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Ethics and Values in Modern Media
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Journalist across all mediums are held to a strong ethical standard in their profession as their work can to completely change the publics view of any given topic or event. It is obvious that technology is having a tremendous impact on all forms of media. While past generations waited for the evening news or the morning paper, people today are reaching for the internet at any time of the day or night to get the latest information. While this instant access has helped curb the public’s insatiable curiosity for information, it has also raised a whole new set of questions regarding the ethics and values in the media industry.
One of the most compelling questions to arise out of this new era is whether the media industry has forsaken its core ethics and values for its own gain. Values are very personal choices which are compromised of the individual experiences in life. They are choices that help one prioritize their life. Values can be influenced by a number of factors such as family, upbringing, religion, and society. They help one define and project character attributes such as loyalty, compassion and honesty. Values are instrumental in how we behave and the choices we make.
Ethics are professional rules that define how different groups of people should behave. There is a distinct sense of right and wrong with little room for “grey” or questionable behavior. Ethics guide and dictate what is professional and acceptable to each given profession. To behave ethically is to behave in a manner consistent with what is right and or moral for the profession. Values and ethics are forever at a crossroads because today’s society pushes towards personal wealth. The stakes are constantly raised as far as what it takes to gain that wealth. (,2010).
It is not uncommon for people to share private information, set someone up, edit what a person has said or completely alter a picture someone has taken for their gain. It is in situations like this that values are tested and ethics are ignored. Professional values and ethics are commonly derived from government laws and regulations, state licensing boards, and trade associations. A professions code of conduct will “contain provisions that are designed to advise, guide, and regulate behavior on the job. " (Madsen & Shafritz, 1990, p. 205). There are also federal, state and local laws which regulate and enforce most professional industries.
According to The United States Department of Labor (n. d), Government agencies such as OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) were created to “assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions…” . Professional associations such as the Society of Professional Journalist also have their own values and ethics which are set forth to guide their members. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility. (Society of Professional Journalist, 1996). Each association clearly outlines its expectations in hopes that all members will abide by them and act in a professional manner. One of the biggest sectors of media affected by ethical conflicts is the advertising market. “For some business ethicists, advertising is one of the most crucial issues in corporate ethics because its pervasiveness and because of its power to mold consumer thinking and behavior.
For example, many have argued that advertising is a form of a behavior control, given its subtle psychological persuasion and its repetitiveness. One such argument holds that advertising creates in the mind of the consumer a need - not just want - for that which is advertised. When the consumer in question happens to be a child subjected to a barrage of TV ads about toys, sugared cereals, candy, and so on, then the ethics of advertising taken as a form of behavior control is even more crucial. " (Madsen & Shafritz, 1990).
Photographers also face backlash as women’s advocacy groups rail against the use of airbrushed models in print media. "You have to accept that fashion is fantasy. It's wearable art," says Andrew Matusik, a New York fashion photographer and the owner of Digital Retouch, which specializes in celebrity and fashion retouching. "It's all about creating drama. " (Bennett, 2008). It is widespread knowledge that any photographer with any basic graphic design skills can and will alter an image to suit his client’s needs.
As technology evolves so do the ethical standards which advertisers and photographers are held to. Another form of media mired in controversy is reality based investigative news shows. One such show, Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” purported to take child sex predators off the street as they taped a series of sting operations set up by various law enforcement agencies. The show faced a firestorm of criticism when a Dallas, Texas man committed suicide moments before he was to be arrested on charges of engaging in sexually explicit chat with a minor.
The man’s family sued the network and won a substantial award. The presiding judge ruled “that the network crossed the line from responsible journalism to irresponsible and reckless intrusion into law enforcement. " (Shea, 2008). Although the show was very successful for the network, it was cancelled shortly after the lawsuit. While it is widely believed that being ethical and sticking to one’s values will lead to an honorable and decent career, the examples illustrated above show that more and more people are willing to push the envelope of professional values and ethics.
Personal gain has taken a back seat to deceny and commen sense in many professions. This leaves us with an urgent and pressing question-what are professional ethics and values worth today? References: Values and Ethics. (n. d. ). Strategic Leadership and Decision Making. Retrieved from http://www. au. af. mil/au/awc/awcgate/ndu/strat-ldr-dm/pt4ch15. html Values, Morals and Ethics. (n. d. ). Changing minds and persuasion -- How we change what others think, believe, feel and do. Retrieved from http://changingminds. org/explanations/values/values_morals_ethics. tm United States Department of Labor. (n. d). OSHA. Retrieved from http://www. osha. gov/oshinfo/mission. html Madsen, P. , & Shafritz, J. M. (1990). Essentials of Business Ethics. New York, New York: Penguin Group Society of Professional Journalist. (1996). Code of Ethics. Retrieved from http://www. spj. org/ethicscode. asp Bennett, J. (2008, May). Picture Perfect. Newsweek, (), . Shea, D. (2008). The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www. huffingtonpost. com/2008/06/25/nbc-settles-to-catch-a-pr_n_109261
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