you are in turn ending your career in the media by
destroying your professional credibility Is this an egoist position? Could you define
an egoist position?. I'm not saying murder is acceptable, but in this instance it would
pay to take care of yourself and make sure your source is kept confidential. Does that
mean there are occasions it would not pay to do this? Would you do something
different on these occasions? Examples?
Comment 9
My personal opinion and professional opinion would collide indefinitely in this
situation. A man has been murdered and his family will obviously want justice. He
has committed a crime and he should be named and shamed.(Is this just an assertion?
Can you tell me why he should be named and shamed? ) On the other hand as a
journalist any sources given to you if asked, should remain confidential in order to be
a trustworthy journalist.Could you quote a rule here? Or some guidance? If you
declare a source your career would struggle So is this just egoism? as no one would
come to you with information.
However, this criminal was stupid enough to tell a journalist of his crime...he's taking
quite a risk. Personally it would make me angry hearing someone boast about a
murder, it would make me want to tell someone about it even more.
Even though my heart would be with the victim's family, my head would tell me to do
the professional thing Good point – but you need to elaborate - and keep my word. If
you want to have a successful career in journalism you'll have to learn how to keep
secrets. Again, perhaps elaborate here?
Comment 10
I would be in two minds about what to do in this situation. The professional side of
me would want to keep the information confidential to not only protect my career but
also my family.Is there an ethical position which backs it? What is it? On the other
hand I know living with this kind of secret would eat me up inside and stay with me
forever. I would feel for the family who would never be able get closure and I have to
put myself in their shoes. The fact that this criminal has boasted about his crime
shows what kind of person he is and that he has no remorse, he is exactly the kind of
person who should be punished. Does that mean if everything else was the same, but
the criminal had remorse, you wouldn’t want to publish? How could you justify that
ethically? If he did not want the information to get out then surely he would not have
told a journalist. Even though I would feel very guilty,and a huge part of me would
want to do the right thing I think in this situation I would try Hmm… would you try
hard, or just a little bit, or a teensie weensie bit…..? to keep the information
confidential. He is already in prison and if I was to testify I wouldn't just be putting
myself in danger.
Comment 11
As mentioned In class, I am not a journalism student but I do understand that there is
ethical obligations to be upheld as a member of this industry, Could you quote this
obligation? Code? especially when trying to uphold your integrity within your
career. This being said, the 6-8 point list of morals discussed in class Need to quote
Joan Byrd if these are her points……are not only based on morals within your
career. As people we have morals as well, and I think that this specific dilemma with
Nick Martin Clarke needs to be taken in context in regards to severity of the nature
Can you elaborate? What makes it severe? The actual death, or the intention to kill?
Would changing any of these make a difference? of what was confided to him
by McKeown. Clarke, obviously made a decision to become a witness after
considering his morals in regards to his career and his personal life, and did what he
felt best. However, I am not saying what he did was the 'right' thing to do. He then
opened a can of worms for the prosecution to examine all of his confidential
information from previous journalistic works as evidence. This should have been
something that he considered. All in all I feel that I cant make a decision as to what I
would do in this instance. What if I feel I can’t give you a mark then…..? You need to
say perhaps what an ‘egoistic’ individual might do, or what Emanuel Kant might
recomment, or JS Mill….. (and use quotes) It depends on the severity of the
incidence, there are no guarantees that 100% of the time journalists will follow the
code of confidentiality. That being said, the quote made by John Coulter comes to
mind. "If you cant stand the heat..." Good – but be a little more precise, since its an
academic approach you’ll be marked on.
