Many people use media to transfer information to some specific people or the public. The boundaries and forms of media have grown over the years, and have become tools used to educate and enlighten people on the issues of interest to the society. The media offer people factual knowledge of events and, sometimes, some fictional knowledge; they have a say in many aspects of life, which many people may follow as the gospel truth. The media, undoubtedly, have a strong influence on people of all ages.
In this paper, it is necessary to discuss ethical and social responsibilities of the media (Harbert, 2000). The media have become increasingly open in their bid to provide people with unique and ingenious stories, which is somehow risky to the children and young adults who are exposed to inappropriate contents at very tender ages.
Many of the news stations and newspapers strive to provide reports first; thus the competition in this sphere is really big. Many people are naive of the fact that some of the news may be false, exaggerated, or mistaken. This lack of complete truth in the information that people gets influences their opinions towards a given element under discussion. In some instances, the media houses may publish rumors so long as they got the information from a person close to the source. This misleads the public and must be treated as unethical and unprofessional (Kamm, 2007). The openness of the published media allows people to write and express their opinions in the newspapers. Some people may be immature and take the misinformation as the truth, whereas it might be the opinion of a single person. The media may be out to get money, and would rather publish half-baked truths.
Ethical Issues Facing the Media
Misrepresentation of information all over the world is the most unethical practice that plagues the media. Some of the information communicated to the public is not factual and, may be, to some extent biased. Some people, who seek to propel their own interests, also use the media to spread propaganda and half-truths. This causes people to develop certain opinions because of the information they obtain from the media. This power of the media is immense. The media may also overstep their boundaries and infringe on the rights to privacy of an individual. For instance, where celebrities are involved, the media seeks to get all the minutest details of their private lives. The privacy of individuals is violated if the confidential details of their lives are made public (Harbert, 2000).
The media are under obligation to present information to the public without any bias and misrepresentation. Even though the media has a great social responsibility to carry out, it should always ensure that the information presented is factual. The media have social, ethical, and moral responsibilities to the public: attributed to the great influence they have. The media have also been involved in exposing some rots in the society. These include immoralities: from the celebrities involved in some decadent activities to massive corruption scandals within governments. In such way, the media is an eye to the society. In doing so, some of the actions of the media may violate laws and the society rules and norms (Harbert, 2000).
Once the media overstep their boundaries, they destroy their reputation in the public eye. According to Harbert (2000), celebrities and politicians are the ones who are most affected by the breach of privacy by the media. The media are also responsible for any opinions that people form on important political, social, and judicial proceedings. The media may offer information that would sway the public opinion, as many people believe that the media is fair and impartial in its coverage, which is not always the case. This can be seen in a recent incident of a case involving George Zimmerman and Travon Martin. The media left out some information while reporting the incident. This formed the public opinion that Mr. Zimmerman was targeting Travon because of his race. Though the court ruled otherwise and Mr. Zimmerman was justified (Kamm, 2007).
In given incidence, the media had managed to convince people that a false scenario was true. The media can also shape the political opinions of people. It is seen well during the election periods where certain politicians offer money to media houses so they may cover them. The media hold the most power in politics and matters affecting social changes. If one looks at the political history of any place, he or she will be able to establish that the media has had the most influence on the outcomes (Kamm, 2007). The media have three virtues that govern the operations while informing the public. The first one is that responsibility for any information they transmit. That is when the media communicate information about the government; they must provide proper justification about where they got such information.
The second responsibility is participatory responsibility. The media regularly participate in political activities either directly or indirectly. However, they must provide fair representation and unbiased coverage. The third kind is the responsibility for accountability. The media must always make people, especially in the leadership positions, accountable for their actions. They must make sure that the public bears oppression or any mistreatment by the actions of the leaders. They must always show where the law is broken and ensure that proper legal procedures are followed correctly. In such cases, the media act as a whistleblower shaping the political system.
Nonetheless, politicians may come up with crafty ways to get the media to influence the public to buy their opinions. This hinders the public from obtaining truthful facts about the government. The media are repeatedly unable to reach their level of political responsibility. This contributes greatly to the fact that each media station wants to be the first to avail the news, thus, some may broadcast incomplete information. Others may strive to cover the activities in collaborative or antagonistic points of view. These two perspectives influence the public in different ways.
Deontology in Media
Deontology is a branch of normative ethics which describes a situation where a person performs his/her activities in line with the law. This branch of classical ethical theories is often contrasted with consequentialism. Consequentialism involves the determination of the rightness or wrongness of an action based on the outcomes. Another branch of classical ethical theories is virtue ethics, where the character of the person when doing an activity affects his or her actions (Beauchamp, 1998).
Deontology was developed by Immanuel Kant based on several reasons. The basic concept of this theory is that in order for people to act in the morally right manner they must follow the duties set for them. Kant explains that in order for an action to be deemed right or wrong, one has to consider the motives of the person performing the actions. The action considered good must be done when one is acting dutifully. Such action is good in its essence, and must not be qualified as being good (Norton, 2007). This action is intrinsically good and does not require any additional insights to make it better. When an action has these two qualities, it may be considered ethical. Ethical actions are, therefore, of a primary importance to the media. (Beauchamp, 1998).
