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Section 0.0: Introduction

“Americans do not know Malaysia or Burma or even India… they know an image of Burma generated by our media… Americans believe what they are told to believe, they perceive what they are told to perceive, they feel what they are told to feel by or media.. they do not know these countries at all.. (Stagner, 1967: 12).

The research issue revolves around the theme that western media, primarily American, is generating and popularizing negative attitudes to wards third world countries and their cultures. In short, the research paper tries to combine diverse aspects of journalism and psychology. The research proposal takes an ethical, moralistic perspective to the claim—lack of objectivity in news reporting leads to the formation of negative attitudes towards people in the third world countries.

The first section provides a brief literature review touching upon the different viewpoints about objectivity, its importance and the concept of attitudes and attitude formation. In the second section, the researcher assumes the role of an editor of a fast- growing national newspaper. In this section, the researcher will solve the question of whether the presence of objectivity is essential in reporting foreign events. After an adequate defense using two moral theories, the researcher will formulate a policy for her hypothetical newspaper firm in support of her decision.

As an appendix, the researcher will provide the current code of diversity as presented by Chairwoman, Sally Lehrman, at the 2001 convention of the Society of Professional Journalists (Appendix I).

Section 0.1: Literature Review

For a clearer understanding of the proposed research topic, the literature review has been conducted in two separate fields of Media Influence and Attitudes.

"…. The kid, Mohammad who wears a towel on his head, he is funny, says Jenny Penando, a high school student- they are different and should be treated differently, she says…(US news & World Report, December 31st 2001- January 7th 2002).

But what people feel and say is not the fault of the media. Lippmann (1922) disagrees. According to him mass media plays a pivotal role in defining our world, not just the world of politics during and between elections, but almost all of our world beyond immediate personal and family concerns (Byrant, Zillmann: 2). Scholars have also argued that the media shapes issues, personalities, situation, and generally telling or showing us what to feel and believe. We are dependent on the media for our beliefs, perceptions and attitudes about the different countries, people and cultures (Byrant, Zillmann: 2). In a nutshell, they seem to be saying that the media can be held responsible for the negative attitudes shown towards people and cultures of third world countries.

“… the media provide perspectives, shape images, help highlight certain issues which are important to them and consequently shape attitudes of the audiences towards politics of a country, any country in the world. They tell us who is our enemy and who is our friend…” (Lippmann: 226)

In a classic study of Erie County, Ohio, by Columbia University sociologists- Lazasfeld, Berelson and Gaudet found an ever-widening impact of the mass media on our perceptions and decisions (1994). Lang and Lang (1995) in another study have said that the impact of news media extends beyond one’s own country and politics. Considering the fact that the media has a deep impact on attitudes and perceptions, it becomes imperative that all media be neutral and objective in nature (Robert Zelnick, acting chairman of the Journalism Department at the Boston University). “Journalism has to be responsible and objective,” he says (American Journalism Review: 48). Objectivity has been defined as the cornerstone of all American media, specifically journalism. In technical terms, Objectivity has been defined as “a value characterizing the view which would be agreed upon as a result of argument undeflected by irrelevant considerations” (Edgar: 112). In short, it means representing things as they are. “Objectivity is an essential correspondence between the knowledge of a thing and the thing itself” (McDonald: 69).

Building on the same argument, scholars like Lictenberg argue, that objectivity cannot exist. They say that any event whether it is newsworthy or not, is viewed from a perspective held by a reporter. Bias is inherent in all human beings (Lichtenberg: 230). Furthermore, she argues that journalism provides one perspective—the perspective of the reporter. In short, she is of the opinion that a reader should be aware that he/ she is reading a news story from one perspective—reading the story as seen by the reporter. Hence, journalism is individualized and inherently biased and, cannot be neutral and objective. Shiela Tefft, a former Christian Sci Monitor foreign correspondent from South, who reported from Afghanistan, agrees with Lichtenberg. She says, “As a reporter you have to decide what is more important and there only … you are not being objective. Especially when you are reporting international events… it is hard to remain neutral and not let your feeling effect your decision and reporting” (American Journalism Review: 47).

