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The ethical questions that journalists face

Updated on December 31, 2012

In my training as a journalist I have spent a long time discussing the many intricacies that come with reporting the facts. The following are questions that I have come across as a journalist, that I have studied in journalism school, and that I have discussed with many active journalists. I present them to you below with the answers that I and the majority of the journalists that I have debated with have decided upon.

1. Should the media employ Ombudsmen (As defined by Wikipedia, an Ombudsman is an official who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of maladministration or violations of rights)?

The decision to utilize Ombudsmen is one that most journalists can agree upon to be a good thing. This decision comes from the belief that maintaining accountability is one of the most, if not the most, important thing than a journalist can do. If an Ombudsman can accurately and fairly address issues without allowing his paycheck to involve his decision making process, then I believe their presence is essential. They can bring back faith in the media by making it apparent that there is an outside source that is watching out for the interests of the readers whose appreciation and satisfaction is, and should remain, the most important issue.

2. Should the media identify rape victims without their permission?

This is a tough decision for many journalists including myself but the majority have decided to side with allowing it. Fairness proves to be a key factor in the decision making process in that as long as the accused is named, the accuser should be as well. As much as some might not want to believe it, we live in a world where spiteful men and women do exist who might accuse others of rape to tarnish their reputation or in hopes of receiving financial rewards. With the chance that any case could involve such people, it does not seem fair not to mention them.

Another key factor in the decision making process is that rape victims who were named and identified helps put a human face on rape. Rape happens everywhere to many different types of women. The victim could be your best friend, your next door neighbor or your baby sitter. If they are identified, and a face is put to the victim, it opens up the chance that victims might come forward because they identify with the women when otherwise they would not because they were ashamed. Rape is a serious problem that needs to be addressed and anything that facilitates this process, should be acted on.

3. Can fair and balanced reporting be done by embedded journalists (those accompanying troops in wartime situations)?

I have to say that yes, they can or at least they should be able to. Journalists should stick to their credo of objectivity at all costs. It takes effort in these situations when journalists eat, sleep, and become friends with the platoon that they are embedded in, but any journalist worth his weight should be willing to take the necessary measures that will maintain professional distance. Additionally, embedded journalist will see both sides of the war first hand as they will be up close to what is transpiring. They will witness both sides of the war and therefore be able to provide both sides of the story.

There they are. These are three issues that journalists often have to contend with. I hope that by writing this I have provided insight into certain parts of this difficult profession and why some decisions are made the way that they are. I would like to extend an invitation to anyone who is interested to post any questions that you have regarding these or other decisions that journalists face. Thank you.


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