Comment 12
As a journalist all you have is your word when it comes to your sources. It would be
really useful to back this assertion up with a sources reference – could make all the
difference to your marks! Betraying this trust not only ruined this man's career but
essentially ruined his life.Might it be possible though for a ‘correct’ ethical decision,
still to ‘ruin’ your life? What would you say about that then? If you put yourself in the
situation where you have a working relationship with paramilitaries then you cannot
afford to be hurt and offended when they relay information to you. Martin-Clarke
obviously was torn due to his relationship with the victim's family but in this case, it
wasn't his place or in the best interest of the press Again some academic backing to
this would really help your mark. to tell the police. Plus could do with being a bit
Comment 13
I'm completely with Coulter on this. Martin Clarke was obviously in an unenviable
position, but he's a journalist - you have to be prepared to keep confidential
information under wraps. You have to be careful here, and make sure you write in an
academic manner (as well as an accessible one)
Sure, Martin Clarke felt that the family should have justice - I don't think anybody
would disagree that they deserve it. But by tarnishing the journalism profession, he's
not only putting other journalists in danger but also potentially stopping them from
serving the public interest in future - it will be harder to get sources to confide in them
and, as a result, uncover important stories. This is a good point
If I was using a deontological argument, I would consider my rule of respecting
confidential sources and keep quiet. With a utilitarian standpoint, I would consider the
ramifications to not only myself but others in the profession, and this would only
reinforce my decision to keep quiet. This is an excellent approach – showing
knowledge of different points of view, but would be strengthened by direct quotes
It's not an ideal situation, but this isn't a profession where we ever tend to encounter
ideal situations.
Comment 14
Upon first reflection it is normal to think that of course we should tell because he has
killed someone therefore he should be punished.Is it normal? What about
rehabilitation rather than retribution? Perhaps you should elaborate this a
bit….However, we must delve into the ethics of Journalism in this situation.
Whilst conducting the interview Nick Martin Clarke took on the role of a Journalist
and it would therefore be acceptable to claim that he should act within the structures
which define the ethics of Journalism. One of these structures is confidentiality. Very
good – but need academic backing for this statement – ie quote a code of conduct
perhaps….During the process of this interview he was asked “Is this confidential?” to
which Clarke replied “Yes” therefore abiding by a code of practice again quote which
one….in Journalism. However he changed his stance once he heard about the murder
of a taxi driver.
If I were to find myself in this situation I would have to keep this information to
myself as I obtained this information by promising confidently through being a
Journalist. Furthermore, in reference to Immanuel Kant, if I were to change my
Journalistic morals based on a this confession then surely that would be immoral as
how can it be one rule for one person and then another rule for another. Excellent
point, but a direct quote from Kant, or a more specific source would get better marks
Comment 15
If I were in Nick Martin Clarke's shoes, I would not have taken the same course of
action as he did. A journalist, throughout his/her career will need to develop and
create contacts and work with sources. By taking this action, especially when told
something which was passed on in confidence ruins a journalists credibility, and also
damages the reputation of his/her peers, also noted by John Coulter. Very good. Could
you mention the academic basis for this – egoism, plus consequentialism?
There is a clear issue here in regards to 'doing the right thing' for moral conscience
and public interest, however, there is also a need to do the right thing in relation to
your profession. This suggests that the profession is somehow ‘wrong’ and the public
interest is somehow right? Is this what you mean, and on what basis could you justify
that assertion? Overall, it is clear to see why he did take the course of action as
mentioned above, however, I would argue to keep credibility as a journalist and
keeping the journalistic rule of confidentialityPlease quote the rule or the context of
it…., he should have kept the information to himself. Despite being in a difficult
position, I believe Clarke should have taken a non-consequential approach, rather than
that of a egoistic one as he acted in the best interests of himself (clearing conscience),
rather than doing something because it would be right - regardless of the
outcome. Good points at the end – some direct quotes would have helped though.
Comment 16
We are journalists, we aren't priests in a confessional box expected to have a vow of
silence. Interesting. Are priests just ‘expected’ to have a vow of silence? What if they
break it? In matters of grave importance like this, What makes it of grave
importance? Does someone actually have to die. Or is there a scale of importance?
