Learn more


Media Ethics is independent and inclusive. It is editorially eclectic and neither its sponsors, its editor, or its staff are responsible for its content.  It strives to present and examine ideas, provide a forum for opinion and research articles on media ethics, as well as a venue for announcements and reviews of meetings, opportunities, and publications.  Media Ethics welcomes any and all contributions. All submitted manuscripts are subject to editing at the discretion of the editor.

 

Photographs and other illustrations often are digitally altered. Unless otherwise specified, authors and photographers retain all copyrights to their work, subject only to print and electronic publication by Media Ethics itself.

Concept: Media Ethics in the Digital Age

Pavlik widerOptimizedPhoto: Robert Scoble

 

 By John V. Pavlik

 

John Pavlik provides one of the first extensive guides to the ethics of the digital media, discussing errors of commission and omission while covering a new field of enormous breath and importance.

  

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Digital technologies raise a host of thorny and troubling ethical challenges for journalists and media practitioners, whether professional or citizen.  Following is a sampling of some of the issues digital technologies raise for students, scholars and practitioners of media.

 

Plagiarism has become an often-accepted practice and international cultural norm due at least in part to the ease and temptation of copying online sources.

 

Digitally altering images or video is common in advertising and sometimes in news. Is it ever really okay from an ethics point of view?

 

Using anonymous sources is frequently an accepted practice in journalism.  When is it okay, if ever?

 

Omnidirectional imaging is more than science fiction.  Is it the all-seeing "Panopticon"?

 

WikiLeaks and the transparency of public records have changed how the public understands government, the military and big business around the world.  Is this a threat to national security or an ethical dilemma for journalists who write stories based on the data these records contain?

 

Artificial intelligence and computerized newswriting are commercial realities.  Do they pass the Turing Test (a definition of human-level intelligence)?  What about a test of ethics?

 

Social media, Web-cams and privacy are part of citizens' daily lives.  Can society protect civility in the digital, networked age?

 

Conducting interviews via e-mail is increasingly easy and common practice in journalism, but does it cross a line ethically for journalists?  What if the source asks the reporter to e-mail any quotes for pre-publication review…just for the sake of "accuracy"? 

 

Defining Media Ethics

 

Let’s proceed by defining what we mean by ethics, in particular media ethics.  Theorists often define ethics in terms of a set of principles of right, or moral, conduct.1   Some ask whether ethics are situational or absolute.2  Are there ethical principles and practices that transcend any and all situations, or are they dependent upon the specific situation?  In journalism and the media, ethics is usually defined in terms of a set of principles and practices articulated in a code for journalists or media professionals to help them act responsibly.  Common to most of these codes are the four principles of seeking the truth, acting independently (i.e., avoiding conflicts of interest), being held accountable and minimizing harm.3 Most journalism codes contain both situational and absolute ethics.  In the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)’s ethics code, for instance, journalists are admonished to "never plagiarize."  But, they are encouraged to "Identify sources whenever feasible," the implication being that anonymous sources are sometimes unavoidable and perhaps appropriate, depending on the situation.

 

Journalism codes help provide guidance but may be inadequate in specific circumstances, or need updating in the face of rapidly changing technology.  For instance, the emerging technology known as three-dimensional (3D) printing may become a tool for storytelling in journalism in the years ahead (e.g., in science or medical reporting), and may have ethical implications for its appropriate use (e.g., when is it appropriate to incorporate a 3D printable object with a story?, how can the veracity of a copied 3D object be authenticated?).4 Yet, it is not mentioned in the SPJ or any other journalism ethics codes.  These codes may need to be updated to incorporate the ethical use of 3D printing technology, or other unanticipated emergent technologies (e.g., augmented reality, now in use in a growing number of newspapers and other media) and the new dilemmas they may present.5

  

An Alternative Approach

 

We propose here a systematic framework for understanding the actions of journalists and other media professionals as well as citizen journalists, reporters or networked individuals, or those using social media in an ethics context.  This framework can transcend an evolving set of digital technologies or situations driven by technological change.

 

This framework offers a prescription for managing an ethical news or media organization or set of behaviors, inclusive of not only professional journalists but also the broader collaborative public increasingly engaged in the digital media world.

