Meeting Ethical and Legal Responsibilities

Meeting Ethical
and Legal Responsibilities
Chapter 2
is growing public concern about the
performance and behavior of the news media.The
bottom line is that the public no longer trusts us.
And for journalism, that is critical.Trust is our
most important product.
No longer, if you see it in the newspaper, it
must be true.
Performance of Journalists
 Viewed by many as arrogant, rude, uncaring
people who only want the story…
 Irritation with television reporters who pretend
to be sympathetic.
“How do you feel to knowing you are now
homeless, wifeless, broke, with no job
prospects…oh, by the way, did you hear
another hurricane is coming?”
Media Conglomerates
 Disney-ABC, ESPN, A & E, History Channel
 Gannett-USA Today, Detroit Free Press and the
 Time Warner – CNN, TNT, TBS, HBO
international, Time, People and Sports
What is the background of these giant companies?
Where do their sympathies lie? Is there bias?
 Balloon Boy
 Terrorist attack on the Potomac
The race for headline, breaking news is
causing people to skeptically view
Excessive Reporting
 Jon and Kate
 O.J. Simpson Trial
 LCP and the KKK auction
Viewers/readers criticize yet they are
drawn in by the numbers. TV news
shows still gaining ratings.
Functions of a Journalist
Political Function: The press is the watchdog of the
 Watch for scandal, wrongdoing
 Scrutinize budgets and programs
Economic Function: informs public about products, goods, and
services in addition to events.
 Business, Wall Street
 Political and Product Advertising
Functions of a Journalist
The Sentry Function: keeps watch over society’s horizons.
 Alert about future environmental problems
 Nuclear war
 Disease
The Record-Keeping Function: reflect an accurate record of
local, national and world news.
 School board elections
 Deaths
 Price of oil
Functions of a Journalist
The Entertainment Function: provide diversion
 Comics
 Feature stories of human interest
 Pictures
The Social Function: provides a way for society to connect
 A more folksy approach to news
 Human interest stories – water-cooler
Functions of a Journalist
The Marketplace Function: a forum where ideas are expressed
and shared.
 Editorials/letters to the editor
 Placement of ads
The Agenda-Setting Function: providing information for people
on what to think about
 Prioritize, emphasize stories, topics
Evaluating the Media
Newspapers -Are the stories balanced, do they cover local,
national and world news? (Brighton vs. Howell)
Radio - Are they professional, or just entertainers?
Television – Are the stories balanced, do they cover local,
national and world news? Are their best stories saved for
ratings week?
4. Magazines – Is it fair, without bias? Is it up-to-date?
The Ethics of Journalism
Journalists making up stories, plagiarizing stories, manipulating
Credibility – ability to be believed and trusted
Ethics – daily working guidelines that serve the public’s best
interest; violation of ethics not punishable by law;
Framers of Constitution believed that a free press, even though
irresponsible, is preferable than a gov’t run press
Accuracy - no such thing as one, small error; accurate all the
time, in every detail
The Ethics of Journalism
People expect honesty from the press
Objectivity – fair, neutral observers of events and issues; personal
feelings are not to color news stories; report it and let the
audience decide.
Good taste – Clinton scandal
Simultaneous rebuttal, or right of reply – both sides of the story
Fairness to all – no matter what affiliation
Plagiarism – original work
Attribution – who really said what; do not use anonymous sources
The Truth – above all, never fake anything
Libel Law
“If you print that I’ll sue you for everything you own.”
Libel is printed false defamation of character. To
defame someone is to reduce that person’s
The best defense against a successful libel suit
is good reporting.
Defenses against Libel
Libel is seldom considered a crime; tried in civil court between
individuals; monetary damages; laws differ state to state
Truth – No libel suit if story is true, unless it is an invasion of
Privilege – what is said in a official public forum (courtroom,
floor of Congress)
Fair comment –You may express a negative opinion (a review)
but the facts must be true
Admission of error – It wasn’t malicious; it was an error that has
been corrected.