Legal & Ethical Boundaries

In a recent article, a photographer chose to snap a shot of a drowned corpse of a Syrian boy washed up on shore. His entire family was also drowned in their attempt to escape their war-torn country, and clearly could not consent to having their corpse plastered on an online article for everyone to see. This photographer’s action has caused a recent uproar about journalism ethics. Sparking the question, when in the midst of reporting a huge story, how far is too far?

Certain ethics codes has been set, and it’s crucial to keep them in mind during any journalism career

Journalism ethics have been laid out as:
1) Speak the Truth and Report It:
2) Minimize Harm
3) Act Independently
4) Be Transparent and Accountable

Reporter,Brian Williams, broke this ethical code, and claimed that while in Iran his helicopter was attacked, but was caught in his lie and was suspended from his job. Another newscaster made anti-Muslim comments when commenting on airline travel and was fired because of it.

Any written piece, physical or online, can be considered for libel. This makes it very easy to cross boundaries and cause legal and ethical problems if not done properly. Obscenity is one of those boundaries and is defined as sexual indecency, words and images, without the incorporation of artistic value. One example is George Carlin’s 1972 routine called “7 Words you cannot say on Television” where he describes a humorous struggle of a never-ending list of words that is considered obscene on television.
” You never know whats going to be on the list, because it’s always someone else’s list” Carlin says in the performance.
He is referring to the constant struggle of never quite knowing just who could be offended by what you say or do. To some extent that is very true. On very controversial and sensitive topics, many stations will now have comments completely disabled to avoid “anonymous” conversations from getting overheated, or taken too far. When given anonymity, it can bring out the worst in people and they say things they wouldn’t normally. In situations such as the recent journalists being killed, people in the comments supporting their murder. For stations it’s important to remove material like that, as not to offend or damage those who view it.

In the world of journalism and ethics it is easy to wonder just what reporter’s are thinking when they take pictures of the horrors and death that occur around them. Do they hesitate and consider the implications or not even flinch?


One thought on “Legal & Ethical Boundaries

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  1. Your recap of our lecture from this past Monday was well written. Sometimes I don’t always hear or catch what is being said, but your blog aloud me to fill in the blanks from what i wasn’t able grasp.


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