When does it become grave? (no pun intended)? we as journalists cannot stand in the
way of justice just because it may further our careers. Is that the only reason
journalists do not give sources? Is it not that without this approach, journalism
wouldn’t really be journalism? The way you act in this situation is a matter of
conscience and ultimately defines you as a person, in my opinion. Someone has been
killed and you have helped cover up that crime, the person who did it is boasting
about it and you have to live with the guilt of that. I sympathise with Nick Martin
Clarke because he clearly couldn't live with the guilt but he should have reported the
crime straight away and broken his 'promise' to his source; he is only a reporter after
all and he doesn't need to be bullied into the cover up of a murder. If as a result of
Martin’s helping the police, should journalists expect other killers to treat them as
professionals, or just as potential informants to the police’?
Comment 17
The strong appeal of non-consequential ethics is that there is something concrete to
base your opinion on (Bivins, Mixed Media p.66). Excellent – exactly the type of
approach that gets you high marks….In this case, Nick’s professional code of ethics
says to keep confidentiality. Need to source this assertion…. He shouldn’t even mull
over whether he should tell the truth or not, he should simply follow the code. If fact,
he did not follow the rule, so he acted immoral in an unethical manner? At the same
time Immanuel Kant, whose philosophy is also linked to not following the rules
irrespective to the consequences, Very good point. held that nothing was good in
itself except good will. In Kant’s view, only the motive of the actor lent the action to
its morality. Could you quote a more exact ref? It would get you top marks…Didn’t
Nick act this way because he thought he was doing the right thing? He acted so,
because he thought this is the right way to do, because he thought it was his duty to
solve this case, to inform the family etc. In Kant’s view, actions have true moral
worth only when aspiring from recognition of a duty and a choice to discharge it.
Again, very good I can also acquit Nick with help of the philosophy (completely
opposite to Kant’s one) of Niccolo Machiavelli, who believed that basing decision
solely on consequences could excuse any action, even the most abhorrent. So If Nick
acted egoistically, and thought breaking the promise of confidentiality will bring him
the best outcome (he will at least sleep better at night knowing that he is not keeping
the secret of the murderer), if he acted in his best interest (which obviously he did) ,
he is excused. Even due to consequential theories, Nick did the right thing, as if the
consequences are good, the act is right. Modern utilitarianism asserts that we should
always act to produce the greatest ratio of good to evil. What are the consequences of
Nick telling the truth? Yes, the journalist lied and did not keep confidentiality, but the
family of the dead person knows what happened, the murderer is in prison, which is
positive not only for the family, but for the whole world. I should probably stop now,
as it is obvious enough that I support Nick Martin Clarke’s decision. I do understand
that journalists have to keep confidentiality in any case, and luckily I am not a
journalist, because in this case I think I couldn’t keep this secret myself. This is really
good indeed.
Comment 18
Like Nick Martin Clarke I too would struggle to live with this piece of information,
knowing that the murdered man's family want to know what happened to him. I am
fully aware of the journalistic code of practice Again – here you would have to say
exactly which ‘code’ you were referring to - and the fact that we have an obligation to
grant people anonymity, but this is totally against my personal morals Probably best
to use the word ‘ethics’ here in this situation. I personally could not sit back and
essentially cover up this crime, potentially watch other people face trial and go to
prison for something I am fully aware they didn't do. It is for that reason that I would
take on Benthams 'greatest happiness' principle This is good – making me aware you
know some of Bentham’s approach. However, it would have been better to have a
more exact quote and reveal the man to be the murderer he is whatever the
consequence and impact on myself. Interestingly here, although you are invoking
Bentham ( a utilitarian – focussed on the ‘consequences’), you seem to be adopting
the ‘greatest happiness’ as a ‘rule’ like Kant. So you would need to be more precise
about which standpoint you thought you were adopting.
