Ethics in the Media

In today’s society, ethical and moral issues are made more known to the public through the media. The media is there, whether it be in print, video, webcasts, or all of the above, reporting on which CEO spent company money for a condo, which figure head beat his wife, which energy company is endangering the environment, etc. When people turn on the six-o-clock news at night, they are almost guaranteed to receive at least one story about the corruptness of Corporate America.

Yet people rarely see anything ethically and morally wrong with the media itself. The media is its own corporation and business, but yet has its own set of ethical and moral rules which are far more lenient than those of other businesses. Why? People rely on the media to tell the truth, to report the news, and keep the world informed of what is going on in the world.

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In light of this, society has deemed that the media needs a bit more freedom and less harsh sanctions against them so that they may deliver the news promptly and accurately.

However with all that freedom, where is the line to be drawn between telling and reporting the news for the social responsibility, and fabricating news and reporting on bias in favor of ratings and corporate sponsorships? According to the article by Brenna Coleman, “Media Ethics Today,” the need for media ethics rises as news reporting becomes driven more and more by the free market rather than the truth. Most news stations conform to what Coleman calls “Libertarian System of news reporting. Under that system, the media has more freedoms but is at the same time limited to the financial strains of its own firm, and therefore must rely on outside advertisers to fund their broadcast, affording the investors a handhold on which direction the news goes. In the past few decades, there have been quite a few times in which a news station, anchor, or editors have been discredited and forced to either resign or be fired for misrepresentation and fabrication of the news.

According to Reuters, the following are some of the most remembered news scandals that have happened in the past few years: April 1981. The Washington Post relinquishes a Pulitzer Prize for a story written by Janet Cooke about “Jimmy,” an eight-year-old heroin addict who did not exist. February 1993. NBC News admits that it attached explosive devices to a General Motors truck to show the vehicle’s dangers in a fire for a November 1992 “Dateline NBC” report. NBC apologized to GM, which filed a lawsuit against the network for staging the crash.

July 1998. CNN retracts its discredited “Operation Tailwind” report broadcast the month before. The report alleged United State’s use of nerve gas on deserters in Laos during the Vietnam War. The cable news network apologized to the Pentagon and fired two producers associated with the story. The list goes on and on. If the media continues the path toward being geared more and more toward who has the biggest paycheck, and what they want to be broadcasted to the masses, the further and further it will remove itself from its original founding purpose.

To tell the truth, to report the unbiased news. Ethics is an important part of society, and if the trend continues, ethics may turn into a word removed from the dictionary.

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