Global media ethics is the study and application of the norms that should guide the responsible use of informational public media that is now global in content, reach, and impact. Its aim is to define responsible use of the freedom to publish for journalism, online commentary, political advocacy, and social media. Global media ethics proposes aims, principles, and norms for global media work, and pays special attention to coverage of global issues such as climate change, immigration, and terrorism. The primary principles tend to stress media protection and advancement of human rights, human development, and global social justice. However, “global media ethics” does not refer to something clear, singular, or established. There is no one code of global media ethics. Global media ethics is a work in progress, a contested zone where globalists advance rival ideas, while skeptics dismiss global ethics as a dream that can never be realized. Among the conceptual challenges of constructing a global media ethics is the issue of whether universal values exist in media practice around the world, how an appeal to global values can avoid cultural imperialism, such as imposing Western values on non-Western cultures, and to what extent media practitioners can find common ethical ground. Much theorizing in the field of global media ethics discusses forms of cross-border ethical dialogue that are likely to produce fair and inclusive agreement on principles among practitioners. Ultimately, the main questions for global media ethics are: (1) How should the aims and roles of journalism and informational media be redefined given the fact that media is now global? (2) What are the principles for global media and how do they apply to nonprofessional online writers? (3) How does global media ethics alter existing practice, especially the coverage of global issues? And (4) By what methods would such an ethic be constructed, endorsed, and implemented in practice?
Stephen J. A. Ward
Levi Obijiofor and Folker Hanusch
Two dominant approaches underline the theory, practice, and methodology of global journalism. The first approach captures the various ways that journalism is practiced in different countries. This is reflected in the burgeoning field of comparative journalism studies. The second approach examines the underlying notion of globalization of the interconnected nature of the world and of global journalistic practices that not only relativize the significance of the nation state but also highlight the forces that shape the global village. Each of these perspectives has implications for journalism practice and how the world is understood. Each is influenced by complexities of the existing environment in which journalism is practiced, such as sociocultural practices and barriers, as well as economic, institutional, structural, legal, and political forces that inform journalism at national and international levels. Regardless of the differences, the two approaches are interrelated in various ways. They examine the interlocking relationship between journalism and globalization; factors that influence global news flows and foreign reporting; diverse journalistic practices and modes of education; and global journalism ethics. Altogether these perspectives provide rich analytical insights and background into the past, current, and emerging issues that inform global journalism.
Patrick Lee Plaisance
News workers—writers, editors, videographers, bloggers, photographers, designers—regularly confront questions of potential harms and conflicting values in the course of their work, and the field of journalism ethics concerns itself with standards of behavior and the quality of justifications used to defend controversial journalistic decisions. While journalism ethics, as with the philosophy of ethics in general, is less concerned with pronouncements of the “rightness” or “wrongness” of certain acts, it relies on longstanding notions of the public-service mission of journalism. However, informing the public and serving a “watchdog” function regularly require journalists to negotiate questions of privacy, autonomy, community engagement, and the potentially damaging consequences of providing information that individuals and governments would rather withhold. As news organizations continue to search for successful business models to support journalistic work, ethics questions over conflicts of interest and content transparency (e.g., native advertising) have gained prominence. Media technology platforms that have served to democratize and decentralize the dissemination of news have underscored the debate about who, or what type of content, should be subjected to journalism ethics standards. Media ethics scholars, most of whom are from Western democracies, also are struggling to articulate the features of a “global” journalism ethics framework that emphasizes broad internationalist ideals yet accommodates cultural pluralism. This is particularly challenging given that the very idea of “press freedom” remains an alien one in many countries of the world, and the notion is explicitly included in the constitutions of only a few of the world’s democratic societies. The global trend toward recognizing and promoting press freedom is clear, but it is occurring at different rates in different countries. Other work in the field explores the factors on the individual, organizational, and societal levels that help or hinder journalists seeking to ensure that their work is defined by widely accepted virtues and ethical principles.