 

It is based on the premise that there are essentially two types of ethics problems.  These are errors of commission (ethical problems occurring by doing or committing some action) and errors of omission (ethical problems occurring by not doing something).

 

Errors of commission are things journalists and media professionals or those using social media might do, but should not, such as accepting gifts from sources.   Other problems of this type are actions that might present a conflict of interest and thereby compromise the integrity or independence of the journalist. For example, using anonymous sources except under the most limited circumstances; plagiarizing others; making up sources or quotes; writing sensationalized headlines; or "hacking" cell phone accounts or calls.  

 

Errors of omission are things journalists and other media professionals should do, but fail to do.  For example, sometimes journalists should ask tough follow-up questions of sources, but fail to do so, perhaps because they are afraid of losing their access to a desired source.  Or, a television executive might cast a comedy about a group of friends living in New York City with an all-white cast, despite knowing it might serve as a much better role model to young viewers if the cast reflected the diversity of population in New York.

 

A movie producer might not object to the gratuitous sex or violence inserted easily into a digital movie production in the hopes of getting better box office receipts, despite being well aware of what research says about the harmful effects on youthful audiences of viewing such depictions.

 

Consequences of Ethical Errors

 

In the context of journalism these two types of ethical errors result in potential or actual compromise of the truth and its pursuit in a fair and responsible fashion. 

In the world of media beyond journalism, these ethical errors diminish the quality or diversity of media content or propagate potentially harmful effects on children, or simply fail to realize the abundant opportunities to create media content with potentially pro-social benefits.

 

ERRORS OF COMMISSION

 

Errors of commission are the ethical missteps most commonly seen and debated.  Clearly, the case of Jayson Blair, a former New York Times reporter who plagiarized reporting from the San Antonio-Express News in 2002 and 2003 in addition to fabricating material used in stories published in the paper, involved errors of commission.6  Blair committed journalistic fraud.  He did things he should not have done, and these acts compromised the truthfulness of the news. In another case of journalistic fraud committed via digital television in 2000, CBS TV used digital editing technology to manipulate video of New York City’s Times Square to remove a sign for its competitor, NBC, and did not tell viewers.7

 

Using Anonymous Sources

 

Attribution to an "anonymous source" refers to an unnamed source of news in a story.  Sometimes anonymous sources are critically important in investigative reporting, and are the only way to get a source to reveal what he or she knows about a matter of public importance. Such was the case in the Watergate break-in when Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein needed "Deep Throat," their unnamed or anonymous source to serve as their key source in covering the break-in in 1973.  The investigation and the cover-up by the White House led to the impeachment and resignation of Pres. Richard M. Nixon and the awarding of Pulitzer Prize to Woodward and Bernstein. 

 

But in many cases, anonymous sources are used as a crutch for reporters who might be too lazy to dig deeper for other sources of information.  Or, anonymous sources are used in many cases for sensational or biased stories that fail the ethics test as errors of omission.  Such was the case at the NBC Los Angeles affiliate in 1994.  A KNBC-TV news report, attributed to an unnamed source, claimed that DNA tests allegedly showed a match between blood on a sock found in the bedroom of O.J. Simpson (the former football player and movie star who had been arrested as a suspect in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson), and his former wife's blood. KNBC later admitted the information in this report was inaccurate.8

 

In July 2012, an advisor to U. S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was quoted anonymously as stating that President Obama lacked a full appreciation for the mutual "Anglo-Saxon" heritage of the U. S. and Great Britain.  Later, Romney denied he or his campaign shared this view.9  Regardless, the case underscores the ethical problems associated with quoting anonymous sources in the news.

 

In some cases, a reporter should shield the identity of a source. This is an issue that confronts journalism whether in analog or digital format.  But in the networked world, where once a name is published it is available world-wide and probably indefinitely, because there is no way to effectively remove the name from circulation. Although decisions may need to be considered in context, victims of sexual assault, particularly children, need to have their identities protected, even when serving as news sources.

 

The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) reports on the widespread and increasing use of anonymous sources in network TV news.  "In 2004, more than half of all stories, 53%, contained anonymous sources, up from 43% in 2003. The practice was slightly less prevalent at the PBS NewsHour, but 47% of the stories contained at least one anonymous source, up substantially from 15% a year earlier. Part of the jump may be explained by the dominance in 2004 of internal, closely guarded government stories like Abu Ghraib [prison in Iraq]."

