This semester I have learned more about ethics for journalists then I ever thought I would need to know. As a matter of fact, I have even begun to apply the theories I’ve learned to my every day actions and decisions. I considered using the Potter’s box when thinking about eliminating a friendship. I also found myself justifying my actions through ethical theories. Many students only take this course in order to fulfill a requirement for graduation… I was one of those students. After taking the class and absorbing the material can I honestly say I understand why this class is a core requirement. I believe that all students should be required to take an ethics course within their field before they are allowed to walk the stage.
The theory that I found most interesting this semester was Egoism. I never knew there was a theory out there that actually gave credit to doing what is best for yourself or self-interest. Theories that revolve around individualism have left a bad taste in my mouth. They lead me to believe that they were only created to justify bad or obviously unethical (in my opinion) behavior. The theory that I connected with the most was Utilitarianism. The idea that “the greatest good for the greatest amount of people,” seems to make the most sense to me or better said aligns closest with my belief system. It is a fact that not every action will please everyone, but if a majority of individuals in any given population are served better or have a better outcome the action could be justified.
Another area that has caused me to engage in deeper though was the consideration of libel on social media. I am guilt of over-sharing on social media site, and now I am more conscience of the topics I choose to post about. In my opinion social media is a growing phenomenon that is not going anywhere anytime soon. I believe that as social media become more ingrained in our daily lives, the implications of social media behavior will present itself as a more widely addressed topic. Social media has enhanced my friendships as well as allowed me to make professional connections. Ethical practices on social media are now something that I look at as a requirement.
Reading and learning the codes of ethics for advertising, public relations and marketing was very informative. I was able to connect concepts between the different communication fields and have the intension of applying these theories in future work. The PRSA code of ethics stood out the most to me, perhaps since I was a PR major. Some of the guidelines set forth by the organization seem like common sense or proper etiquette; however I know that if it had to be written there must have been a reason. Of all the guidelines maintaining a free flow of information seems the most important to me, specifically for public relations. With advertising and marketing the profit is the bottom line, however in public relations, creating a transparent relationship between clients and their stakeholders is most important. The act of being transparent is something that most definitely requires ethical considerations and actions.
Ethical behavior practices are important in every field, but journalists are tasked with communicating with large public communities. Therefore the burden of acting ethically and reporting responsibility is greater for us. Having a sound moral compass is something that develops with time, age, experience and knowledge. The Mayborn School of Journalism’s ethics course has taught me more about not only ethical theories but also about myself. I have left this class a better person.