Case Study9: Ethics in the Newsroom

30 Mar

I agree with public editor Timothy J. McNulty when he says, “We walk fine lines in reporting and editing, especially when there are conflicting and reasonable arguments.”  As journalists we must always be aware of the way we write and report our stories, making sure that it’s free of any personal opinion or bias.  In regards to the story about the grandfather, I think there would just have to be a judgement call made by the editor of each paper.  Although personally I believe that the unborn child should be considered a murder victim along with the rest of the family, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to reflect that in the article, since some people would not feel the same.  I think the most appropriate thing to do in this situation would be to reword the headline, so that it includes the family of three and the unborn child as well.  For example, I may use a headline like “Man Charged With Killing Pregnant Daughter and Family in Fire.”  Or, if there isn’t enough room for that I may shorten it.  The point would be to not give a number of deaths, but rather make it known that the woman was five months pregnant at the time of the killings.  I think this is the most unbiased way to write the headline, so that neither side is offended.  Although the style book says not to refer to unborn babies as people, this is clearly an ethical dilemma, one that is sure to strike up a debate as it did with this story.  Even more conflicting is the court acknowledging the unborn baby’s death as a homicide.  So, just to play it safe for the sake of everyone, I would not acknowledge either side, but instead let the readers decide for themselves.

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