 

PEJ notes that newspapers make substantially less use of anonymous sources. At newspapers, "Just 7% of all stories, and 13% of front-page stories, contained anonymous sources."

 

Using False Bylines

 

As a cost-saving strategy, a Chicago-based media company, Journatic, employed more than 100 overseas freelancers in 2012, primarily in the Philippines, who collected online information and then organized and presented it as stories under false bylines to hundreds of U.S.-based writers and editors for publication.10

 

By publishing such stories under false bylines, the public consuming the news is deceived and the ethical standards of journalism are compromised. Ultimately, the public trust is violated and the relationship between journalists and the public is damaged as is the credibility of the news media and those who would report the news.

 

Digital Manipulation

 

Seeing is not believing.  Image and video manipulation represent another significant error of commission in the digital age.  In perhaps the first dramatic case of digital image manipulation in the media, National Geographic magazine editors in February 1982 digitally moved an image of  the great pyramids of Egypt to obtain a better aspect ratio for the cover of their magazine.  Editors at Time magazine performed a similar digital sleight-of-hand when they published a cover on June 27, 1994 showing a darkened image of a police mug shot of O. J. Simpson.  The alteration of the image might have gone unnoticed except competing weekly newsmagazine Newsweek featured on its cover the same mug shot, but unaltered—on the same day.  Anyone who saw the two covers, especially side by side, immediately recognized that the timecover had been darkened, giving Simpson a more sinister, menacing appearance.

 

In November of 2000 U.S. President Bill Clinton and Cuban President Fidel Castro did meet in New York at the United Nations.  But they never shook hands.  Yet, readers of the New York Daily News might have thought otherwise, as editors created a digital composite image showing the two world leaders reaching out hand-to-hand in a friendly gesture. 

 

NBC News executives in April 2012 fired the producer who edited the audio recording of the 9-1-1 call George Zimmerman made to the police the night of the Trayvon Martin shooting.11 The producer had edited the audio recording to give what is an apparently misleading impression that Zimmerman had volunteered, without prompting by the police, that Martin was black.12 As edited, Zimmerman states, "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black."  But in the deleted portion of the recording, the 9-1-1 dispatcher asks Zimmerman whether the person Zimmerman was following is "black, white or Hispanic," to which Zimmerman answers, "He looks black." [Zimmerman later sued the network for the alleged effects of this edit on his reputation.]

 

HBO executives apologized in June 2012 when it was reported that one of the severed heads featured in the 10th episode of the hit series Game of Thrones strongly resembled that of President George W. Bush.13  Although producers said the use of a "Pres. Bush" head in the episode was inadvertent, HBO executives stated that a different decapitated head was digitally substituted in future DVD releases and any future airings of the episode.

 

Publishing images, photos, video and audio often involves editing of that content in some fashion, such as simply for length or cropping to fit a screen or other media space.  Many of these simple edits involve no ethical concerns.  In general, the types of digital media manipulations possible include: 1) the addition or subtraction of content; 2) composite imagery or constructed images, where multiple video or still images or their audio equivalents are merged into one seamless image; 3) synthetic images, video or audio, where completely real-looking scenes are created artificially depicting events that might have taken place or that might take place in the future; and 4) animations.  Three-dimensional (3D) printing is rapidly emerging as a commercially viable technology that may soon be available for storytelling in journalism (e.g., a 3D photo could be printed at home), and these same ethical principles should apply.

 

When publishing digital images, photos, video and audio (or 3D objects), editors should adhere to the following ethical principles:

 

Most importantly, they should never edit any images, photos, video or audio that results in altering or distorting the meaning of that content. 

 

It is also essential that any digitally altered image, video or audio, or any synthetic image, video or audio or animation, or 3D printed object be clearly labeled so all viewers or listeners understand the altered or artificial nature of the content.  This labeling is the only way to maintain journalistic standards of truth, accuracy, and fairness.

