Ethics in the Media and Communication

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Ethics in the Media and Communication

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Media Ethics

Ethics is the study of what we ought to do, but in communication of the preaching, what we say relate to morality of the speaker.

According to Merill, there are two main ethical emphasis;

a, social or communitarian ethics
b, personal or individual ethics

The journalist can be concerned social summum boum because the mass communicators are not transmitting their own message but about message. The preachers are index of the message, which is mostly individually applied. Media person may have ethical concern for his work or crafts but may not concern for his own ethical life. Even he may, gradually his moral concern will be mixed values and do not care right and wrong but care certain benefit.

Of course these two are not ‘mutually exclusive’, but it is a matter of emphasis. Then the communication may ignore individuality, individual ethics, because audience does not see him and it’s difficult to discipline. (Clinton’s example)

“A sense of right conduct does not come naturally; it must be developed, thought about, reasoned through, and cared deeply about.” (Gordon and Kittross 1999; 2)

How they collect certain news and what they do with it is the essence of their professional life. Ethical concern for media person must be the highest good in professional practice. What is the highest good in media practice? It must supply the basic good, which is the knowledge with right information even the right information is relative in cultural tradition, controversial.

“For men are good in but one way, but bad in many”
( Melden 1955: 106)

Newton N. Minon found the media ethics is still lacking in quality. He writes that TV has failed to serve four main needs: properly supporting education, meeting the needs of children, adequately providing serious public programming, and supporting the political system during campaigns.

In both cases, the journalist is concerned with ethics and wants to do the right or best thing. Both should cooperative for best thing even their emphasis is different.

Today’s communitarian ethicists

1. In this global culture journalist should have a universal ethics; throw out the old concepts of journalistic autonomy, individualism, and negative freedom.
2. Maximum personal autonomy in ethical decision-making. It relates to the personal values in their contest or culture.
3. This is my view, openness to the critique view from another ethical background or exchange of the empirical experiences in other situation will motivate to reflect one’s traditional values.

“Some people are smarter than others, that some ideas are better than others.”
(Gordon & Kittross 1999: 4)

What is normative ethics? It is that what ought to be done in specific situation and cases.

Media ethics is a normative science of conduct, with conduct considered primarily self-determined, rational, and voluntary. Media workers have very little freedom because they follow orders as employees though they need freedom to decide among alternative in action. Why media worker need a freedom? What is the limitation of their normative ethics? How they know they are doing good for people? They may need to be restrained by the social tradition and moral rules of that given society. I wonder if media people practice any ethical rules in this modern culture. Their concern is a process of moral development but what moral?

Three main levels in a process of moral development:

The first level is based on instinct, in which right conduct is determined by the person’s fundamental needs and instincts. The second level is based on custom. The person’s conduct must be in accordance with the customs of the various groups that he belongs. The third level is based on conscience. This is approved by personally developed judgment of what is rights or wrong. But the problem is where he takes the standard of his judgment, how he knows what is right or wrong because the standard is differs in different tradition.

William Lillie calls this level of conscience as “pure morality” and it must be the media person’s moral development good.

There are three classes of ethical theories.

1. The deontological theory has to do with formalistic rules, principles, or maxims. They are not worrying about consequences; just tell the truth is prevailed.
2. The teleological or consequence related theory matter of the predicable consequences. The theory is associated with John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianism, which the aim is bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number.
3. The personalist or subjective theory has many sub theories such as intuitive, emotive, spiritual, and personal moral. This theory is non-rational, and the Christian moralist practices more. It is also related to situation ethics.

Cultural Relativism
The believer in ethical cultural relativism would claim that there is no objective standard by which we can call one societal code better than another, that different societies or cultures have differing ethical codes, that one’s own moral code has no advantage over others, that there is no universal truth in ethics, and that it is nothing more than arrogance for us to judge the conduct of other peoples. Cultural relativism is closely related to contextual ethics. (situation ethics) (Gordon & Kittross 1999: 13)
The ethical differences of bribery, honesty and sexual life in Europe and Asia give good examples of cultural relativism.

