Assignment 1: Memo: The Ethics of News Gathering
Due: Week 6
Value: 20% of final grade
Length: 5–6 pages (approximately 1500 words)
Format: Use a memo format with section headings, bulleted lists, charts (where appropriate), and brief endnotes.
Criteria: Please apply principles of clarity, style, accuracy, and academic honesty to the assignment. Refer to original document(s) when identifying news stories. Also consider secondary material such as course readings, news articles, and databases. Although this assignment is not an essay, please consult the guide to writing essays in the Course Information.
Topic: Provide a media organization ethics committee with a thorough, clear, and relatively short critical examination of three specific ethical problems and possible solutions for the problems.
Begin the memo with one of the definitions of “news” from the reading material for this course. As well, describe three ethical paths, and explore the ethical responsibilities, choices, and dilemmas facing news-gathering journalists from the perspective of one of these paths.
Then choose three examples of journalism, from a single media organization or group, that pose ethical problems, such as invasion of privacy, fabricated stories, composite sources (i.e., fictional sources that are part one person, part another), or plagiarism. (These samples should be publicly accessible, so the tutor can review them.) Critique the examples you have chosen from the perspective of one of the three ethical paths. For each of the three cases, analyze the extent to which ethical concerns conflict with (or are outweighed by) personal, professional, political, or corporate interests. Finally, suggest three remedies for avoiding ethical breaches in the future.
1. The context within which news is gathered, selected, written up/represented as images or sound, and then disseminated
2. A brief historical survey of the development of news
3. Whether there is general agreement (or disagreement) among journalists about ethical standards/best practices
4. The distinctions between truth, objectivity, and storytelling
5. Whether journalists should follow their own conscience
6. Whether media organizations should police themselves or be subject to independent public scrutiny