Kant explains that the best of a good action is goodwill. A person, who respects morals, acts according to the law. Deontology may determine the goodness of an action by ignoring the motive, since a good result may emerge from an action done with a bad motive. In addition, a bad a result may arise out of a good action; that is where the issue of goodwill comes in. The media may embrace goodwill and perform actions that respect the law. This will see them avoid unethical practices. The theory of deontology concludes that an action will be justified as being good if it follows the set rules and if done with respect to humanity (Norton, 2007).
There has been a tremendous growth of media due to the various inventions and innovations, the most notable being the internet. The society is dependent on the information communicated to them about various scenarios in the society. The information that affects the aspects of people's lives is communicated through the media. Things involving trade, healthcare, government, and education are just a few of the things, which the public becomes informed about by the media (Beauchamp, 1998). This codependency on the media provides an easy way in which the public gets information without much strain. This gives the media a responsibility to provide the public with accurate and verifiable information. If the media act according to the deontological philosophy, they are bound to uphold their responsibilities and provide accurate information thereof.
The media seek to honor their responsibility by trying to marshal many informants, who are able to provide accurate news. The correspondence between people on the ground improves the accuracy of information. The information provided helps to bridge the gaps between the different sections of the society. The media in a specific place give an image of how the place is to the rest of the world; they control any political and social changes in a place, and, consequently, shape the image of a given country. (Kamm, 2007).
Issue of Ethical Egoism in Media
Ethical egoism is a branch of normative ethics. It emphasizes that a moral agent ought to act in favor of his or her own interests. The theory states that people always act to promote their own self-interests. An individual does not act to promote other people's interests. A person should not sacrifice his or her own activities or their efforts in order to promote the interests of others. Egoism is a form of consequentialism, which states that the goodness or badness of an action can be determined by the outcome of the action (Kurt, 2003). The media, acting under ethical egoism, will always be self-oriented and will not care about the effects of the news it spreads. Thus, the media will seek to promote their own interests at the expense of the public or the people whom the news is about. In such instances, the media will seek to promote their core goal, which is making profits.
The philosophy is explained as an agent-focused philosophy: the agents of the media will promote the interests of the media. The agent may also seek to promote his or her own interests and keep away those of the media. The theory proposes that people will not be willing to help others because it is not advantageous to do so. Helping people contributes to the moral and ethical laws of humanity (Kurt, 2003). Ethical egoism does not dispute the existence of these laws but rather chooses to ignore them. Ethical egoists advocate for selfishness, but they do not want people to work foolishly. However, they advocate for policies that do not undermine the lives of the underprivileged citizens. This commonsense ethics provides that underprivileged citizens need welfare in order to meet their basic needs (Kurt, 2003).
In some instances, the theory of egoism proposes both foolishness and unethical conduct. It is in their self-interests to get ahead in life; therefore, such actions present ethical dilemmas to the theory. Ethical interests are conflicted together with social inequalities. The situation of unethical conduct may reach the point when the ethical egoism reaches the logical end, and people would not be able to continue working in those conditions (Kurt, 2003). The media, under these conditions, will always want to make ethical decisions, but not follow them because if they do, their interests will not prevail over others. The stakes of people are the most important, and agents will not doubt to harm others in order to achieve what was desired. The agents take a short-term action plan that will make them achieve their long-term desired objectives.
My Views and Analysis
My view is that deontology in media is the best approach to take in the ethical matters. The issue of ethical egoism will fail as in the society with a set of laws and rules will govern the operations of the media. The advocacy that is present in deontology is an operation within the law. The actions will follow what the moral laws and the society dictate. The media need to be controlled by a set of rules in order to prevent them from breaching any of the laws. The freedom of speech is allowed in all regions; the media will always seek to provide truthful and accurate information. Deontology provides that the media have to consider the interest of the law and rules of the society in their actions.
Because the media are influential parts of the society, they must be responsible and accountable for their actions. The entire media is an authority on many ideologies in the society. The media offers guidance on every aspect of social life. People's opinion is often shaped by the view presented in the media. The media influence the social and political decision-making, thus, they are bound to provide information that is fair and unbiased. This means that under deontology, the media will ensure that the information they relay is not half-baked and can be accounted for. In the modern era of democracy, the media must show accountability in their actions, which is important, because the media are dependable for the way people build their personal views about the world.
In line with the duties and responsibilities that the media have, they also have to respect people's privacy. The media are responsible for the exposure of wrong actions done by celebrities, political leaders and other morally responsible individuals. Although the exposure of some activities is good, it greatly violates the privacy. The media shape a nation's viewpoint on the issues relating to government. They also provide a way in which the world views a certain region, thus, form the image of that region to the world. In a way, the media are the most responsible for any action relating to the information conveyed. The deontology theory, when followed accurately, will provide accountable information to the public. The social order maintained by the information must not be destructive, especially to the people who utilize it.