Pages Navigation Menu

Can compromise create an environment where freedom can thrive?

Posted by on Dec 1, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


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?

Read More

So say we all

Posted by on Nov 21, 2010 in Blog, Law and Ethics, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Rushworth M. Kidder, founder of the Institute for Global Ethics, highlights an ethical process called the Potter Box in his book, How Good People Make Tough Choices.

This process, first discussed by Ralph B. Potter in 1965, suggests four steps decision-makers should consider before making policy or taking action:
• Consider the situation
• Determine what values are involved
• Examine the relevant principles at stake
• Determine where loyalties lie.

While applying the concept of the Potter Box might not be new, it could aid scholastic media in its decision making before publication or broadcast. Working in concert with Rethinking News values, discussed here Nov. 16, the Potter Box offers students a chance to evaluate principles and values in context with loyalties. Such a process could well preclude administrative or other outside interference.

What, for example, could happen when the principle and value of telling the truth comes into conflict with being loyal to a school or administration that might not see the value of discussing controversial topics like homosexuality or gay marriage.

Kidder says in his book that the Potter Box, while useful as a guide to thinking and focusing decision-making, does not fulfill several other ethical principles such as using the Golden Rule, or Kant’s categorical imperative.

“It allows for a reiteration of ideas through several cycles of discussion,” Kidder writes, “in hopes that a consensus will eventually form around a particular action or policy.”

Such pre-publication discussions could lead to consideration of alternative approaches and outcomes. It might help student media anticipate before they act and plan their approaches to get the most complete, most balanced story, even if the topic is controversial.

And that would be good.

Read More