 

Digital technology also raises new ethical problems for news gathering.  For example, omnidirectional imaging, or cameras that shoot 360-degree views, can greatly enhance the field of view for a photo- or video-journalist.  They can help put news into better context.  This can be a good thing, even an ethical improvement.  Consider a photo or video of a protest or political rally.  A traditional narrow field of view camera might just show the protesters.  An omnidirectional camera, or "omnicam," would show a panoramic field of view and everyone and everything in it. It could show the protesters, the bystanders, the police, and the media observers.  The entire context could be provided. Moreover, emergent digital gigapixel cameras have ultra-high resolution that would allow the viewer to zoom in on an object photographed from a remote location and identify individual persons or objects in the distant field of view.14  

 

But is such an omnicam also the classic Panopticon?  English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham proposed such an all-seeing device as a form of prison in 1785. When a 360-degree camera is shooting a protest or any other setting, public or not, no one escapes the camera's field of view.  Is there no longer any privacy in a world populated by networked high-resolution Panopticons?

 

Hidden Cameras

 

Hidden cameras, whether digital or analog, raise similar concerns about privacy.  Or, consider remote-sensing satellite imagery taken from hundreds of miles above the Earth. These digital sensors can capture imagery less than half a meter in size.  Do Earth-bound citizens have a right to expect privacy from news cameras potentially photographing them from an orbit hundreds of miles overhead?  Many non-journalists might say "yes."  Yet, what better way is there for the public to gain access to otherwise denied areas, such as sites of natural disaster (such as the 2011 tsunami that ravaged Japan) or human-made disasters (e.g., refugee camps resulting from war, deforestation or the impact of climate change on the melting of parts of the polar ice caps in the summer of 2012).

 

Balancing Rights

 

As some First Amendment theorists have suggested, there needs to be a balance between freedom of speech and other values.15 As such, there is an ethical imperative to balance the public’s right to know with citizens' right to privacy.  Similarly, it is important to consider the ethical dimensions of public vs. private and quasi-public figures and data and how much access the public and journalists are granted digitally and online. There is a question of legal rights vs. ethical responsibility, and both of these must be placed in the context of corporate drive for profits and commercial exploitation. 

 

Invading a Roommate’s Privacy

 

What should be the consequence of using a Web-cam to clandestinely video-record or transmit private or intimate behaviors of another person's activities without their knowledge or consent, particularly when the person involved not a public figure?  Such was the case in a dorm room on the campus of Rutgers University in 2010 when Dharun Ravi used his computer's Web-cam to video-record the intimate encounter of his gay roommate and posted comments online about the encounter.16 Ravi, who was expelled from the University, was found guilty of spying on his roommate, who committed suicide shortly after the original incident. 

 

Beyond the legal ramifications of the case, what are the ethical responsibilities each citizen brings to their living situation?  In the digital age, many ordinary citizens are equipped with technology that enables them to not only spy on those around them but to broadcast what they see to the world.  How are the ground rules for civility shifting?

 

Digital Big Foot

 

Social media can mean balancing freedom of speech and civility, as well as being aware of the digital footprint or potential reach of one's online communications.  UCLA student Alexandra Wallace used her mobile phone to create a video and posted it to YouTube in March 2011 and it quickly went viral.17  The problem was her video was a rant against Asians and their alleged misuse of cell phones in the library and beyond.  In response to her video posting, Wallace received death threats and she removed the video and apologized. 

 

Revealing State Secrets

 

The problem of digital transparency is particularly acute when the secrets to be revealed may relate to matters of national security.  In 2006 this issue moved well onto the public stage when newspapers such as The New York Times revealed the Bush Administration's use of extensive warrantless phone taps and monitoring using various digital communications technologies.

 

In 2010 Julian Assange's WikiLeaks digitally published hundreds of thousands of classified government and military documents.  Was this transparency a good thing? Was it a crime?  Was it ethical for journalism organizations to publish stories based on the information contained in the massive WikiLeaks digital data-trove?  Bill Keller, former New York Times executive editor, argued the First Amendment should protect WikiLeaks, and the media should come to its defense.18

 

Finding and accessing sources and stories is one of the critical elements of reporting.  Doing so without violating either ethical or legal boundaries is a fundamental challenge.  The phone hacking scandal at the now defunct British tabloid News of the World illustrates this challenge.  Journalists or their proxies not only violated ethical standards of journalism by hacking the digital cell phones of various individuals, but also apparently broke British law in the process.19