Objectivity, it has been stated is a “false and impossible idea” (Kessler and McDonald: 24-28). But critics have argued that the concept of objectivity can be realistically achieved in journalism (MacKinnon and Carey, 1982, 1989). They contend that the reality is “not out there,” waiting to be reported, but it is a social construct, which is a “vast production, a staged creation”—something that is humanly produced and maintained (Carey, 1989:26). In support, MacKinnon argues that reality is “socially constructed.” In fact, he says that there are as many realities as there are perspectives. In a nutshell, MacKinnon means to say that a reporter’s individual perspective of an international event is his vision or perspective of the reality. MacKinnon further argues that the value of objectivity is impossible to achieve—“it is undesirable and, even dangerous, a strategy of hegemony used by some members of society” (MacKinnon, 19882:537). Scholars like Tuchman and Schudson have described objectivity as a “strategic ritual” enabling professionals “to defend themselves from critical onslaught”—“the most insidious bias of all”. (Tuchman, 1972 & Schudson, 1978:160). In short, they are of the opinion, that objectivity is impractical because—

a) No one can totally escape his or her biases; no one can be completely objective

b) The idea that there could be an objective, neutral and true account of an event is a fiction (Lictenberg: 217)

According to Olen, “it entails writing and organizing the material so as not to express or suggest a preference for one set of values over another (Olen: 84). He further argues that objectivity means to “report an event or series of events in such a way that does not reflect the reporter’s attitudes abut the events and the people involved” (Olen: 85). In other words, Olen describes objectivity as being free of any sort of bias and preference. In his book, Day says that objectivity is a controversial value (Day: 74). According to him all reporters view the world through various “psychological filters” (Day: 74). In short, Day is suggesting that objectivity can only be attained by a reporter in the context and/ or situation. He explains his viewpoint by arguing that different reporters may see the same event and interpret it diverse ways— “a freedom fighter” for one reporter may be a “terrorist for another” (Day: 74). Similarly, Day points out that the manner in which a reporter constructs his story may also reflect his attitude towards a person or an issue-- the labels of “Ms.” instead of “Mrs.” denote an attitude (Day: 74). Thus, he describes all reporters as “products” of their cultural environment and “true objectivity” as an ideal which is elusive and unattainable (Day: 74).

Schiller (1981) therefore, defines objectivity as a shifting cultural value that has its own rules and conventions. A related question, which comes to the fore, is why are all researchers and scholars interested in objectivity? It is true that all American journalists embrace the “ideal” of objectivity as a fundamental norm (Lichtenberg: 216). The value of objectivity is considered to be an integral part of the journalism profession and culture—deeply intertwined with truth, fairness, neutrality and the absence of value judgments. Interest in objectivity means an unwavering interest in truth. We want to know how things stand in the world, what is happening in the world and why? To doubt the objectivity of a story would be to cast doubt on the truth of the news account (Lichternberg: 218). Combined with the much spoken about influence of the media, the concept of objectivity becomes paramount. According to Jeff Owens of the Plain Dealer, “Reporters yield power.. it is true today that we are more powerful than politicians… we can make and break attitudes… we can cause political dysfunctions and even bring about prejudice….” (American Journalism Review: January 2002)

Ricoeur in his book, ‘Model of the Text’ talks about the technical aspects of the concept of objectivity. He is of the opinion, that objectivity can also be called into question, simply by the language used by a reporter in a story. The grammar and syntax used can change the entire meaning of a factual event (Edgar: 119). He explains his viewpoint further by talking about ‘news values’, which a particular reporter holds. In short, Ricoeur is of the opinion that the news values shape bias and influence the reporter’s language, perhaps in the interview questions and even while writing the story. Combined with language, issues of facial expressions and body language also come into play (Edgar: 117). In this context, Day argues that reporters, in recent times, report a mix of fact and fiction (Day: 74). In short he implies that journalistic reports are often based on facts interspersed with fiction. Unfortunately, these reports or journalistic images given to the public are consumed. In other words the lack or presence of objectivity influences the audience perception of events and attitudes.

