Powerful Ethical Questions
Jan 21, 2015
Over the last few weeks I have received many questions from you about ethics! I applaud you for your passionate dedication to a form of journalism that is as strong as it is ethical.
I'd like to respond to the whole group regarding 2 powerful ethical questions that have recently come up:
Can I report on something that can hurt one person to serve a thousand?
Can i publish a story that leads to violence against one person in order to raise media awareness about the situation of the rest of the affected group?
These are powerful questions that get right to the heart of our work as journalists.
In general there is no easy answer.
Our goal as journalists is to minimize harm. Often times we have to publish a story that will, as you say, hurt a few to help a thousand. But when you say "hurt" one person -- how do you mean? Would someone be ostracized from their job or community? Or would they be killed? Is any story worth a human life?
A journalist is a strong person because, she, unlike any other professional is forced to make these difficult decisions.
If a story leads to violence or revolution, that could be a good thing. It could be the spark that lights the fire of change. It could also be exaggerated and misreported, intentionally or unintentionally. If you seek to report on volatile issues you must do so with huge emphasis turned toward your ethical obligations. And of course you must seek the counsel of your mentors and editors. Last but not least, you must consider your own safety and the safety of your family.
Most importantly, I encourage you to take journalism one step at a time. The more you learn to hone your skills, the more equipped you will be to handle difficult questions of this magnitude.
As we progress through the VOF program, you will find yourself more and more ready to tackle bigger issues.
For now, keep thinking big as you practice your reporting, writing and interviewing skills in the series of exercises that have been planned for you.
We will get there. Together. One step at a time.
I admire your passionate quest to create change and to do so responsibly.
Please do not hesitate to ask if you have additional questions or comments. I look forward to continuing this conversation with all of you!
- Northern America