Religious Morality

Emil Brunner offered doing good means doing what God wills at any particular moment. The core idea of the religious ethics knows doing what God wills at any moment. The divine command theory is that “ethically correct” or “morally right” if it is “commanded by God” and “morally wrong” if it is “forbidden by God”.

Merrill said that such a theory would be of no help to be atheists. Plato also asked, is conduct right because the gods command it, or do the gods command it because it is right? (Ibid:13)
The divine command in the Bible has no two sides: the broad sense, and a narrow sense. The broad sense is His natural law, which is given to whole human being in creation mandate as cultural mandate. The narrow sense which is restricted first to His chosen people in Abraham, and later people who has called by God to Christ to form His Church which is the invisible kingdom. Most of Christ parabolic teaching also has two sides.

Mortimer sees that man is under obligation to seek the end of his being by his own free choice, as creatures but the creation under God’s governing purpose has no way to seek God unless God reveals his nature, wills, and divine purpose.

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” (Deut 29.29)

According to Romans man is under obligation to know God and see his will in creation itself because it is the God’s manifestation in nature.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Rom 1.20)

Aquinas’ God and Creation by F.C.Copleston 1955
The knowledge of God’s existence is naturally implanted in all man. All men have a natural innate desire for happiness. It is the possession of God, which constitutes happiness. Therefore all men have a natural desire for God. But in this case they must have an innate knowledge God.
(Copleston 1955: 111)

Many have thought that man’s perfect good, which is happiness, consists in riches and in pleasure.

Aquinas’ ‘five ways’ of proving God’s existence: first it is certain and clear from sence-experience that some things in this world are moved. It is the term ‘motion’ in the broad sense of change. Second, we find in material things an order of efficient cause. Some things act upon other things as efficient causes in their relations to one another. Third, among things some are capable of existing or not existing; coming and passing, corruptible or perishable. Forth, some are more or less good and true and noble. Fifth, some things which lack knowledge most cases it act some way in order to attain what is best.

“If he divine conserving or sustains activity were withdrawn, it would at once cease to exist. Finite things have a constant relation of existential dependence on the creator.” ( Ibid: 142)

Machiavellian Ethics
The egoistic ethics is called pragmatic egoism, or Machiavellian Ethics. Machiavellian is the father of modern propaganda, advertising and public relations accrete; get-the-story-at-all-costs philosophy. Machiavellian Ethics is success-driven and egoistic theory, which is viewing, in modern journalists; “the end justifies the means.” (Merrill 1999: 15)

Utilitarian Ethics (importance of means and ends)
According to John Stuart Mill, the primary ethical rule is following the happiness-producing theory, which means “greatest happiness principle”. (Ibid: 16) The end would justify the means if the end were the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Pleasure is the desirable end, which people actually desire it, and every person’s pleasure is a good to that person. So the Utilitarianism ethics is “the greatest happiness to the greatest number”. So the general happiness is the largest good of all. Therefore media person should have an ethical decision for that general happiness for all.

Ethical Absolutism (deontological ethics)

Consequences are not to be considered. The essential principle is duty, rules. There should have an absolute principle, and people, rationally, should follow it or guided by it. “The person who follows them is ethical; the one who does not follow is unethical” (Kant ) This implied obligation. Duties-do such-and-such are categorical not hypothetical. Being an ethical person, in Kant’s view is that live by absolute rules, universal law, and moral principles without exception; everywhere. (Ibid: 17)

“Have a deep respect for human dignity and act toward others only in ways you would want everyone to act. Not a bad formula for the media person trying to make ethical decision.” (Ibid:17) “Don’t use people”

Antinomian Ethics
The opposite ethics to Kantian legalism called Freudian ethics, nihilism in morality, showed a tolerance for self-indulgence and irresponsibility. “This ethics says that people must be socially supported and maintained and they cannot be expected to be provident and self-reliant”. (Ibid:18)
현대사회 지도층의 비 윤리적으로 사람들이 사회적 보조를 기대하고 개인적 책임은 방종한다. 공산주의 같다
“People have tendency to blame others or social institutions or conditions for any kind of immoral actions”

