In fact, it is a journey well worth taking for it brings the matter of morality to the individual person; it forces the journalist, among others, to consider his basic principles, his values, and his obligations to himself and to others. It forces him to decide for himself how he will live, how he will conduct his journalistic affairs, how he will think of himself and of others, how he will think, act and react to the people and issues surrounding him. Tuchman (1978) maintains news is constructed social reality, and audience perception of news is dependent on how journalists frame it. It follows that Americans' understanding of other cultures and countries is significantly influenced by the way international news is framed.
The journalist collects facts, reports them objectively, and the newspaper presents them fairly and without bias in language which is designed to be unambiguous, undistorting and agreeable to readers. This professional ethos is common to all the news media, press, radio and television and it is certainly what the journalist claims in any general statement on the matter (Fowler, 1991).
A concern for ethics is important. ...
Ethical concern is important also for it forces the journalist to commitment, to thoughtful decision among alternatives.
What characterizes most journalists today is a lack of commitment and consistency, a lack of a coherent life plan. Before any journalist chooses any particular ethics he must decide whether or not to be ethical: this is the first and most important choice facing him.
It has always been difficult to discuss ethics; law is much easier, for what is legal is a matter of law. What is ethical transcends law, for many actions are legal, but not ethical. And there are no "ethical codebooks" to consult in order to settle ethical disputes. Ethics is primarily personal; law is primarily social. Even though the area of journalistic ethics is swampy and firm footing is difficult, as was mentioned earlier, there are solid spots which the person may use in his trek across the difficult landscape of life.
The journalist who is concerned with ethics -- with the quality of his actions -- is, of course, one who wishes to be virtuous. Just what a virtuous person, is, however, is somewhat circular and gets us back to the question: What is a moral or ethical person However, the nature of virtue is not really so relative or vague if we have any respect for the great thinkers of history; there has been considerable commonality of meaning among philosophers generally, even though "virtue" has been conceptualized in terms containing considerable semantic noise.
Journalists are not powerful in every situation, or in every story. But they are in many, as are the corporations that pay them. Teaching journalism ethics-just like the ethics instruction in law or in medicine- needs to