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Ethics & Images (Biological Limit)

Ethics & Images (Biological Limit)


The unintended consequences of media advertising on the society and consumers have
been a major concern for many scholars in business ethics, communication and marketing. Some
of the most debated topics feature how these advertising contribute to the diffusion of the
lifestyles of materialistic consumers, deceptive advertising, and advertisements intended for

vulnerable consumers such as children, and how the minorities are represented in these
advertisements. When a major event that captures the attention of many television audiences
occurs, it is common to find that these viewers will either stick to one station or switch between
channels. This switch is usually focused on other respected news stations, and is in an attempt to
get a comprehensive view of the occurrence. The station with actual personnel and reliable
equipment on the field will have a better chance of offering first hand immediate events to these
audiences. Surprisingly, it is also common to find that the station with no personnel present at the
site will also offer breaking news to viewers. The reason for this is that stations know the
benefits of being better placed to offer breaking news to audiences; it leads to station ratings, and
in turn better financial success as there will be increased program sponsorships.
Therefore, it is clear that these stations know the importance of images as a way of
communicating to audiences. Images can tell so much more about an event, and they also show
that the station is giving first hand information, and not just reporting on what they heard others
saying. This is why it is very important to apply journalism ethics as the stations try to recover
stories and events. The journalism ethics comprises of the principles of ethics and of the good
practice as applicable to the challenges faced by journalists.
This article helps readers to understand their responsibilities as persons and more
especially as journalists. It provides them with a critical framework that addresses the ethical
issues that routinely arise in the journalism practice. It assesses the integrative approaches to
ethics which is informed by the basic tenets of the Western ethical traditions and develops from
the abstract to the concrete with a purpose to help the practitioners and all readers to develop a
sound professional and guidelines that would help them interpret and use the images in
journalism. That is, it deeply explains the journalism purpose and the values that specifically

emerge from the purpose of journalism basing on the historical, critical, analytical and the
theoretical accounts.

Way Forward to a Balanced, Holistic Approach to Ethics

A holistic approach makes sense to journalists. Reasoning in journalism ethics challenges
the journalist professionals to reach a reflective equilibrium among their principles and
intuitions. In journalism, tension is constantly between the proactive and the restraining
principles. Reporting the truth independently may end up harming the journalist’s reputation or
may even further harm the institution’s reputation and profitability (Lester, 2010). Aside from
that, there is the fear that reporting the truth may endanger the mission of the military. On the
other hand, failure to report the essential facts about a certain event or occurrence may end up
violating the journalism’s duty to report truthfully and fully (Newton & Williams, 2010). A
journalist could be doing this so as to prevent any necessary upcoming harm or so as to avoid
offending a minority. Lester (2010) argues that when covering news about a diverse,
multicultural society, it is important to be careful and sensitive in the analysis. It is important to
gain respect, by showing that group respect. It does not necessary mean that you advocate for the
group, however it is important not to take sides while preparing the news piece. When covering
gays and lesbians in the news, sensitivity should be given the highest priotiy. While covering
race, it is important to be precise instead of leaving room for speculation. This may send off the
wrong information to the views. In such situations, the journalists will have to make a decision
which principles have more priority compared to the other. The principles to seek the truth and
of independence will definitely reflect a liberal idea of the press while those of minimizing the
harm and accountability will reflect the deontological and the compassionate side of ethics
(Newton & Williams, 2010).

