The last few years have produced a bumper crop of new books in the field of media ethics. MEDIA ETHICS magazine apologizes for falling behind in listing- much less reviewing-them. Because we have limited space even in the best of times, and omitted the Spring 2008 issue in order to publish AN ETHICS TRAJECTORY, what follows below are essentially descriptions rather than true reviews or critiques of this cornucopia of literature in the field. In addition, almost certainly we have been unaware of some of the important books that have been published in the past year or three. If a reader of this column wishes to expand or comment upon one or more of these volumes, we'd be glad to publish such a review in a forthcoming issue (if -- as always -- we have the space). Each of them deserves no less. Also, if there is another work on the market that we may not have seen, and you'd like to point it out or write its review, please get in touch with the editor.
(Some of the language in the following reviews and brief mentions was adapted from statements by the authors or their publishers.)
Lee Wilkins & Clifford G. Christians (eds.) (2009). The Handbook of Mass Media Ethics. (NewYork: Routledge). xiv + 398 pp. ISBN 978-0- 8058-6192-1. $67.95. (paper; cloth and e-book editions available). (Index).
This outstanding collection of 28 chapters is just one of the numerous books that Cliff Christians has had his hand in (or been the subject of) as he moves toward what promises to be an extremely busy retirement. Although titled as a "handbook," this volume is a general text as well as something of a reference work. It is divided into four parts (foundations, professional practice, concrete issues and institutional considerations), and claims to have been designed to fulfill five purposes: First, to bring together the major insights in the field; second, to chart the progress in thinking about media ethics, asking questions but not pretending to provide exhaustive answers; third, to set a research agenda for the field, in both philosophy and the social sciences; fourth, to provide chapters dealing with specific understandings and research in the field; and fifth, to introduce students (and their teachers) to "some of the best minds in the field."
The 35 authors of these essays (alphabetically: G. Stuart Adam, Mark D. Alleyne, Sherry Baker, Jay Black, Sandra L. Borden, Peggy Bowers, Michael Bugeja, Kris E. Bunton, Michael X. Delli Carpini, Clifford G. Christians, Renita Coleman, Thomas W. Cooper, Stephanie Craft, David A. Craig, Deni Elliott, Mark Fackler, John P. Ferré, Robert S. Fortner, Kyle Heins, Lou Hodges, Seow Ting Lee, Matthew P. McAllister, Julianne H. Newton, Patrick Lee Plaisance, Jennifer M. Proffitt, Linda Steiner, S. Holly Stocking, Angharad N. Valdivia, Stephen J. A. Ward, Edward Wasserman, Ginny Whitehouse, Lee Wilkins, Bruce A. Williams, Wayne Woodward, and Wendy Wyatt) are all currently located in North America, but are thoroughly familiar with worldwide developments in the field.
The chapters written for this book are an introduction to both the depth and breadth of current (essentially, the past quarter-century) thinking, and are intended to relate to another rather than stand alone. While there are some omissions in both the list of authors and the subjects on which they are writing, this volume can be of value to students and practitioners who- ever and wherever they may be. -JMK
Stephen J. A. Ward (2010). Global Journalism Ethics. (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press). viii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-0-7735-3693-7 (paper, $29.95 (U. S.), $32.95 (Canadian)), (Notes, bibliog- raphy, index).
Stephen Ward, now chair and James E. Burgess Professor of Journalism Ethics in the School of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has prepared a carefully reasoned sequel to his outstanding The Invention of Journalism Ethics: The Path to Objectivity and Beyond (same publisher, 2004).
The first section, dealing with ethical foundations, consists of chapters on the ethical sphere, reflective engagement and ethical flourishing. The second half of the book contains chapters on global journalism ethics, global democratic journalism and patriotism and global ethics.
Ward systematically argues a new position: that present media practices are narrowly based within the borders of a single country, and are thus unable to inform the public about our current globalized world. In his ethical framework, the author extends John Rawls' theories of justice and human good to redefine journalism's aims. -JMK
Patrick Lee Plaisance (2009). Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice. (Los Angeles: Sage). xx + 255 pp. ISBN 978-1-4129-5685-7. $44.95. (paper). (Index, chap- ter references).
