The ethical journalist: oxymoron or aspiration?

The Australasian Association of Writing Programs
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
The Australasian Association of Writing Programs, 2011, pp. 1 - 9
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Year after year, Australian newspaper journalism cannot seem to make it out of the bottom four of the thirty most distrusted professions, pipped only by car salesmen, advertisers and estate agents. Taking an historical perspective of âpublic interestâ and âthe publicâs right to knowâ, this paper will attempt to evaluate the distinction and gravity of both tenets, focussing on why they can have the effect of diluting ethical codes, if misused. The quasi-professional nature of journalism practice lends itself to ethical codes rather than legislative regulation. Accordingly these codes are largely accountable to no one â except perhaps the individual practitioner â and many codes of ethics and practice in the Western developed nations contain an âout-clauseâ in the name of public interest. This paper seeks to investigate these âout-clausesâ, and discuss the oft-quoted allegation that these clauses place journalists above the law. In light of this, I will conclude that in a tertiary setting, and ideally in a professional setting, what must be emphasised side by side with an ethical practice is an individual moral practice, all too often separated philosophically within the professional and industrial spheres.
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