In a world where journalists are taught that ‘man bites dog’ is news, let’s take a minute to assess the conflicting values that constitute the black box of media ethics. Media ethics provide a process by which individual mistakes and excesses are best avoided without jeopardizing the ultimate objective of the fourth estate- to provide a healthy check on centre of power and maintain a free and enlightened society.
The importance and relevance of ethics in media stems from the fact that the common man places his trust in media for providing information, education and entertainment. He gets deeply and intimately affected by the media’s portrayals of events. His opinion on major issues is perception of peace, harmony and development or is action in leading a crusade for justice and deliverance are all molded to a large extent by the media. The freedom of the press is said to be inseparable from reasonable precincts are necessary to preserve this freedom from degenerating into a license to print and publish anything without restraint.
Ethical foundation is what gives media the strength and stature for a societal role. Where credibility is the principle criterion, as in the case of mass media, ethical practice and norms distinguish the rights from the wrongs. To be able to objectively analyze the issue, one has to appreciate the disparate nature of goals media is faced with. Ethical dilemmas emerge when goals conflict. The foundation stone of media that is ‘Truth’ itself may conflict with many other socially desirable values.
It’s time that the media should be recognized and accepted for what it is, nothing less and definitely nothing more. However sooner or later the public will grow out of such hype and sensation and in the long run the society will see through the news and content that result in some true value addition. Till then, self censorship both on the part of the media and the audience will get us through the doldrums of the shifting paradigms of ethics.