Ethical Tensions in News Making: What Journalism Has In Common with Other Professions

Authored by: Sandra L. Borden , Peggy Bowers

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


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There has been increasing recognition of the commonalities between journalism and other professions. At the Applied Media Ethics Colloquium sponsored by the Journal of Mass Media Ethics in 2003, teams composed of media ethicists and ethicists who study other professions compared ethical concerns across fields, suggesting places where journalism and other professions converged morally and places where they went their separate ways. This chapter continues that work by situating the study of comparative ethical concerns within previous research on professionalism in journalism and by drawing parallels with other professions to illustrate key ethical tensions that cut across domains. This analysis centralizes ethical concerns regarding epistemology and identity to derive the following ethical tensions: the tension between attachment and disinterest; the tension between authority and fallibility; the tension between autonomy and accountability; the tension between individual and community; and the tension between procedure and substance. In discussing these tensions, we suggest parallels with medicine, the academy, engineering, public administration, and law. Underlying all these tensions is the peculiar nature of professional power, its uses and abuses.

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