“Our attitudes towards different people are formed by images given to us by loaded newspaper stories…” (Stagner in Erwin, 2001: 292)

Attitudes have been defined as early as 1918 by Thomas and Znaniecki “as a state of mind towards the individual” (Erwin: 4). Thurstone refined the definition in 1931. He defined an attitude as “an action for or against a psychological object” (Erwin: 4). In recent times, an attitude has been described as “a learned predisposition to respond in a consistently favorable or unfavorable manner with respect to a given object” (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975:6). In a snapshot, attitudes comprise different diverse aspects:

- a general mindset of the organism

- a readiness to act

- physiological basis

- permanence

- learned nature

- evaluative nature

Thus, Allport put a comprehensive definition of an attitude forward in 1935—

“An attitude is a mental or neutral state of readiness, organized through experience, or learned through popular culture…” (Extracts from pages 804, 805, and 810 of Allport. G. W. In C. Murchison (Ed.). A Handbook of Social Psychology).

After defining an attitude in its entirety, it becomes important to know why the study of attitudes has not confined itself to social psychology, but spread to diverse fields like history and journalism. According to psychologists like Allport (1935), attitudes act as a rudder to human behavior, giving direction.

a) it is the cause of a person’s behavior towards another person or object.

b) The concept of attitude helps to explain the consistency of a person’s behavior and consequently the stability of society.

c) Attitudes reflect perceptions and beliefs, prejudices and biases.

d) Attitudes can be taught by popular culture either by the direct- flow model or the indirect flow model (Erwin: 5).

This throws up an important question regarding the nature of attitudes. Psychologists like Allport have long held that attitudes are basically social constructs, shaped, influenced and reinforced by popular culture. In short, they argue that it is quite easy to change a person’s attitude towards another entity, to suit one’s own needs simply by reinforcing messages and stories which reflect the desired attitude (Erwin: 5). In this respect the mass media play a very important role. Mass Media like newspapers, television, and magazines form a part of popular culture and are widely consumed (Erwin: 133). In their groundbreaking study on Media and Attitude formation, Lambert and Klineberg found that the various outlets of mass media had a great impact on childrens’ attitudes—“childrens’ perceptions of the world are formed by viewing the TV, reading magazines, advertisements… by age ten, the TV has the greatest impact… even more than parents, social circle.. the media is responsible for attitude formation” (Lambert & Klineberg, 1967 in Erwin: 133).

“If you give me any normal human being and a couple of weeks, some newspapers… I can change the behavior of the person to what is being said in newspapers…” (James McConnell in Erwin: 165).

Social psychologists argue that the media plays upon the “affective component” of the attitude, rousing emotions and banishing rational thought (Erwin: 166). Klineberg and Lambert (1964) conducted a longitudinal study on western childrens’ attitudes and perception of foreign people. In the ‘blind random’ sample chosen, children were interviewed and minutely observed. In their preliminary finding, the researchers contended that American children are greatly exposed to all types of media. In their final results, they reported that gross, inadequate perceptions of Asian children as being “dirty, cruel, domineering, ignorant, lazy, rude” were common. They concluded that most of these perceptions are learnt from mass media. The children showed negative attitudes to towards third world countries and eastern cultures, calling them “funny and boring”. On the other hand American children viewed Americans in highly favorable terms as “peace- loving, hardworking, intelligent, polite, gentle, brave” (Lambert & Klineberg, 1964 in Erwin: 297)

Thus, the researcher has arrived at a few conclusions which form the foundation of her research topic:

a) Objectivity does not exist

b) Bias is inherent in reporting

c) Attitudes can be learnt: they are a social construct

d) Mass Media plays an important role in attitude formation.

The active presence of bias in news reporting and their influence in attitude formation led to the formation of the ‘Diversity Code of Ethics’ by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in October 2001. The guidelines passed by the SPJ at its National Convention in Seattle call upon members and fellow journalists to take steps against “racial profiling” (Quill Magazine: 38).

