Assignment 1: The Ethics of News Gathering
Length: 5–6 pages (approximately 1500 words)
Format: Use a memo format with section headings, bulleted lists and charts where appropriate, and brief endnotes.
Criteria: Please apply principles of clarity, style, accuracy, and academic honesty to the assignment. Refer to original document(s) when identifying news stories. Also consider secondary material such as course readings, news articles, and databases. Although this assignment is not an essay, please consult the guide to writing essays in this manual.
Topic: Provide a media organization ethics committee with a thorough, clear, and relatively short critical examination of three specific ethical problems and possible solutions for the problems.
Begin the memo with one of the definitions of “news” from the reading material for this course. As well, describe three ethical paths, and explore the ethical responsibilities, choices, and dilemmas facing news-gathering journalists from the perspective of one of these paths.
Then choose three examples of journalism, from a single media organization or group, that pose ethical problems, such as invasion of privacy, fabricated stories, composite sources (i.e., fictional sources that are part one person, part another) or plagiarism. (These samples should be publicly accessible, so the tutor can review them.) Critique the examples you have chosen from the perspective of one of the three ethical paths. For each of the three cases, analyze the extent to which ethical concerns conflict with (or are outweighed by) by personal, professional, political, or corporate interests. Finally, suggest three remedies for avoiding ethical breaches in the future.
The context within which news if gathered, selected, written up/represented as images or sound, then disseminated
Brief historical survey of the development of news
Whether there is general agreement (or disagreement) among journalists about ethical standards/best practices
The distinctions between truth, objectivity and story-telling
Whether journalists should follow their own conscience
Whether media organizations should police themselves or be subject to independent public scrutiny
What sources should you use for this assignment?
The question is not asking you to pick three examples from a particular newspaper, or magazine or electronic medium.
When we talk about a media organization or group we are talking about who owns whom. This can get us in to a long discussion about media concentration in Canada, but we will leave that for another day.
Here is a link to an article that gives you a list of the various media organizations in Canada.
So the assignment is asking you to pick three examples from among organizations including, for instance, Bell Media (who own CTV) or Quebcor (who own Sun News) or Woodbridge, who own the Globe and Mail along with BCE.
When grading assignments, your tutor will take into account grammar, spelling, clarity of ideas, and effective use of vocabulary. As well, correct and thorough citation of sources is expected.