Comment 19
Kant’s theory of non-consequential ethics This is good – mentioning a particular
standpoint would imply that Clarke should follow the rule of his higher authority, i.e.
the NUJ code which says you should always protect your sources.This is really good
– but even better would be to also give, say a url where it could be found. The second
Clarke considered breaking this code was the second that he stepped off the
deontological path.
Personally, I would adhere to the view that I should protect my source – not simply
because I know that I should, but because I would look at the consequences of my
actions. Again this is good – but to improve you could add that this is adopting a
‘utilitarian’ approach as well - If I tell, not only would I be breaking my word of
confidentiality, but I would potentially be putting my own life in danger.
J.S Mill’s caveats include ‘keep promises entered into voluntarily’,This is good – but
it’s from my lectures. It would be better if you could quote where it was from in an
original source in JS Mill, or paraphrased in Sanders or Bivins and I have promised
this man that what he tells me remains confidential.
I would adopt a utilitarian approach based on the usefulness of the potential outcome
of the choice I make.Very good Bentham’s view is that human beings tend to avoid
pain, Again a more direct quote here would be useful and this is what I would do – by
not telling, I would be able to continue living my life, albeit with the guilt of knowing
the truth on my conscience. I would be able to amend my actions in future by
learning from my mistake Amending actions in light of results is one of the perceived
benefits of utilitarianism – you could point this out– I would be more cautious about
assuring confidentiality in future!
Comment 20
Although confidentiality is a key principle of using sources in journalism, I do not see
a need for it in this circumstance if I am truly honest.You probably want to avoid
phrases like this – we assume you will be honest all the time… McKweon (SP)is
clearly not sorry for his crime and I believe that renders the agreement invalid.
Interesting – are you suggesting motives of someone else allow you to be totally
dishonest in giving a promise then breaking it? Could you justify this ethically?
Would Kant support you, or JS Mill? If he was so determined to remain anonymous
then he shouldn't have done the story in the first place.I’m not sure what this means at
all. Do you mean that if the killer wanted to remain anonymous, he should not have
told the journalist? That would mean that you are arguing that pledges of protecting
sources should never ever be given, as they should be broken as part of normal life.
That means one of the main standpoints in the profession of journalism gets thrown
out. Could the profession of journalism really continue to operate? The reporter is
risking his own life for justice and to me, journalism is about paving the way for
justice in our society. Is it not the justice systeml the laws and the police who pave the
ways for justice in our society? From your standpoint, would Nick Martin Clarke not
have been better to have left school and joined the police force, rather than think his
future was in reporting or in journalism?At the end of the day, I would put my morals
Maybe better to use ‘ethics’ here before my career.
Comment 21
New York Times Reporter Judith Miller spent 12 weeks in jail after refusing to reveal
her source in the Plame Affair It would have been useful to give more details of this –
what was at issue in this Affair?. Miller said, "If Journalists cannot be trusted to keep
confidence, then journalists cannot function and there cannot be a free press."
However noble this is, Miller's case did not involve a boastful murderer.
OK – to be clear, does this mean the NUJ code of conduct ought to be re-written to
say ‘confidentiality should be kept….. apart from cases of boastful murder……? What
if the murderer didn’t boast? Do you still break your pledge of confidentiality? What
if he confesses he attempted to murder someone, but failed. Is this strong enough to
break the promise? What if they confess to a murder (which might have been really
gruesome at the time), but they now seem really, really repentant? It seems to me you
either have codes or you don’t? There is nothing academically wrong about arguing
you ought not to have codes, but you do need to be precise, as to what that ethical
standpoint would lead to and its ethical justification.
You cannot blame Nick Martin Clarke for making a promise he couldn't keep not
knowing what McKeown will confess. See the points above. Unlike doctors and
lawyers, journalists are not protected by law This may be true, but custom and
practice means that the law rarely tries to get journalists to break their code of
confidentiality or reveal sources, as there seems to be a general recognition that to do
so undermines the possibility of journalism being really effective to keep
confidentiality and a moral obligation to do so by the PCC code of conduct Are you
sure this is the correct code to refer to? Surely the PCC code is the ‘Editors code’ for
the press in general. does not suffice.
