Being Ethical in Print Media

May 23 2015 • Uncategorized • 425 Views • No Comments on Being Ethical in Print Media


The daily print media is the basic means for the day-by-day dissemination of the news. It is the gate way of elaborate information of the world and its events. It has greater influence on the society. It furnishes news or information regarding the events of the contemporary world, with an interpretation and comments upon these events. Newspapers can ‘head-line’ some items of news or opinions and make them seem very important, and they can suppress items or omit them entirely. They advertise for business and other establishments, acting as a sales medium. They furnish entertainment of various types, from comic strips to puzzles. They provide miscellaneous information which it is difficult to classify under any of the above headings. The ethical training of the correspondents, reporters and the editors tells upon the type of presentation in a particular media. The vision, viewpoint and ideology – be it social, economic and political – of a specific media guides their way of presentation. They are the inarticulate major premises that necessarily colour the reports they make. Much news is gathered and dispatched by great news-gathering agencies, or press associations.


Print media is under severe criticism from time to time. Three major criticisms are usually levelled against the newspaper today. They are as follows: It is said that the press, while claiming to be an objective agent for the dissemination of news, is in reality a group of business corporations run in the interest of profits for the owners or the stockholders. Due to this business link with mere profit motive, print media is subject to financial pressure and is controlled by a small group. Eventually it tries to serve their social, political and economic interests. It is claimed that newspapers are subject to additional pressure from major advertisers. In order to please the advertiser owing to huge revenue from them, most of the times, print media may indulge in distortion and improper slanting of the news. Most newspapers are frankly partisan in politics. When economic issues are involved, newspapers with few exceptions serve the interests of the dominant groups.


Media ethics demands social responsibility with public interest. In the words of Owens-Ibie serving the public interest would mean “the mass media are expected to inform the citizenry of what goes on in the government, which, in a way, keeps rulers in check. Also, the media should be reporting on and promoting discussion of ideas, opinions and truths toward the end of social refinement; acting as a nation’s ‘bulletin board’ for information and mirroring the society and its peoples just the way they are, thus exposing the heroes and the villains.” (Owens-Ibie, 1994)


In order to regularise the print media towards serving the larger interest of people rather than few influential and powerful groups, certain ethical guidelines are emphasized. Legislative action is suggested to check the monopoly in the handling the information. As individuals, we should widen our range or variety of reading and check items or articles that arouse our suspicion. Both public and private bureaus of information and investigation should be developed and supported. We might establish a few endowed newspapers on a non-profit basis, with different sections of the paper assigned to different interest groups.


Broadcasting is comparatively a recent phenomenon in the modern world. The development of radio and television has been rapid and has gained tremendous power. Listening and seeing are the important aspects of society. Certain ethical issues are raised in broadcasting. The power of owing number of stations and the authority to give them licences to do so remain with the state. This limit and control of broadcasting sometimes become a coercive and manipulative by certain group of people who are favored with the privilege of using the available air waves or channels. The regulative code is that it has with the responsibility for the common good of all. News reporting also is ethically expected to be factual and objective. Programs relating to controversial public issues are needed to give fair representation to both sides of issues beyond certain bias and particular standpoint. Children’s programs are to be educative rather than mere entertaining. The pedagogical input reflects basic human values like respect for parents, law and order, clean living, high morals, fair play and ethically right behavior.


The ethical codes on audio-visual media specify things that are forbidden and be avoided such as attacks on religious sentiments, profanity, obscenity and vulgarity;


Media Ethics


Applied Ethics



material of an extreme nature which might create undesirable emotional reaction among people. The advertising of hard liquor, fortune telling, occultism must be avoided. Since much discussion has centered on the subject of crime, violence and sex in broadcasts, it is interesting to note what the codes emphasize in the fields. The radio code says that broadcasters should avoid technique and methods of crime presented in such manner as to encourage imitation or to make the commitment of crime attractive. The television code urges respect for the sanctity of marriage and shows concern that illicit sex relations are not treated as commendable.


In a section headed ‘Responsibility toward children’ the television code says: “The education of children involves giving them a sense of the world at large. Crime, violence and sex are a part of the world. They will be called up to meet and a certain amount of proper presentation of such is helpful in orienting the child to his social responsibility”. However, violence and illicit sex shall not be presented in attractive manner, not to an extent that it may make a child to believe that they play a greater part in life than they do. They should not be presented without indications of the resultant retribution and punishment. The television code points out that television makes available the finest programs of Information, Education, Culture and Entertainment. It is a valuable means of augmenting the educational and cultural influences of Schools, Institutions of higher learning devoted to education and culture. Whether we agree or not programs of excellence in these areas are commendable. On the other hand, one such study on these programmes has indicated that some parents complain of ‘too much violence’ and a lack of educational and religious programs. The study found that children’s programme are of full violence either directly or indirectly. Some educators have warned the possible dangers to health, character and education which may result if a child spends two or more hours a day in watching Television. Others think that these dangers have been exaggerated and blame the parents, who indirectly encourage their children watching television as it keeps the children busy and “out of trouble”.


Efforts to regulate radio broadcasting have been undertaken by the government. Broadcasting stations are licensed to serve the public and not for the purpose of furthering the private or group interest of individuals. Benefits derived by advertisers were to be incidental and entirely secondary. The broadcasting system was to be a kind of community mouthpiece for keeping the people informed, stimulating discussion and presenting music, drama and athletics for the entertainment of the public. The ethical standards of the radio and television industries appear to be the generally accepted standards of society. The industry tries to follow the law of the land. A certain amount of idealism is offset by the drive for profits and the desire to do the things which lead in this direction regardless of public welfare.


Concept of public interest is in the heart of media ethics and highlights the crucial role of communications sector in shaping the formation of public opinion and civil society movements. In short, field of communications is a determinant factor in framing the path of society’s development. (Melisande 2009)


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