Only nine chapters -- but they are divided into many sub-divisions (and even sub-sub-divisions, particularly when dealing with "key thinkers through the ages," or certain specific areas, such as privacy). The chapters themselves are labeled Ethics Theory: An Overview; Ethics Theory: Application to Media; Transparency; Justice; Harm; Autonomy; Privacy; Community; and Conclusion. Because Plaisance has constructed his own organization of the field -- and it is fascinating to read, from the table of contents on -- it is hard to do it justice in the space we have available at this time. To give an example of the flair with which Plaisance tackles the overall subject, here are the sub-chapter topics in chapter 5: Theories of Moral Development (Kohlberg on Justice and Gilligan on Care), Implications of a Universal Moral Theory, and Media Ethics in Cyberspace. All (including a page of references) in a mere dozen pages!
A book such as this cannot be used as a substitute for a traditional text in media ethics, and will require study by the instructor before being presented to students as a textbook. But it should be well worth it. -JMK
Kathleen Glenister Roberts & Ronald C. Arnett (eds.) (2008). Communication Ethics: Between Cosmopolitanism and Provinciality. (New York: Peter Lang). vi + 297 pp. ISBN 978-1-4331- 0326-1. $34.95. (paper; cloth edition avail- able). (Chapter notes, index).
The 15 essays in this significant book are not designed for under- graduates or media professionals -- although they certainly would be of use to these potential readers. The thinking and writing is advanced, and some of the concepts, while familiar in Europe and among philosophers, sociologists and others, may be unfamiliar to American readers. This book is a marvelous mechanism to expanding horizons.
Although each author has researched her or his own work, the book is in the form of an initial "conversation"-- which can range far afield -- between the authors on the subject specified in the book's sub-title. The authors, in addition to Roberts, Arnett and Christians, are (alphabetically) Chitra Aakoor, Rob Anderson, Pat Arneson, Leslie A. Baxter, Kenneth Cissna, G. L. Ercolini, Walter R. Fisher, Pat J. Gehrke, Ronald L. Jackson II, Christopher Lyle Johnstone, Lenore Langsdorf, Jamie Moshin, and John Stewart.
As said in the book, it is "an admission that there is more than 'me,' 'us,' or 'my kind' of people, theory or wisdom." Because "cosmopolitanism" and "provinciality" cannot be neatly placed in separate boxes, the 15 essays are not organized into "parts" or "sections" of the book, although Clifford Christians' ideas on "Universals and the Human" is the lead article. But all of these new-to-many ideas permeate the entire volume. -JMK
Ron F. Smith (2008). Ethics in Journalism (6th ed.) (2008). (Malden, MA: Wiley- Blackwell). xi + 367 pp. ISBN 978-1-4051-5934-0. $57.95. (paper). (Index, description of cases, illustrations).
This book is an "old standard" (the 1st edition, Eugene Goodwin's Groping for Ethics in Journalism, was published in 1983), but an outstanding one. Unlike some of the other volumes briefly described on these pages, it is designed for undergraduate students who are probably planning for a career in the American mass media. As the title says, it is aimed at future journalists, not necessarily at those planning to go into the entertainment, and perhaps even the persuasive branches of mass communication.
As a result, the 16 chapters are divided into five parts: Principles and Guidelines; Telling the Truth; Reporting the News; Compassion and the Journalist; and Conflicts of Interest. As an example of the depth of the book, the "Telling the Truth" section's four chapters are titled: Truth and Objectivity, Errors, Transparency, and Faking the News.
Although there have been many books published since 1983 in competition with this one, it still holds its own. -JMK
David E. Boeyink & Sandra L. Borden (2010). Making Hard Choices in Journalism Ethics: Cases and Practice. (New York: Routledge). ix + 210 pp. ISBN 978-0-415- 99000-4. $42.95 (paper; cloth and e-book editions available). (Notes, bibliogra- phy, index).
