Informed about journalistic ethics and capable of making an ethical decision
One of a journalist's many responsibilities is to make ethically correct decisions throughout their reporting. At the University of Rhode Island I have experienced making ethically competent decisions. In my course JOR 410: Ethics in Journalism which I completed in the Spring of 2017, I examined different ethical dilemmas that professional journalists have dealt with in the past. These ethical dilemmas that I examined and responded to, were through the completion of case studies in class. My additional experience reporting stories about sensitive subjects for the Cigar has also helped prepare me for making ethical decisions.
In JOR 410 I completed two separate class assignments where I chose two case studies . It was my responsibility to decide what the most ethical response is for each. For my first case study I analyzed and responded to the topic of whether or not it was ethical for media outlets to post tragic and gruesome video on national TV. The video was from the 2010 Winter Olympics tragedy, where Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed to his death in a practice run. By using the Nine Principles of journalism, Sissela Bok's method, the Potter Box method, and the general system of deontology, I concluded that it was unnecessary for national media outlets to post the video in order to tell the whole story. According to Sissela Bok's method empathy and trust are significant when making an ethical decision. Using the method's three steps; consult your conscience, seek expert advice, and conducting a public discussion, to weigh the option of displaying the video would provide the best opportunity for making an ethical decision.
The second case study I analyzed was a story about a former Detroit Free Press reporter named Jennifer Holmes. The ethical decision that had to be made in this case study was, whether or not intruding on grief comes before the public's right to know. In this case Holmes was given the story by her editor of a 20-year-old sailor from Michigan named Kelly Quick. Quick was one of eight sailors that went missing following an explosion. Holmes visited the family's home and was able to land an interview with Quick's parents. During her time at the Quick residence Holmes received word from her editor that Kelly had been announced dead. Holmes received this information before the family had found out. Holmes' editor wanted her to break the news to the family so that the moment could be included in her story. Holmes had an ethical choice to make between what her employer asked her to do, and what she felt was the ethical choice to make. Like the first case study I used Sissela Pok's Potter Box method. Additionally I used the philosophies of Aristotle's Golden Mean, Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative, and J.S. Mill's Utilitarianism to explain why Holmes decision to distance herself from the situation instead of following orders was correct. I explained why Holmes' decision was made with the perspective of consequences mattering in decision making, and the best decision is which brings the greatest happiness to herself and the least suffering to the Quick family.
For the second outcome of my portfolio I have also included a story that I wrote for the Cigar titled, "URI Community Stands Up for Domestic Violence." This story was challenging to write because the subject of domestic violence, especially with athletics on college campuses is a touchy subject. For the story I interviewed URI alumni and ex-athlete Keith Labelle, who created the student organization called URi-STANDers in 2014. One of the points I included in the article with some perspective from Labelle, is the stigma that college athletes are associated more with domestic abuse compared to non-athletes. Including this in the story was an ethical decision on my behalf, as I wanted to ensure transparency, fairness, and balance in my reporting. Through each of these three examples I have shown my ability to make an ethical journalistic decision, especially with my familiarity with the SPJ Code of Ethics, the Nine Principles of Journalism, and the values of different philosophers.