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Can compromise create an environment where freedom can thrive?

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In reviewing for a unit on media literacy for my online ethics class, I found this in the “Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel:

“A newspaper that fails to reflect its community deeply will not succeed,” the authors quote Jack Fuller, president of the Tribune Publishing Company. “But a newspaper that does not challenge its community’s values and preconceptions will lose respect for failing to provide the honesty and leadership that newspapers are expected to offer.”

That started me thinking about how scholastic media reflect their communities (and which communities there are to reflect) and what responsibility is involved.

That led to several other questions:
• What do journalism educators see as the responsibilities of scholastic media?
• What do student journalists see as their responsibilities in scholastic media?
• What do administrators see as the responsibilities of scholastic media?
• What happens if the parties define responsibility differently?
• Are these responsibilities absolute or is there room for compromise?
• What does compromise mean?
• Does how we define compromise make a difference?
• Who decides?

If developing –  or maintaining –  an educational atmosphere supportive of freedom of expression is important, we really must answer those questions.

As I try to form workable answers, more questions arise:
• Should compromise include legal issues?
• Should compromise include ethical issues?
• Should compromise occur on substantive beliefs?
• What happens if one or both parties decide compromise does not solve the issue?

Since most major approaches to problem solving include compromise, these are serious questions in need of a process that provides answers.

Rushworth Kidder in chapter 8 of “How Good People Make Tough Choices,” Kovach and Rosenstiel in “Elements of Journalism” and Randy Swikle in the McCormick Foundation’s “Protocol for Free and Responsible Student News Media” all address the need for compromise in reaching ethical solutions to issues. Each approach provides insight into problem solving.

The next step, if we are going to truly derail the prior review and censorship express, is to create models of theories that work. We have the groundwork for understanding, so now it’s time to model a process of creating constructive and ethics-based solutions now handled by prior review and/or restraint. To do so, we must also answer the inherent questions so all parties are willing to participate.

Can we agree to create an environment where freedom can survive?

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