Although there aren't many pages in this volume, it should be very useful as a textbook (or "here's where the problems are, and how they've been solved" resource) that not only provides some 35 cases, but tries also to supply sufficient background to allow the reader to deal with new cases, new problems and new decisions when necessary.
The first chapter, "Hard cases in journalism ethics," explains why journalists need to worry about ethics, how things are vs. how they should be, rules, casuistry, and privacy. The second chapter is on the role of ethical theory; the third on the "paradigm case" as an ethical standard (nine of the cases in this book are in this chapter) with an eye on deception; the fourth chapter explains how to use case comparisons to make ethical choices with an eye on truth-telling; and the fifth discusses social justice and how to evaluate ethical judgments. Chapter 6 is titled "Casuistry and newsroom policy," and focuses on guidelines, or the resolving of matters of right and wrong. The last chapter is devoted to the Janie Blacksburgh case, an example of casuistry in action.
One shouldn't skim Making Hard Choices in Journalism Ethics . there is too much that would be missed in that way. It should be read carefully -- although the gray ink and typeface used won't make that easy. The book helps "walk you through" a number of cases that will tie theory, practice and goals together in such a way as to allow the reader to become thoroughly familiar with a much wider variety of common (and some uncommon) journalistic ethical problems than one might expect from the size and weight of this book. -JMK
Gene Foreman (2010). The Ethical Journalist: Making Responsible Decisions in the Pursuit of News. (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell). xxiv + 408 pp. ISBN 978-1- 4051-8394-9. $62.95 (paper; cloth and e-book editions available). (Case study sources, index).
During the 18 years I lived in southeastern Pennsylvania I had the pleasure of watching The Philadelphia Inquirer, a terrible paper when I arrived in 1968, become one of the best newspapers in the country. Without detracting in any way from the superb work of Gene Roberts, it is fair to say that much of the credit for this improvement belongs to Gene Foreman, who ran newsroom operations at the Inquirer from 1973 to 1998.
Throughout his professional and academic career (he was the inaugural Foster Professor of Journalism at Penn State University), Gene Foreman believed in teaching ethical standards and practices. The result is The Ethical Journalist. Although designed for undergraduates, it is also designed for professionals in the field -- a very difficult task for any writer, and one requiring a Gene Foreman to accomplish.
This book is long enough to cover what needs to be covered, and well-written enough to be a "good read." Throughout, there are various ways of making sure that the reader understands how what is being taught is an essential component of journalism.
There are 20 chapters in this volume. The first part, "A Foundation for Making Ethical Decisions," covers the depth of the field; the second part, "Exploring Themes of Ethics Issues in Journalism" explores its breadth.
The eight chapters in the first part explore why ethics matters in journalism, and in society; the news media's role in society; the clash of moral duties; the love-hate relationship between writers for the next generation of media and the public; how one must get the story right and be first; four "classic theories" of ethics (rule-based, consequence-based, the Golden Rule and the Golden Mean) and how they can be used together; codes of ethics; and how to make moral decisions that can be defended.
The second part, almost 2/3 of the book, discusses such omnipresent matters as stolen words; invented facts; conflicts of interest; the business side of journalism; how to be both complete ("get the story right") and fair; sources (and how to deal with them); privacy; taste; deception; today's diverse multicultural society; Web journalism; visual journalism; and the changing media environment. At the very end, Foreman provides a score of solidly thought-through, pithily written, "thoughts to take with you."
There have been and, I hope, always will be a variety of textbooks in the field of mass media ethics from which to choose. The Ethical Journalist, although new, has hit the ground running and should be an extremely useful addition to our list of possible textbook choices.
Robert Fortner & Mark Fackler (eds.) (2010). Ethics & Evil in the Public Sphere: Media, Universal Values and Global Development: Essays in Honor of Clifford G. Christians. (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press). viii + 401 pp. ISBN 978-1-57273-940-6. $39.95. (paper; cloth edition available). (References, con- tributors, author index, sub- ject index).
The contents of this festschrift in honor of Cliff Christians has an author list that reads like an international "Who's Who" in the field of media ethics. Christians, whose name has often appeared on these pages as an author, for many years served as Director of the University of Illinois' Institute of Communications Research, and as the Charles H. Sandage Distinguished Professor, with appointments as professor of Journalism and of Media Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana. (He has also voluntarily taken on some of the less enjoyable tasks of publisher of this magazine).