Phillip Meyer states that a journalist's real clients are the readers and not the sources.
Journalists live by ethical principles and as seen in this case they can be questioned by
a person's moral judgement. This is interesting. If you are saying that journalist do
live by ethical principles, you need to state which ones they are (in your
understanding). Are you also saying that these are ones journalists can throw out due
to ‘moral judgement’? It would have been interesting to see your point of view on
John Coulter’s argument against Nick Martin Clarke. Everyone was asked to read
this, since there is an argument in it. It would get you marks if you could show you
had in fact read this. Unless there is a law that states 'thou shall not reveal your
sources' like Clarke, I would be prepared to deal with the consequences of my actions
if something as exceptional as this happens. This is interesting – could you say which
ethical standpoint you are then adopting? Is it a ‘rule’ you’re living by? Or is it
utilitarianism, looking at consequences? Or Act utilitarianism, adopting a general
approach of keeping confidentiality (ie rule utilitarianism), but due to the specifics of
this particular act, breaking confidentiality at the end of the day.
Comment 22
I would have to say that I would do as Nick Martin Clark had done and reported
McKeown to the police as this man murdered someone as a birthday present for the
leader of the loyalist group. As a human being I would not be able to live with this on
my conscience. I would accept the consequences of my actions knowing that (to me) I
had done the right thing. I’d really be looking here for the ethical standpoint you are
adopting. Is this because you believe that ‘thou shalt not kill’ or something similar?
Or do you have a rule that ‘you shall not protect brutal murderers’? What if the
victim had not died, and say had just been badly beaten? Does your standpoint still
hold? What if there had been the ‘intent’ to kill, but nothing had happened (say the
gun had jammed)? What if the killer had been truly repentant?
I understand that, in journalism, protecting your sources can be important, For best
marks here you should back this statement up with some reference to something
academic – a quote from Sanders perhaps, or the NUJ perhaps however, protecting a
man who has just confessed to the brutal murder of an innocent man seems to be top
priority, in some journalist’s opinion, rather than bringing this man to justice. Are you
saying then that the ‘top priority’ of journalists ought to be to bring law breakers to
justice? Is that not the role of the police?
Comment 23
In my opinion, the way Nick Martin Clarke acted was morally right. Although I can
understand John Coulter’s point of view, that by betraying a source’s trust and by
breaching confidentiality agreements a negative light could be shed on the rest of the
journalism profession, which is also supported by Kant’s theory, This is very useful –
it clearly shows you are aware of the counter arguments, but nevertheless are not
convinced by them. but in this case there is a clear public interest in the solving of this
brutal murder, especially because McKeown didn’t regret it in the slightest. Not sure
about this – the public interest approach is one worth debating about, so I welcome it,
however, surely McKeown’s attitude has absolutely nothing to do with whether
something is in the public interest? Surely your argument would be based on the
approach ‘solving an unsolved murder’ could be seen to be in the public interest. This
would be irrespective of whether McKeown still boasts of murder, or whether he had
become a born again Christian in jail!! As Nick Martin Clarke said himself “someone
who might well have killed again will most certainly never have the change to do so
again!” OK – I see where your argument is going now. Perhaps it would have been
better to say it could be argued to be in the public interest as it seems McKeown
would probably kill again (future threat), rather than ‘didn’t regret’ (past tense). This
case shows that sometimes individuals have to decide to act according to either their
professional or their personal moral principles, as these are not compatible. Clarke
decided to prioritise to inform the public over keeping a promise, which led to solving
a murder and bringing closure for the victim’s family. This, in my opinion, is the
morally right decision. This is a useful academic approach involving your own
judgement based on arguments for and against – well done.
