1 Class Period
What is an ethic? An ethic, from the Ancient Greek “ethikos,” or arising from habit, covers the analysis and adoption of concepts like right, wrong, good, evil and responsibility. How does this apply in broadcast journalism? Known to journalists and the broadcasting industry as the “code of ethics” or the “canons of journalism,” they embrace the concepts and principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and accountability. Journalism ethics include the principle of “limitation of harm,” meaning when covering a story involving a minor, the minor’s name must not be released. Additionally, this can apply to withholding a crime-victim’s identity or any information that might harm someone’s well-being or reputation if the name was released. In many cases, dubious shades of gray can occur. This is why it’s extremely important to handle each report with care, delivering the news in a fair and accurate manner without hurting the innocent.
Students will learn the definition of ethic
Students will learn how the definition of ethic applies to broadcast journalism and the importance of following a code of ethics when reporting the news.
Chalkboard or flip chart
Handout of “Guiding Principles for Journalists”
Handout of Stephen Glass
If possible, the film “Shattered Glass”
Have the class develop their own “Code of Ethics” for their newscast
Ask students if they know what an ethic is.
Ask students if they can give an example of an ethic.
Ask students why they think it would be important for journalists to adopt a code of ethics.
Define the definition of ethics to students and explain the importance of ethics in journalism and that a code of ethics should be followed at all time when reporting the news. Explain the reasons why journalists should take great care in reporting the news, stressing the importance of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and accountability. Tell students that today they will be creating their own classroom/newsroom code of ethics that they will be expected to abide by.
Ask the students if they know who Stephen Glass is and what he is known for.
If possible, show a clip from the film “Shattered Glass.”
After watching a clip from the movie or reviewing information on Stephen Glass, ask students how this type of fraudulent journalism impacts society.
Pass out the handout “Guiding Principles for Journalists.” Write down an example of what you think is a good ethic on the chalk/white board and explain why you think it’s an ethic that journalists should follow.
Check for Understanding
Ask students if they have ever heard a story about themselves that was false.
Ask students how they felt and what they did about it.
Ask students, why then, it is so important to practice ethics in journalism.
Ask students to divide into groups of three to four and choose five principles they think are most important and write down why.
After they complete the above activity, ask the group to come up with at least one ethic that is not on the handout and explain why they think it is important to add this to their classroom/newsroom code of ethics.
Student groups will designate a spokesperson to present to the class which five principles they found most important and explain why.
The spokesperson will also share with the class the ethics the group created for the classroom/newsroom code of ethics.
The teacher will write down these ethics (both the group created ethics and the handout ethics) on the chalk/white board (if there are groups that have written down the same ethics, but for different reasons, another pertinent discussion could develop if the teacher chooses to continue).
Reiterate the importance of ethics in journalism
Announce to the class that as of today, the ethics on the board will be adopted for the classroom/newsroom (from here, a very formal, printed document could be created, or an informal, written document could be adopted, focusing on more of a “living document” and giving students the opportunity to add when or if necessary).
Have students watch a local or national news segment. Have the students write a brief description of the newscast, the station and the reporter and/or anchor. Using their handout, have students write down what ethics were present and/or lacking during the report and what the student would have done differently, if anything, if he/she would have been the journalist.
Integration into live broadcast
Students will constantly address ethics into the live broadcast with questions dealing with running the story, interviewing and the story topic.