- Use language that is informative and not inflammatory

- Portray Muslims, Arabs and Middle Eastern and South Asians… in the richness of their diverse experiences

- Seek truth through a variety of voices, and perspectives that help audiences understand the complexities …. " (Quill Magazine: 38).

The SPJ argues for objectivity in visual images and news stories by asking reporters to construct events for the unaware audience in the context of the situation. In other words, the guidelines instruct reporters to actively engage in the field and to bring to the audience a true picture of the occurrences with regards to the situation (Quill Magazine: 38). The Society asks journalists not to mix fact with fiction and feed the vulnerable audience misinformation about certain groups of people and events. It further advises journalists not to report happenings or issues they have no knowledge or understanding—like kneeling on the floor to worship, covering your face. The code proposes to make journalists aware of the pitfalls in reporting foreign news. The code also instructs journalists to avoid using inflammatory words like “jihad” and a combination of words that may lead to the formation of negative attitudes towards certain groups of people e.g. “Islamic terrorist”, “Muslim Extremist” (Quill Magazine: 38).

Section 0.2 Ethical Arguments

It is imperative that reporters entrusted with covering foreign events do so objectively providing their audience with accurate information. This concept of objectivity does not confine itself to foreign coverage but also to domestic news reporting. Reporting ought to be unbiased and non- judgmental. In this regard, it becomes important to consider the moral and non- moral values to be achieved by objective reporting or lack of it. In short, there are two options/ alternatives: reporting objectively or reporting news in a biased fashion.

Objective reporting upholds the moral values of truth, fairness, that accuracy and neutrality. A reporter provides his/ her audience with the true picture and does not make any judgments. Here, it should be pointed out that the researcher acknowledges that objective reporting is only possible within a context. In other words, there are greater chances for a reporter to be objective when reporting in the context of the situation e.g. the recent massacre of Indian Hindus when a train was set on fire by Indian Muslims. The story about the event was carried by various networks but the context in which the fire had been set was not mentioned. The western, American media led the audience to generalize and assume that all Indian Muslims are violent and murderers. The American television networks, NBC, CBS failed to mention that the train set on fire was scheduled not to run that particular day and that earlier, some of the Hindus had set fire to many Muslim owned stores in Ahmedabad in the state of Gujarat. Further, it was not mentioned that the train was set on fire by two criminals who did not belong to the Muslim faith at all (The Hindustan Times newspaper: 4).

The above example shows how the lack of objective contextual reporting can lead to the formation of negative attitudes among the ignorant public. Objective reporting would merely place the facts in the context before the audience and leave then to make their judgments. In short, objective reporting as regards to the context promotes related moral values of truth and accuracy. There is no reporting of fiction involved—no assumptions or moral judgments which make the news reports more reliable and fair. The people in the news reports are presented fairly and not as irrational human beings who ought to be despised and inflicted cruel punishment. Objective reporting assumes the existence of the moral value of neutrality. When reporting within the context, the reporter is not taking any sides but simply presenting the facts to the public. Further, objective reporting encourages the spread of the moral value of sensitivity. Referring to the above example, objective reporting would have encouraged western audiences to be sensitive to Indian Hindus and Muslims. Lack of objective reporting led to generalizations about the deep- seated Hindu- Muslim conflict in India. Thus, objective reporting promotes knowledge among audiences about diverse people in the world.

Usually, a reporter tries to make foreign news more exciting and interesting by sensationalizing and/ or mi fact with fiction. Going back to the above example, the NBC television network was the first to break the news. It got the story, the ‘scoop’ at the expense of accuracy and truth. It reported that “Muslim extremists” in India had set fire to a train carrying Hindus. NBC had got the “scoop” and the attention of many people in the audience. It led to generalizations and even upset many Indians residing in America. Objectivity in reporting is often pushed to the sidelines for the sake of ratings and competition. The news organization has to keep ahead of its competitors. It has to attract the attention of its audience. Thus, the issue of misrepresentation and sensationalizing the news enter the picture. Foreign news stories are often sensationalized e.g. in 1999, Reuters reported that the Africans in Zimbabwe were killing the British and Dutch natives. The news organization put a racial twist to the story. It said that the Africans no longer wanted to remain under the control of the “white man” (Reuters, 1999). But, according to the Botswana National Newspaper, the “fighting and threats” were a reaction against the new land law passed by the Zimbabwean Government. The western audience was told a story based on inaccurate information. Coupled with misleading the public, the non moral values of the “scoop’ and ratings may even result in the promotion of that reporter.