Comment 24
Firstly it is important to identify that Nick Martin Clark clearly based his decisions on
a personal level rather than his duty as a journalist. To that effect he was following the
Kantian view of ethics in that the following of rules, the rational thinking process and
the categorical imperative led him to make the decision to involve the police. But
could journalists not argue that their codes are based on exactly this approach,
except the ‘values’ or ‘rules’ or ‘imperatives’ are ones that clash with other ‘rules’
(one of the dangers of a de-ontological approach) The categorical imperative is the
moral rule of Kantian theory and illustrates that an individual will behave rationally
by following rules and only acting in such a way that one would want another to act
towards them. Very good In summary, it means that any actions by the individual
would be fit to become universal law and not harm anyone. Again, very good
furthermore, Clark’s situation is an example of Kant’s theory that should all
individuals act rational then all individuals will reach the same conclusion i.e
knowing right from wrong. One could argue here then, that all journalists opposing
Clark should have agreed with Clark in the decision to inform the police had they
been rational and aware of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. What you are showing here is one of
the dilemmas of a de-ontological approach. What if different people decide on
different ‘rules…!’
On the other hand however, Coulter was clearly following the consequential theory of
ethical behaviour as his fundamental argument that all journalists have the obligation
to protect a source if sworn to secrecy in order to protect the reputation of journalists
is similar to the utilitarian approach of ‘The Greatest Good for the Greatest Number’
which overall suggests that the decision to report a source was benefitting a small
percentage of people unlike Coulter’s approach that would protect the stance,
reputation and honour of journalists, This is well argued
To summarise in order to answer the question, what one should do and why it really
depends on the individual and their own personal theory of ethics as it can be clearly
seen that depending on what an individual follows the outcomes can be very different
and cause conflict/argument between all individuals regardless of gender or
profession. Personally I would follow the Kantian theory of ethical behaviour perhaps
best to add here “which I have interpreted above, in terms of a guide to my actions”
purely through the agreement with the categorical imperative. It is easier for me
however to follow this theory in this situation as I am a media student not a journalist
and have little experience in the argument of protecting sources. Well argued and
Comment 25
I personally would have done the same thing as Nick Martin Clarke. Journalists are
not above the law. The are members of the public and have a duty to report crime. I
think you are on shaky ground here. Do you mean by this ‘no-one’ is above the law?
Would you agree that the police therefore should stop using ‘informers’ (who are
sometimes small scale crooks) in order to solve bigger crimes? i.e. if a police officer
is offered information about something, they should arrest the source if they have
broken the smallest law? The point I’m trying to make here, is that custom and
practice is that journalists are understood to sometimes be aware of law breaking but
its not their job to ‘catch law breakers’ their job is to ensure a free and open and
informative press….As a human being I believe (SP) if you kill someone you should
be punished, Is this based on ‘Kantian’ principles? If so you should develop this point
more – referring to some academic sources and I don't beleive (SP) in protecting a
killer to save one's career. I under stand John Coulters point of view of dealing with
the heat and proteting (SP) sources however I feel you must do what is morally right,
and fundamentally that lies within the person themself. I agree, however, for you to
get high marks you need to clearly show which ethical standpoint this approach
would entail. For instance, if what is morally right lies within the person himself,
what if the killer believed that catholics should be killed (as happened), since it
infringed his (protestant?) religion? Would that mean he was following a ‘moral rule’
found in himself? Would that be OK? i.e. would we treat this as a case of moral
opinions being subjective or ‘relative’ – or like I suggested in class, some things are
‘just wrong’? Following Clarkes actions this follows Kants theory that one knows
the 'higher order' of things, Clarke put is personal benefits aside- if he proceted (SP)
his source his career would not be affected - and did what most humans would do and
know 'right' from 'wrong'. In this case I beleive (SP) Nick Martin Clarke made
morally the right decision and brought a killer to justice and brought closure to the
victims family.