Application: Case Studies for Media Ethics
Case Study 1: Ethics and the News
Jane is getting ready to go on the air for the 6 p.m. evening newscast at the small local TV station. As she prepares for the broadcast, she considers how she will approach the stories she has been assigned. Which tone would grab the attention of the viewers the best?
The number three story tonight is about a terrorist bombing at a hospital in a country on the other side of the world. Her story! Jane is also the editor of the story and is excited because her crews at the scene sent her great video: highly graphic and violent images that will create a greater impact on her audience.
"This will really get me noticed by the big network executives," thinks Jane, as she puts the finishing touches on her story.
As she goes to get coffee, she tells her friend Mark about the story. Mark, however, does not share her enthusiasm. "Don't you see that you're doing just what the terrorists want? You're just going to encourage them. If we want to stop terrorism, we should just stop covering it."
"Yeah" Jane says, "But that's not our job. Our job is to report the news. We also want to beat Channel 10 in the ratings. I'll bet they're going to run it..."
"I know," Mark says. "But one of my journalism professors pounded us with the idea that we're supposed to report the news, not make the news. I worry that encouraging terrorism by reporting it is crossing that line."
"I don't know, Mark. But I've got a deadline to meet. Catch you later."
Case Study 2: Ethics and Investors
Danny is an investigative reporter for KLHM, a local cable television station. He recently found out that in the nearby town of Oran, a number of people have been reportedly sick because of toxic fumes from a local factory. He pitches the story to the news director, Bill.
"This is a good one, Bill." Danny says. "It fits our market perfectly: small town, environmental issues, human tragedy. And it's local. There's enough there for a multipart series."
"Well, Danny, it sounds interesting. Pretty big and expensive. I don't know...," Bill mutters.
"C'mon. This is the kind of thing we got into journalism for. Everybody knows it's the Carnemort factory causing the sickness. This is cancer, Bill. Not just old people. Kids, moms. Even the family dogs, for crying out loud."
"OK, Danny. See what you can do."
Danny spends the next few days setting up interviews, organizing camera crews, and doing background research so he can get into Oran over the weekend when most people will be free to be interviewed. On Thursday, Bill calls Danny into his office.
"Danny, the Loam County Fair is this weekend," Bill says.
"Yep" says Danny. "First time I'm going to miss it in years. Got everything ready with the folks in Oran."
"Well, Danny...I'd like you and your crews to cover the Fair."
"WHAT? How will we get the Oran story done? Everything's set up!"
"We've got that country band from the high school that just made a record in Nashville. They're playing the grandstand for a big coming-home concert. I think it will make a good story," Bill says, looking at his desk.
"Get someone else: I'm going to Oran." Danny grumbles, turning to leave.
"I think we'll skip the Oran story, Danny."
Danny stops. "What do you mean? It's ready to go."
"How much background research did you do on Carnemort, Danny?"
"Lots. They've been there for ages."
"Who owns them, Danny?"
"Some conglomerate," Danny snaps.
"Yes: Amalgamated Group Enterprise. What else does AGE own?"
Danny sits down heavily. "KLHM."
"I'll meet you Saturday at the Fair, at 1," Bill says. "Chili dogs are on me."