SOC 120 Introduction to Ethics & Social Responsibility (ACG1417K)
Professor Ravenelle May 11, 2014
Applying Ethical Theories to the Media and its Responsibilities Media is best defined as a means of communication that reaches and could possibly influence people widely through radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and most recently the internet (media, n.d.). Malcom X stated it best when he said, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses” (Malcom X, n.d.). No matter if you are young or old, rich or poor, or what race you are, media can influence a person both positively and negatively. The media has the ability to make a person that no one knew one day to the most talked about person in a country and they are also capable of running a person’s life in the matter of seconds. The main responsibility the media has is to present unbiased, fair, and accurate information to the public. The media typically reports on local weather, local traffic and traffic related accidents, local, nationwide, and sometimes worldwide crime, sports news and scores, government issues and news, entertainment news, and anything that would be of high public interest or controversies. Many ethical theories such as utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics can be applied to the topic of the media and its responsibilities as well as give different perspectives such as emotivism, ethical egoism, and often times relativism. The media and its responsibilities can have the previously mentioned ethical theories and perspectives applied to it in a positive way, but it seems to have more of negative ethical impact to the public. The media is backed by first amendment of the United States Constitution which includes the right to the Freedom of Press. Thousands of members of the media or better yet journalists voluntarily abide by a code of ethics or guidelines in the Society of Professional Journalists. The code of ethics states the journalists will only report on the truth and not deliberately distort a story to gain a bigger audience. They also believe in getting all sides of the stories so a person can defend themselves if accused of wrong-doing. The journalists that honor the code of ethics will also minimize harm to anyone involved while being sensitive and showing compassion to the audience. The next code of ethics is for the journalists to act independently and avoid conflicts of interest. Taking responsibility and being accountable for what you publish including any mistakes a publisher may make is the last code of ethic. In the real world, most media outlets seem to not abide by the code of ethics by some of the stories they publish for public view.
Deontology is an ethical theory that evaluates whether an act is right or wrong in terms of the act’s consequences (Mosser, 2013). Applying the Deontology ethical theory to the media and its responsibilities holds the ones that publish any story or news to make sure that they publish is ethically correct. A journalist changing a story by editing an interview to say something