The issue of loyalties and/ or duties comes to the fore. A reporter owes loyalty to his/ her audience. The public has a right to know and it is up to the journalist to feed them the correct information in the correct context. He/ she has a loyalty to the audience to report the truth and promote the formation of knowledgeable, unbiased attitudes. Lack of objectivity leads to generalizations and wrong assumptions. The reporter is not only misleading his audience but also betraying the subjects and sources of his/ her story. He/ she has a duty to present the subjects of a story, e.g. the Hindus and Muslims or the African farmers in Zimbabwe fairly. He/ she also owe it to the sources to report accurately and maintain their reputation. In addition, the reporter has a duty and / or loyalty to him/ herself. What sort of a person is he/ she for making the public form negative attitudes towards certain people? Foreign reporters usually interact with their subjects and sources frequently before writing the storey. Don’t they have a duty to portray them objectively?

The mixed deontological theory of obligation by Frankena, is based on the concept of social justice (Frankena: 43). The theory contends with the distribution of good and evil in an equal manner (Frankena: 43). His theory based on justice holds that every action, word and rule has to have a moral sense. In other words it has to be accompanied by a sense of good or evil (Frankena: 44). Frankena argues that the theory believes in the distribution of good and evil and therefore presupposes the existence of morality (Frankena: 44). In this regard, the theory can be broken into two principles:

Principle of Beneficence

Principle of Social Distributive Justice

The gist of the Principle of Beneficence concerns itself with the willingness to do good and prevent evil or harm (Frankena: 45). Based on this belief of the principle, four guidelines and/ or tenets have been constructed.

- One ought not to inflict evil or harm [read as bad]. Referring to the example of the train fire, it can be clearly seen that biased inaccurate reporting actually lead to the spread of harm. The story encouraged western audience to form negative attitudes towards certain groups of people. In a nutshell, lack of objectivity in reporting gives birth to more harm and negative feelings among people. Looking at it from the other side, western popular media is consumed by people of the third- world countries. Such biased stories, encourage them to develop feelings of resentment and anger towards the west. Thus the media is actually causing and furthering racial divides. It is doing more harm to people and to the prospect of world peace.

But looking at it from the other side, objective reporting within the contextual framework can educate all people, whether the western audience, or the populations of the third- world countries, to the intricacies and motivations behind the behavior of certain groups of people. Providing the western audience with the facts and presenting them truthfully and fairly can prevent the growth and development of negative attitudes. It can increase tolerance levels in the global society.

- One ought to prevent evil or harm.

Lack of objective reporting does not prevent harm or evil. It leads western audiences to make faulty generalizations like—all Muslims are terrorists, all Africans are dumb and stupid. But if a reporter publishes a story in the context, he/ she can clarify issues and facts and help western audiences to make correct moral judgments.

- One ought to remove evil

This is a very complex issue. Does biased reporting of foreign events remove evil or, does it maintain it? When a reporter writes inaccurate facts about foreign people, he/ she is actually encouraging the existence of evil e.g. reporting that black Zimbabwean farmers were fighting with white Zimbabwean farmers and wrongfully explained it as a racial power struggle between the blacks and whites, Reuters was actually encouraging criminals and power seekers to turn the minor skirmish into a raging war. In this regard lack of objectivity in reporting does not remove evil. It perpetuates it-- becoming the basis of negative attitudes and perceptions. Further, this could lead to world conflicts and disrupt efforts at world peace.