Situation Ethics
Before we determine what is ethical or not ethical we must consider the particular situation. This is different from the divine command theory of ethics but adopt the love ethics. “Simply apply love in every situation and you will be ethical.” (Ibid:19) Then what is love? Love can be defined differently. In ethical thinking and behaviour its lead to a wide variety of destinations

Intuitive Ethics
This is the theory we know what is right and what is wrong without having any a priori or without doing a lot of thinking before we act. Some people say that God plants in each person a certain moral sense, and ethical guidance conscience. But consequences of the ‘fall’ depraved the spontaneous desire to moral actions. (Cain)

“Potter Box” ethical examples on pastoral inheritance in Korean Church

According to ‘Potter’ the journalists should understand ‘the facts’, outlining the values inherent in the decision, applying relevant philosophical principles, and articulating a loyalty. There are four practical steps, which the Chosun’s report did not properly apply. [Chosun’s example can be apply to, for example, the any Romanian incidents]

Step one: the newspaper editor has the information: pastoral inheritance. His ethical choice rests with how much of it he is going to print.

Step two: values on patrimonial installation were a measurement of spiritual and ethical maturity of the Korean Church. People can value everything from their perspective, in ethics; however, when we value something we give up other things. The journalist should value truth above all things, and take a risk for that value. Therefore, as a journalist, the Chosun’s report needed to take a risk for the sake of truth.

Step three: Once they have decided what the value is, then they need to apply the philosophical principles. A Utilitarian may argue why they don’t apply the teleological or consequence-related theory which would bring about the most happiness or, “the greatest good to the greatest number of people”.(Gorden 1999: 16) Some may argue, if it is not able to use teleological ethics why not used the deontological ethics in Kantian Absolutism. “Kant’s ethical theory is based on the notion that it is the act itself, rather than the person who acts, in which moral force resides.” (Patterson & Wilkins 1998: 8) Consequences are not to be considered. The essential principle is duty, rules. There should be an absolute principle, and people, rationally, should follow it or be guided by it.

The person who follows them is ethical; the one who does not follow is unethical. This is implied obligation. Duties-do such-and-such are categorical not hypothetical. Being an ethical person, in Kant’s view is to live by absolute rules, universal law, and moral principles without exception; everywhere. “Have a deep respect for human dignity and act toward others only in ways you would want everyone to act. Not a bad formula for the media person trying to make an ethical decision.” (Gordon & Kittross 1999: 17)

According to those models, in the media coverage on ‘the pastoral inheritance’ habitual virtue and essential principle were not reflected.

The media should have used their freedom of expression to discern and critic the issue and lead action against it among the Korean people. For although such a practice may be accepted based on our culture, cultural trends are rapidly transforming to expectations shaped by a global culture.

Step four: Articulation of loyalties. Potter viewed loyalty as a social commitment. The media has a “fundamental duty to be impartial” (Kieran 1998: 23) but its function is to report and evaluate the events that affect our lives as members of society. The events are significantly independent of us, but the journalist should have a loyalty to telling the truth, to alerting the community to a potential danger. It was not just a case of conflict with one another, but the ethical truth the society needs to know. Chosun’s profession, (even they did well for their job), should highly criticize on its ethical decisions, because it allowed the majority to become arbitrarily influenced without ethical codes and bias.

The media is viewed, not as having a distinct influence, which allows particular texts to generate particular effects, but rather as putting a set of ideas into circulation, as normalizing a set of practices and attitudes, representing ‘common sense.’ “This common sense is not without its contradictions and ambiguities. It does not contain a straightforward message; it is open to competing interpretation, but it sets limits: It does not admit of an infinite range of readings.” (John Street 2001: 97)

As conclusion I want to use Noelle-Neumann’s ‘spiral of silence’. (Mcquail 1999: 361) Chosun’s report failed to format a prevailing view (public opinion) to threaten the Church. The church perceived that there is no prevailing media climate on the issue, so the fear of isolation was minimum. Therefore the Church ignored the public view and practiced the pastoral inheritance without any ethical challenge. As a result, many other churches that had similar cases were able to follow their footsteps without any fear of isolation.


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