 

Networked, digital communication technologies, such as mobile phones, e-mail and social media, as well as the massive digital data collections provided by organizations such as WikiLeaks, are increasingly attractive sources of information for reporters.  In many cases, the information is obtained ethically and legally.  But in certain circumstances, such as where the digital information is delivered anonymously or from a confidential informant, journalists need to ask themselves several fundamental, ethically driven questions when pursuing a digital source and a story.  Among these questions are whether there is any other way to obtain that information or access that source, and whether the source is a public or quasi-public figure.  Private citizens and children need to be afforded a higher degree of privacy protection.  The reporter also needs to consider the ultimate significance of the story, and whether it is a matter of public importance, as in the case of the Watergate break-in or torture in Abu Ghraib prison. 

 

Passing the Turing Test

 

Consider the technology known as artificial intelligence, or AI.  Computer science pioneer Alan Turing in 1950 posed a test of a machine's intelligence by asking whether a human judge could engage in a natural language conversation with both a computer and a human and distinguish one from the other based on their relative conversational performance.20 This branch of AI known as natural language has developed significantly since the 1950s and it is now possible (using computer algorithms) to have computers write news stories based on data mining.  Several commercial firms such as the Chicago-based Narrative Science are reported to have paying clients who (for a fee) get stories written by computer algorithm on topics such as sports and finance. The stories are generated from data input such as game statistics or financial information.21  Media companies are attracted to the cost efficiency of algorithm-based news writing, particularly in an age of cost-cutting and the expense of salaried human journalists, particularly those who may need or want benefits such as insurance, maternity leave, a pension and the like. 

 

But what are the ethics of stories written by computer?  Is there an ethical question?  Without a human writer, who will consider matters of fairness, accuracy or truthfulness?  What would Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling make of such a development?22 Would he find inspiration? On the other hand, who or what could be more objective or more fair than a computer algorithm?

 

File Sharing

 

Among the most popular activities many college students, as well as others, engage in is file sharing. Often, the files being shared are legally exchanged.  But, other times, the persons sharing the files do not have the needed copyright permissions to be in compliance with prevailing laws.  But is sharing of such files "piracy"?  Is it unethical?

In Sweden, the Church of Kopimism is founded on the principle that file sharing, regardless of copyright, is a matter of religious freedom, and is sacred, ethical and legal.23 Although big media firms are opposed to file sharing of copyrighted materials and dub it "online piracy," others, including the 8,000 members of the Kopimism religion, believe information in any form should be free.

 

ERRORS OF OMISSION

 

Unlike errors of commission, these ethical errors are rarely seen.  It's not necessarily because they rarely occur.  It's largely because these are the things media professionals, citizen journalists or others creating mediated content should do but sometimes don’t. 

 

In the digital age, one of the most common ethical errors of omission involves how journalists conduct interviews.  Traditionally, journalists conducted all their interviews with news sources in person.  These face-to-face interviews had many strengths, including allowing the journalist to establish a strong sense of connection with the source. The reporter could gauge the emotions and reactions of the source as well as when to ask follow-up questions by observing the facial reactions of sources interviewed in person.  The nuance of an in-person interview was a valuable source of detail.  With the invention of the telephone, mobile communications, the Internet and e-mail, it became easier, faster, and much cheaper to conduct interviews from a distance.  For many sources, interviews via e-mail or mobile phone are a more convenient method of interview and this makes it an attractive option to many.  These technological developments meant reporters could conduct more interviews in less time at less expense without taking the time to go into the field. Moreover, distant sources, including those abroad, could be accessed via the Internet or the phone or Skype call. 

 

Many sources have increasingly sought to have reporters allow them to review their quotes prior to publication.  This is relatively easy via e-mail or even telephone.  In some cases, this can enable a reporter to ask follow-up questions or catch minor (or even major) errors in a quote.  But equally often, it enables a source to seek to change the substance or style or nuance of a quote in a manner that makes him or her sound more intelligent, less open to criticism or otherwise more favorable.  In general, pre-publication quote review has become a major source of debate and ethical question in 21st century journalism.24 The problem would be far less likely to occur if journalists were to conduct more interviews face-to-face rather than online or via phone.

