A Short History of Media Ethics in the United States

Authored by: John P. Ferré

The Handbook of Mass Media Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2008
Online publication date:  September  2008

Print ISBN: 9780805861914
eBook ISBN: 9780203893043
Adobe ISBN: 9781135594602

10.4324/9780203893043.ch2

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Abstract

Few treatments of media ethics are historical, and what history they do include tends to be anecdotal and not to stretch further back than a generation. This paucity is sometimes due to the urgency in media ethics. There are so many pressing issues to cover and so little time to examine them—one ethics course in college, perhaps, or part of a reporting course, a professional seminar, maybe one book. The stakes are large and there are so many pitfalls that taking time to consider the history of media ethics can seem like an academic indulgence. There is also a sense of outrage in media ethics. Information that the public needs is hidden or corrupted; reputations that have taken a lifetime to build are destroyed with a few keystrokes. Much that falls under the rubric of media ethics is written in the white heat of the moment. Media ethics seems to call for passion and incisiveness, not history.

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