Communication Ethics Case Study Examples

Published: 2021-06-18 05:48:03
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Category: Profession, Professionalism, Race

Type of paper: Essay

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Journalism is a profession that has its root in multi level bases of responsibilities and obligations when it comes beyond theory to actual practice. The profession of journalism provides certain degree of authority as soon as the vast field of mass media is open to be accessed. But as put very eloquently, with great power comes great responsibility. One stroke from the pen of a journalist or one click of such a camera can yield the power of ensuring justice to someone or cause nationwide panic and chaos. Few other professions have such authority and force. So, being a journalist, one should be accountable for every step taken. Often, at this point of accountability, the question that is raised is, what is the point of accountability after something is already done. Even if the responsibility of the consequences is taken, can what is done be undone?

The case of Officer Wilson is not a normal case and is rather a very exclusive one that has either taken a racist turn or interpretation or indeed is an instance of racial violence under the guise of government ordained authority. The first dilemma is how to actually interpret it or what really was the true source of the rash action. And this one feature leaves it vulnerable and open to any possible assumption and claim. As we know about the popular reaction to this was bad to which degree and how that mob was enraged further by the eventual no indictment verdict, it is but natural that people of all walks would judge it now from a subjective perspective and filter of perception. Evidently, from that perspective, most of them found the verdict unjust; as the ongoing protest demonstrates.

However, the perception of the angry mob and that of responsible reporters should not be the same; considering professionally. However, the racist angle from which the whole thing is appearing by the very nature of the event, it did not remain specific to any set standard of perception. Even in case of professionals, it has become an overall matter of personal judgment.

Professional fields today are constituted of all races and walks of qualified people who are trained the same in one professional milieu, in case of each industry. However, their conducts are essentially governed by their set of acquired personal values and views. Behind every personal and professional decision, it is such values that have the screening effect and contribution; a part of which is also the sense of belonging to a racial community or to the entire national population as equals. And at times, such senses overpower professional ethics and sense of basic responsibility and still a wrong move or step feel like the most justifiable one.

Now, considering from these very basic aspects, this particular action of revealing Wilson’s location publicly, and in so doing of endangering his and his new wife’s lives; assume a very much multifold appearance. As far as public accountability is concerned, what the New York Times Journalists did already is acknowledged by current public sentiment. The video surveillance clip is evident of the fact that Brown was indeed shot by Wilson but whether it was an act out of racial bias or not, is not analyzable from the video. And the non – indictment of Wilson by court is also a piece of evidence that factual details must have bore testimony on behalf of Wilson’s claim. So, the authenticity of the telecasted factual details remains questionable. The very act of revealing Wilson’s precise details also raises the question on how impartial the act was. Also, the defiant correction provided later also demonstrated aggressive disregards to the jury itself who would certainly wish to have some clarification about this act by the journalists. In this score, the journalists and newspaper defied any sort of accountability to the not so small mass of people who think that the act was rather rash and unprofessional. So, here also, another of their basic professional principle has been violated in Wilson- Brown case. In the overall attitude of New York Times and its journalists, there is hardly anything else but arbitrary judgmental censure; possibly and seemingly being carried away by intense public sentiment. Whatever it is, it is far from being fair, impartial or objective; the very pillars by the strength of which journalists are entrusted with information and facts.

Then again, there is something termed Limitation of Harm in journalism. It promotes the act of withholding certain piece of information or details for avoiding harmful consequences. It highlights the issue of whether all that has been learnt should be reported publicly or not. At the possibility of any potential harm, some details are ethically considered to be revealed only partially; full disclosure is avoided. This principle is based on the general journalistic principle of being impartially sympathetic and sensible, and also maintaining that the right to pursuit the hidden truth is not an ordained license of arrogance and arbitrary act. The next very important professional principle for a journalist is to recognize and acknowledge that fact that individual citizens have greater right to direct their personal information than public figures, and that is one individualistic right that journalists ought to respect and preserve. Professionally speaking, what the two journalists did was extremely unethical if the last three principles of journalism are taken into consideration. Revealing the address and name of the new wife was, professionally considering, the worst possible step as a journalist of a newspaper like New York Times. Here, as is obvious, personal judgment overpowered professional commitment and ethics. However, there are possible interpretations from their part as well, since both the newspaper and journalists still stood by their decision. The reason is not so complicated as the actual situation itself.

There is something known as heat of the moment; especially in the field of actual politics; a situation when the mob sentiment serves as the basis of all conduct as long as the situation is not resolved. The fact that this newspaper and its complete team still holds the stance that led them to do something so unethical professionally, is simply the result of their spontaneous sentimental identification with the public sentiment the heat of which will last just until this issue is brought to a solution or synthesis. However, there will definitely be consequence of what they have done once the heat of the situation is down. And the long term impact is not one that will let this instance be forgotten or lost.


WNEP The News Station. (November 24, 2014). Retrieved from
Walters, Joanna; Swaine, Jon (August 17, 2014). "Missouri governor points finger at Ferguson police chief for new violence". The Guardian. Print.

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