 

Fact checking is an increasingly common error of omission in the digital age. As cost-cutting and the rush to get the story out ever faster has come to dominate the digital newsroom, more and more news organizations are willing to publish or broadcast breaking news without first verifying their facts.  CNN and Fox News reported too fast—and incorrectly—on June 27, 2012 that the U. S. Supreme Court had struck down the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration's signature domestic policy.25  In fact, the Court had upheld the central provision of the Act, the individual mandate to purchase health insurance, as a tax, though not as a "penalty."  Neglecting to check the facts before reporting breaking news—or any news for that matter—is an ethical error of omission that will derail every newsroom or journalist by eroding credibility and public trust.

 

Another ethical issue error of omission that can arise easily in an online or telephone interview is the need to inform, not mislead, a source by immediately revealing a reporter's true identity or purpose.  Although this can certainly occur in a face-to-face reporting situation, it is particularly problematic online where identity is a matter of assertion and anonymity of the reporter can be easily maintained or disguised. 

 

Such was the case in 2011 when a reporter made a so-called prank call to then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.26 Reporter Ian Murphy, a liberal blogger for The Beast in Buffalo, New York, omitted his identity when calling Gov. Walker. Instead, he let Walker believe he was conservative billionaire supporter David Koch. This was intended to get Walker to admit to something embarrassing and potentially illegal, in the hopes of revealing to The Beast's readers the Governor’s suspected true political goal of "breaking" the union for government workers in Wisconsin.27

 

In traditional print or broadcast media, publishing or broadcasting a "correction" is a relatively common practice after an error has been identified.  Corrections set the record straight and hold media accountable.  Online news media, including social media such as blogs or tweets, should follow this same model.  Online media can facilitate rapid distribution of news, but have a reduced amount of fact-checking time, particularly when live.  Hence, there can be an increase in errors.  When errors do occur, rather than simply correct the erroneous post, a note for readers should be provided indicating what error occurred and that it has been corrected.  Ethically, it is important to maintain a record of publication and correction regardless of the form of publication. 

 

HYPOTHETICAL

 

Finally, consider this hypothetical case. A news organization obtains video of a killing in a conflict zone, such as Libya or Syria.  But the editors are unable to obtain the permission of the citizen who shot the video. Is it okay to use the video?  YouTube contains just such citizen video from the Arab Spring.28  What if the video could not be authenticated? 

 

Citizenside.com is "an open membership site (anyone can join and contribute), but now open source," explains Garrett Goodman, Citizenside’s International Coordinator.29 He goes on, "Our technology is licensed to news media houses for them to grow their own tipster communities, and fact-check the incoming contributions." Among the tools Citizenside uses are advanced geo-tagging and meta-data that can help to verify both the location of the source and the device used to capture the image or video being provided.  This permits pinpointing it on Google maps and determining whether it was edited in Photoshop before it was uploaded.30  Such verification is an ethical imperative in the digital age.

 

Is there an ethical imperative for news organizations to utilize the types of digital tools being developed by digital news organizations—such as Citizenside—in an era where user-generated content (UGC) and social media are increasingly a substantial part of the news flow?

 

CONCLUDING REFLECTIONS

 

In ancient Greek mythology, King Dionysis hosted a banquet for his courtier, Damocles, to enjoy all the pleasures that wealth could buy.  To teach his courtier a lesson about the perils of wealth and power, he suspended by a single hair a great sword directly over Damocles' head while he attended the banquet.  So unnerved was he by the terrifying sword that Damocles foreswore his love and envy of the King's wealth.

 

Technology represents in many ways a digital sword of Damocles to journalism, the media and those who engage with them in the digital age.   A wealth of new possibilities awaits those who employ the new digital tools for creating and delivering compelling new content. Yet, these same tools make it ever easier to plagiarize and pirate content, participate in the social media flow of global communication, or act as citizen reporters.  And at the end of the day, though we all may be more amused than ever, the media we engage may be no closer to conveying the truth or providing high quality original content…unless we all act ethically.

 

This essay has provided a two-part ethics framework for professional journalists, citizen journalists as well as other content creators, media consumers and any one engaging in the world of digital media as a consumer, creator or policy maker.  This framework is driven by digital technology but designed to span media forms and emerging technology.  It suggests there are two ethical challenges, those based on the actions committed and those omitted.  Each type presents different types of concerns and problems, but affect and are affected by the moral compass each person brings to her or his media experience.