The essays in this book parallel much of Christians' teaching and writing, considering the topics of the media (the first seven chapters), universal values (the next seven), and global perspectives (the final six). The book ends with a Response by Christians to the "Theories of Morality in Three Dimensions" provided by the other authors (which brings the number of essays to 21) and a few pages by Mark Fackler called "Walking These Hills and Wondering."
Following a foreward (by Tom Cooper) and an Introduction (by Robert S. Fortner), the other essays include works by Steve Jones & Ishani Mukherjee ("iThou: Ethics, Friendship, and the Internet"); Jolyon Mitchell ("Redescribing News: From Spectacular Depictions of Violence to Unspectacular Portrayals of HIV"); Norman K. Denzin ("Good News Meets Media Reform and the New New Journalism"); Mark Fackler & Eric Baker ("'Journalism Makes You Kind of Selfless': Kenya's Press Code: Media Ethics in Search of a Paradigm"); Ian Richards ("The Strange Case of Trust in Journalism"); Raphael Cohen-Almagor ("In Internet's Way"); Lee Wilkins ("The Ethics of Professional Corruption"); Herman Wasserman & Arnold S. de Beer ("Glimpses Through the Windowpane: A South African Perspective on Universal Media Ethics"); Manuel Pares J. Maicas ("The Ethical Problems of Nations Without a State"); Kuk-Won Shin ("Searching for the Ethical Norms of Popular Art: Korean Context and Cases"); Robert S. Fortner ("Genocide as Civic Engagement: When the Public Sphere Turns Evil"); Kaarle Nordenstreng ("Liberating Freedom from Libertarian Myths"); David A. Craig & John P. Ferré ("Agape in the Service of Journalism"); Haydar Badawi Sadig ("Ustadh Mahmoud Mohamed Taha and Islamic Reform: A Story in the Exercise of Absolute Individual Freedom"); Ying-chun Hsieh & Ching-chun Hsieh ("Chinese Ethics, Mass Media, and the Global Development"); Stephen J. A. Ward ("The Journalist as World Citizen: Problems of Patriotism"); Cees J. Hamelink ("A Right to Communicate and Its Violability"); Robert A. White ("Foundations of Morality in Africa"); Valerie Alia ("The 'New Media Nation'" Pan- Indigenous Movements and Media Empowerment"); and Julia Garcia Luis (translation by Marcos Campilla Fenoll) ("Can We Really Boil a Frog in the Intercultural Pot? The Need to Find New Grounds for a Pluralist and Intercultural Ethics for Social Communication.").
This book celebrating the as-yet- uncompleted professional career of Cliff Christians has more ideas per page than any textbook can handle -- but it should inform all of the writers of the next generation of textbooks and, it is to be hoped, those working in the media as well. -JMK
(Alphabetical; listing here does not preclude future full reviews.)
Howard Good & Sandra L. Borden. (eds.) (2010). Ethics and Entertainment: Essays on Media Culture and Media Morality. (Jefferson, NC: McFarland). viii + 319 pp. ISBN 978-0-7864-3909-6. $39.95 (paper). (Notes, bibli- ographies, index).
Dale Jacquette (2007). Journalistic Ethics: Moral Responsibility in the Media. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall). xv + 300 pp. ISBN 0-13-182539-9. $41.20 (paper). (Appendices, further reading, index).
Nirmala Rao Khadpekar (ed.) (2008). Media Ethics: Global Dimensions. (Hyderabad, India: Icfai University Press). xi + 257 pp. ISBN 81-314- 1300-9. 450 Indian rupees (available for dollars in the U. S.) (paper). (Index).
John C. Merrill & Ralph L. Lowenstein. (2010). Viva Journalism! The Triumph of Print In the Media Revolution. (Bloomington, IN: Author House). xv + 180 pp. ISBN 978-1-4490-4579-1. $14.00 (paper; cloth and e-book edi- tions available). (Index).