Karen Saunders (2003). Ethics & Journalism. (London & Thousand Oaks: Sage). xii + 196 pp. ISBN 0-7619-6967-5. $24.95 (paper). Appendix (The Press Complaints Commission and the code of practice), chapter notes, bibliography, index.
Any book with this quote (from The 5 Ws of Journalism by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman) at the top of the chapter on conflicts of interest obviously is worth reading: "Whose round is it? What are we havin'? Where's the pub? When's it open? Why don't we have another one?" From this language (and from the examples it contains) it is easy to deduce that this is a British and not an American book-but Sanders has produced a volume that would benefit all scholars, students and practitioners in the field.
Although her bibliography reflects a broad and deep knowledge of media ethics, in both the U.K. and other nations, it appears that she has thought through what she wanted to say-and didn't merely rehash what those who went before her had concluded. Familiarity with traditional answers and decisions does not prevent Saunders from organizing her subject matter in a way that makes sense, or from analysis of what has-in other hands-often degenerated into rote recitation.
Her selection of quotes (including those at the top of each chapter) and examples are about as pertinent as this reviewer has seen, and should be a great deal of value to those who interested in any aspect of ethics, and of the mass media in Great Britain. More importantly, there has been a great deal of thought put into the discussion, it is not "dumbed down" and is readable-a rare combination.
The 14 chapters are divided into between three and nine subsections each. For example, "Lying to tell a story" subsumes "The value of truth," "Truth and truthfulness," "Lying and deception," and "Lying and the public interest." The chapters are labeled: "Ethics and journalism?," "Thinking about ethics" (using Aristotle, natural law, Kant, Utilitarianism, and modern approaches, among others), "Virtue ethics," "Lying to tell a story," "Faking it," "Freedom's scope," "Private lives and public interest," "Death, disease and destruction," "Liasons Dangereuses (reporters and sources)," "Conflicts of interest," "The bottom line," "Self-regulation and codes of conduct," "Blaming the harlots" (the concepts of responsibility and accountability), and "The good journalist."
This is an admirable book that will amply repay those who read it.
The above article was published in Media Ethics , Fall 2003(15:1), p. 48.