 

To put it most simply: would each of us be proud to have our digital media actions, or inactions, reported, emulated, distributed on Facebook, Twitter or via our hometown, national or global media for family or friends to read, watch or listen to on the evening news or digital display?

 

Ultimately, democracy and society depend on an ethical media system. In the digital age, an increasing portion of the citizenry is actively engaged in that media system as a consumer or producer, whether via news, social media or entertainment.  Each person’s actions, or inactions, are part of a global network and can contribute to making it an ethical digital media system.

 


References

 

1. Aristotle (circa 322 BC). Ethics.  http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/8438.  Retrieved July 30, 2012. 

 2. Fletcher, Joseph F. (1966). Situation Ethics: The New Morality, Philadelphia: Westminster Press.

 3. Society of Professional Journalists: SPJ Code of Ethics.  http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp.  Retrieved July 30, 2012. 

 4. Terdiman, Daniel.  “3D Printing Creating a ‘Whole New World.'” CNET, June 20, 2011.  http://news.cnet.com/8301-13772_3-20072236-52/3d-printing-creating-a-whole-new-world/.  Retrieved July 30, 2012.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97Q_1kair4c . Retrieved July 28, 2012.

 12. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8imQBSo5szM .  Retrieved July 28, 2012.

 14. Laughlin, Andrew.  “Gigapixel camera unveiled by US scientists.” Digital Spy.  June 22, 2012.   http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tech/news/a389049/gigapixel-camera-unveiled-by-us-scientists.html.  Retrieved July 30, 2012. 

 15. Brennan, William J.  “The Supreme Court and the Meiklejohn Interpretation of the First Amendment.” Harvard Law Review 79 (November 1965): 1-20. 

 17. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7XAJo3rQn8 . Retrieved July 28, 2012.

 18. Ingram, Mathew.  "The NYT’s Bill Keller on why we should defend Wikileaks.” GigaOm.   http://gigaom.com/2012/07/25/the-nyts-bill-keller-on-why-we-should-defend-wikileaks/. Retrieved July 28, 2012.

 19. Carr, David.  “Journalism’s Misdeeds Get a Glance in the Mirror.” The New York Times. July 29, 2012.   http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/business/media/holding-up-a-mirror-to-journalism-the-media-equation.html?ref=business.  Retrieved July 29, 2012. 

20. Turing, Alan. (October 1950), “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” Mind LIX (236): 433–460, DOI: 10.1093/mind/LIX.236.433, ISSN 0026-4423.

 21. Fassler, Joe. “ Can the Computers at Narrative Science Replace Paid Writers.” The Atlantic. April 12, 2012.   http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/04/can-the-computers-at-narrative-science-replace-paid-writers/255631/

 22. Serling himself wrote this episode of the Emmy-award winning Twilight Zone, “The Brain Center at Whipple’s,” about a factory owner who brings in computers to replace the workers at his factory, and in the end, he himself is …well, I don’t want to give away the ending.  The episode aired on television in 1964.  The full episode is available at  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6sjUvCQl6k&feature=related. Retrieved July 28, 2012.

 23. Tagliabue, John.  “In Sweden, Taking File Sharing to Heart.  And to Church."  The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/26/world/europe/in-sweden-taking-file-sharing-to-heart-and-to-church.html?_r=1

 24. Smiley, Brett.  “National Journal Refuses to Allow Quote Neutering.” New York Magazine.   http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/07/national-journal-no-approved-quotes.html

 25. http://thegrio.com/2012/06/28/twitter-hits-cnn-fox-for-wrong-call-on-supreme-court-healthcare-ruling/#s :hcrfail-obama-dewey_beats_truman-16x9.  Retrieved July 28, 2012. [See also articles by Steve Voorhees and Jerry Schwartz in this issue of Media Ethics].

 26. http://www.buffalobeast.com/?p=5045 .  Retrieved July 28, 2012.

 29. E-mail from Garrett Goodman to the author, received July 29, 2012.

30. http://www.reporterkit.com/?page_id=654 .  Retrieved July 28, 2012.

 

 

 
Our Facebook page