Every day in every career or job, decisions have to be made. However, it is really hard to differentiate ethical and unethical decisions. At times, decisions even have to be made in the heat of the moment.
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So how does one ensure that the ethical choice is made? Media professionals do not differ much from other professionals in this regard. Professions such as lawyers and possibly doctors are also faced with ethical and unethical decisions to be made. Therefore, codes of conduct for these professions have to be made in order for the people involved to be able to make the right decision at the right time. However, unlike media professionals, violating these codes will often get the other professionals barred from practice or even have their licenses revoked. Media professionals on the other hand, have no professional review boards to revoke or to even grant these licenses. Although the performance codes for media are not as strict as other industries, they still exist. And here we are today to discuss, or rather to present, these ethical principles.
The first set of ethics was set by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in 1923, one year after founding the organization. They adopted the Canons of Journalism without any pressure from the government or the public. There were seven canons, namely; responsibility, freedom of the press, independence, accuracy, impartiality, fair play and decency. The canons are mostly prescriptive rather than proscriptive, in the sense that it tells the media what to do, rather than to tell them what to avoid. A brief description of each cannon: (1) Responsibility – The right of a newspaper to attract and hold readers is restricted by nothing but considerations of public welfare. The newspaper makes use of the share of public attention it gains which serves to determine its sense of responsibility, which it shares with every member of its staff. A journalist who uses his power for any selfish or otherwise unworthy purpose is faithless to a high trust. (2) Freedom of the Press – Freedom of the press is to be guarded as a vital right of mankind. It is the unquestionable right by law, including the wisdom of any restrictive statute. To its privileges under the freedom of American institutions are inseparably joined its responsibilities for an intelligent fidelity to the Constitution of the United States. (3) Independence – Freedom from all obligations except that of fidelity to the public interest is vital. A. Promotion of any private interest contrary to the general welfare, for whatever reason, is not compatible with honest journalism. So-called news communications from private sources should not be published without public notice of their source or else substantiation of the claims to value as news,
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