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Reflection on humanity in journalistic ethics

YIN MENGXI | 2021-12-24 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

FILE PHOTO:  Journalistic ethics has become a topic of noteworthy warning effect.

Ethics denotes orders among social groups. In larger sense, it refers to the orders, norms, and ethical criteria which shape human society. As the aggregate of value orientations, moral performance, and behavioral standards, journalistic ethics fundamentally guarantee the quality of news production, playing a crucial role in news production and communication. 

Cases contradictory to journalistic ethics
Journalism reports facts of recent occurrence, and reporting is a journalism genre which records society, which spreads information and reflects the times. As a special form of knowledge dissemination, reports should convey serious content in order to give the general public authentic information through the window of world observation. At the same time, the way that news media selects and communicates information affects and shapes the targeted readers’ aesthetic interests and moral inclination. As a mirror that reflects the features and trends of our times, news communication can provide information for reference, so that the public can better understand society. Therefore, journalistic ethics are not merely about maintaining sound competition and sustainable development inside the news industry, but also about guiding social ethics as a whole.
Ethical orders of journalism have been increasingly impacted by market factors. Cases which are contradictory to journalistic ethics have become diverse. First, it is common for news media to scramble to seize the opportunity to report events in a timely fashion. Some hot social events still continue to develop after initial reports, which easily makes reports deviate from facts and spin out of control. Sometimes events develop in ways different from previously expected, which leads to embarrassing situations for the reporting, and the seriousness of journalism is doubted. 
Second, some reports exaggerate the pain that people experience in the event as a gimmick in order to grab attention. This type of biased and tendentious reporting neglects the rights of interviewees and their feelings. Some reports even further disclose the trauma of interviewees in the name of humanistic concern, which hurts the feelings of these persons. 
Third, regards the selection of news reports. Some news disseminators choose what to report based on their own preference, interests, and even motives. Though these reports grab the public’s eyes for a short period, their authenticity and seriousness are questioned. 
Today, social life is increasingly related to the media. In face of a rapidly changing society, it is not enough for the media to conduct reports only following the public orders, customs, and basic legal norms. New requirements for communication activities are needed: paying attention to people’s livelihoods and respecting individual’s rights. 
Guidance for the media 
To impart more humanity to journalism, it is necessary to have a full understanding of the particular features of journalism itself. In today’s new era, ensuring journalistic ethics requires the guidance from concrete policies which stipulate certain criteria. However, the conscious attachment to career ethics as a code of practice is often challenged by pressure from market competition. Therefore, rules and regulations are needed to play their role by setting the bottom-line for practitioners engaged in journalism, so that a balance between market benefits and ethical principles can be maintained. 
In addition, practitioners’ personal qualities are important. For example, legal reports which involve the protection of concerned parties’ interests, and privacy of the interviewees poses a higher requirement for journalists. Their humanistic qualities and empathy decide the quality of reports. 
Yin Mengxi is from the School of Philosophy at Renmin University of China. 
Edited by BAI LE