Journalism Ethics: Contemporary Issues in Journalism

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Posted By:
Heather Hamilton-Stilwell
Biola University

This course is designed to help students thoughtfully explore the major issues of mass media in American society and in limited global contexts from legal, ethical, social, cultural, technical and fiscal perspectives. Students also explore the relationship of the press and religion.

Journalism in this country has been under scrutiny in recent years for a series of serious mistakes in judgment that have called into question the credibility of the news media, both print and broadcast. Lacking credibility and public trust threatens the civic value of the press and undermines one of the basic pillars of our democracy, the First Amendment.

In the past decade every major broadcast network has been embarrassed by a failure to follow established journalistic standards. To make matters worse, these transgressions come at a time when the media are under scrutiny from critics of both the right and left, both empowered by the Internet. No ethical lapse will go unnoticed or unpunished.

Sourcing and attribution, context and perspective, independence backed by careful and considered judgment have become even more difficult because of the technology used for news gathering and distribution. Thanks to satellites and the Internet, information moves at what one critic calls “warp speed.”

Against this background, the objectives of this course are to help you understand the nature of electronic journalism, how to make decisions when faced with difficult ethical choices and to do so within the context of the history and principles of journalism. Unfortunately many of the mistakes of recent years are only repeating mistakes of the past. Knowing the history and traditions of the profession will be invaluable and help you take pride in your profession.