For a balanced and holistic approach, the Systematic Moral Analysis (SMA) that is
recommended by Deni Elliot and David Ozar need to be supplemented together with a method
and modes that also focuses on the human’s pre-reflective, non-conscious, intuitive cognitive and
memory (Newton & Williams, 2010). The main goal for this is to show how an individual’s
personal truth of an event may either hinder or contribute to a more balanced journalism
approach and a sustainable culture. The use of SMA and the rational processes with enough time
would enhance the ability of the visual creators and the editors to make even more critical and
ethical decisions. However, this will only facilitate a part of the desired outcome. That is a
cultivation that is reflective, of internal sense of the ethics that would help in guiding the
ongoing, and of daily decision making.
One of the methods of the systematic moral analysis tools includes the use of the personal
impact assessment (PIA) methods, a method that is developed by Williams to draw the non-
conscious responses to the media images into the awareness that are more conscious as a way to
inform the journalistic ethical use and practice. The Personal Impact assessment allows the
viewer of an image to start with the logical, nouns and the adjectives and quickly shift to the
words that are associated with those terms. Also, through reflection the viewer is able to move
deeper into self-awareness.
It is a simple process that may look complex when it is described the first time. It first
involves looking at the image, then listing the major visual elements in it. After which the list is
reviewed jotting down the words that every key element in image evokes. After that, the
associative words are reviewed while selecting one for each of the key words. A new list is made
from the associative words that are selected then the viewer or reader thinks deeply into each of
the associative words and allows each word describing a part of her or himself to emerge. Lastly,

a description of the image is done using the third list of words. These are specifically designed to
access the non-conscious mind and enhance the creativity, problem solving and decision making
in a more core cognitive modes that will help to develop a more balanced, ethical and effective
practices of journalism.
The four principles of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) are intended to work
in tandem and not alone. The ethical dilemmas entail an act of balancing between or among two
or more principles. For instance, when dealing with a minority group that has issues, reporting
the truth may be disastrous. However, the principles also advocate for being truthful. Lester
(2010), argues that deception is a highly controversial reporting tool. It is usually applied when
there is a collision of values. Therefore, the journalist will be lying while also telling the truth. It
is further argued that the journalist should be careful while applying this method, and when it is
considered risky, the audience should never be deceived (Lester, 2010). The SPJ code does not
provide instant answers rather it encourages a holistic reasoning that balances all values, rights
and the duties given the case’s facts. The framework shows that responsible journalists should
construct arguments that are ethical and that incorporates into their practice both of the love of
freedom and the concern of others (Newton & Williams, 2010).
Historical Accounts of a Way Forward to a Balanced, Holistic Approach to Ethics
The historical account requires that journalists sharpen their awareness of the ethical
aspects of the actions, the routines and the general practices. The application of the historical
model to apply the Society of the Professional Journalism codes begins with the recognition of
the problems of the journalism ethics. The awareness that an ethical problem exists is more or
less that same as raising an ethical red flag in the newsroom. It implies that a discussion is quite

necessary. This awareness begins as a question in one’s mind about how appropriate a report
may be or being uncomfortable with how a journalist may approach a story. This may be a tag on
one’s conscience.
Recognizing the problem of ethics is not as obvious a step as it may seem to be. Most
often, the editors do not recognize the ethical issues amid the deadlines of the daily journalism.
They may recognize the ethical issues only after a questionable story has already been published.
Aside from that, journalists may also fail to distinguish an ethical problem from the problems of
the law, or they may even be lulled into the complacency ethics by following the usual rules and
routines of editors.
The ethical issues are identifiable as serious concerns (Lester, 2010). They ask about the
duties, rights and the consequences for both the journalists and the other professionals. They ask
whether the journalists are acting from an impartial state of mind. Examples of such questions
are asked independently of the legal considerations. At the same time, the journalists ask whether
the action will honor or violate their public role as a critical and independent public informer. In
case there is any doubt about the answers to these questions, they should raise an ethical red flag
and even probe deeper into the ethical analysis.
Analytical Accounts of a Way Forward to a Balanced, Holistic Approach to Ethics
The analytical accounts require that journalists carefully analyze the main components of
the situation in terms of the basic facts and the conflicting values. The analytical accounts help
determine exactly more what the ethical issues are in question, what the values are in conflict
and what facts are relevant to the discussion of the journalism ethics. The main goal of the

analytical account of the journalism ethics is to set out the materials clearly before the journalists
for them to evaluate them.
The ethical issues in journalism according to the Society of Professional Journalists
include for one, the using of the ‘Holocaust’ metaphor where People for the Ethical Treatment of
Animals (PETA) is said to be a non-profit animal rights organization that is known for its
controversial approach to communications and public relations. Second are the pirates in the
collections of the songs and the studio recordings from an upcoming album or even the merely
unreleased demos. The pirates leak this kind of information online and cover the leak with a
breaking story or even a blog post. Third is the naming and showing of the faces of the victims of
the sex crimes. Doing so publicly will be regarded as being insensitive as the victims will
become exposed (Newton & Williams, 2010). Everyone who sees them will know what
happened to them, and this may even affect their self esteem and emotional well being. Not
everyone will sympathize with them, others will ask curious disturbing questions, and others will
also make fun of them. These are just a few of the ethical issues.
Critical Accounts of a Way Forward to a Balanced, Holistic Approach to Ethics
The critical accounts involve the use of analysis to identify the range of possible courses
of actions and critically evaluating them in terms of the journalists’ framework and principles. It
involves getting answers to several questions that may be relevant to the journalism profession
(Lester, 2010). For example, concerning the victims of a sexual assault, the journalists would
want to know whether they should publish a less graphic version of the photo of the event
perhaps an image taken from long lens camera. They would wish to know whether to obscure
only the face of the victims or parts of her body. At the same time, they would want to know

whether to publish a story on the victim but assume to name the victim in the story. They also
ask themselves whether to display the story and lastly, whether to display it on a front page or
the inside of the paper.
However, if there may be other critical events to be published, journalists may choose to
assume cases like the rape cases and publish the others instead. This is because the public may be
most interested in the other information that the rape case and because the victim of the rape case
may be more affected on seeing her information all over the press. Journalists choose to leave it
out to prevent the real harm to the subject. They may however argue about how and when the
information should be published. That could be facts are verified or publishing the information
without revealing the victim’s name.
After identifying whether to publish and how to publish, the journalists’ ethics code
begins. The focus is not on the analytical accounts but on the rational evaluation and the
justification. The journalists go ahead assessing each and every option in light of the main
principles of the journalism ethics. They balance making truthful reporting and independently
with minimal harm and more so, being so accountable to the public.

Theoretical Accounts of a Way Forward to a Balanced, Holistic Approach to Ethics
The theoretical accounts involve coming to a judgment about what the best course of
action would be later evaluating the course of action and a readjustment of the journalists’ ethical
norms. The journalists using the theoretical model arrive at a judgment about their final and best

course of action considering all things. In this case, the best course of action means that the
proposed action is the one that comes closest fulfilling the principles of the journalism ethics and
it aims, and it is dully weighed and balanced in a more holistic manner.
The journalists may then act accordingly even though the ethical task may not be
complete. After carrying out the actions, journalists are required to review the wisdom of the
decisions concerning their outcomes. The outcomes could at times be negative in that they
prompt a revision of practices in the journalism area and at times, they may cause the journalists
to rethink some principle. On the theoretical account, the principle of accountability plays a
major role (Lester, 2010). Journalists are required to ask themselves whether they are able to
ethically justify to the public their decisions and actions on the editorial issues. However, some
people may not agree with the journalists’ decisions and judgments, though the task is not
necessarily to please people. The task is to be able to justify the decisions on the basis of the
principles in the face of the public outcry.
These four accounts of analyzing any situation for a holistic approach may seem
cumbersome when one uses the model. The more efficient one becomes at identifying the key
issues and evaluating the options. Following the model increases the chances of journalists to be
conscious and consistent in following their principles and aims.

Through the recognition and conscious working on the arts and the visual modes, the
journalists can orchestrate the integration and enhancement of their primary rational and the
intuitive cognitive and the mental modes as equal and complementary components of the high
level and whole-mind cognition. Thus, the journalists can create an integrative state of mind

process and an ecological well of ethically derived visual truths in the non-conscious memory to
guide in their problem solving and decision making.


Lester, P. M. (2010). Ethics and Images: Five Major Concerns. Pp. 351-358.
Newton, J., & Williams, R. (2010). Visual Ethics: An Integrative Approach to Ethical Practice in
Visual Journalism. In C. Meyers, Journalism Ethics: A Philosophical Approach (pp. 331-

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