- One ought to do or promote good

This tenet argues that an action or rule should always promote good. Is biased reporting promoting good? Both the parties involved, the western audiences as well as the subjects of the story, suffer. The western audience if fed misinformation forms negative attitudes towards certain groups of people it knows nothing about. Similarly, the people of the third- world country react to this negative image perpetuated by the media and develop feelings of resentment against western audiences. In either case, lack of objectivity in reporting does not bring about any good. Further, it leads to the myth that western media believes in reporting false facts and is not reliable. In short, no good is created and promoted by lack of objectivity in reporting.

Principle of Social Distributive Justice

This principle deals with the comparative treatment of individuals. It believes in the maximization of good for the greatest number of people and the minimization of harm for a few people (Frankena: 49). It is built on a number of criteria which clarify the principle as being fair –

1. justice means treating people equally according to their merits or deserts

2. treating individuals equally with regards to the distribution of good and evil

3. treating people equally with regards to their needs, abilities and situational demands (Frankena: 49)

These criteria can be explained by using two classic methods of distribution as coined by Aristotle and Ross—

The Meritarian View which says that people should be treated as equals according to their merits or “deserts” (Frankena: 49). According to the scholars a merit is often defined as a virtue and therefore justice would mean the equal distribution of good and evil according to virtue (Frankena: 49).

The second and third viewpoints form the cornerstone of modern democratic societies. These equalitarian viewpoints believe in the Marxist dictum, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” (Frankena: 49). But on the same note, the viewpoints argue for the concept of proportionality, saying that there should be equal distribution of justices based upon merit and the goal should be maximizing the positive effects for a larger number of people.

Based on this principle, lack of objective reporting does not bring about the greatest good for the greatest number. Both, the western audience and the population of the third world country, are considered equal and thus, should be meted out equal treatment. Their merits are equal and so the distribution of good and evil should be equal. The second viewpoint of the principle comes to the fore and argues that an action should lead to there maximization of the positive for a larger group of people. Taken in this regard, lack of objectivity in reporting brings about harm to both the parties involved. On one hand it can lead to faulty generalizations about foreign people, negative attitudes, racial bias and general feelings of ridicule and anger. On the other side, it may lead to feelings of resentment and bitterness towards western audiences and western media for portraying them in such a manner. But, if reporting objectively is done, there are many positive effects- education, correct perceptions and attitudes and consequently increasing the levels of tolerance and understanding among all people of the world.

Thus, seen from the standpoint of this theory, objectivity in news reporting should be encouraged.

“the natural- law theorist advocates realizing those goods specified by nature that he has in common with his fellow human beings.” (Harris: 91)

In short, natural law promotes a concept of objectivity (Harris: 91). The issue of the presence of objectivity in foreign news reporting, especially those of third- world nations can be considered on the basis of the moral theory of natural law. Natural law has it’s roots in the early days of the Roman empire and simply says that all human beings [humanity] has the right to pursue their “free will” and whether to act and think in a certain manner (Harris: 92). In this context, natural law describes four basic values which should be available to all humanity. These are the Biological Values of Life and Procreation which are essential to every living being.

Life—this biological value is based on natural inclinations that life is good and should be preserved and protected at all costs. In the negative sense, it implies harm to life e.g. the case of murder and suicide which lead to the deprivation of human life.

Procreation—This value is built on natural inclinations of the pursuit of its own species and race. Every living organism has a right to procreate and ensure the stability of its species. Taken in the negative sense, it implies a violation of the living organism’s right to procreate through means of sterilization, homosexuality and artificial contraception.

The second set of values, the human values are basic only to man. These include the values of Knowledge and Sociability.

Knowledge—This human value states that all men have the freedom to pursue and gain accurate knowledge. The value is based on “the obligation that we [human beings] have to pursue knowledge of the world and God” (Harris: 94).Thus, the stifling of knowledge or the promotion of wrongful facts is considered a violation of this human value.

Sociability—This value rests on the natural inclinations of man to form bonds with other human beings and pursue existence in groups and societies. “We… have an obligation to pursue close relationships with other human beings and to submit to the legitimate authority of the state.” (Harris: 94). Thus, action which promotes the concept of breaking close relationships among people and promoting distrust among them such as spreading slander and misrepresenting facts can be considered going against this human value. Similarly, disobeying the authority of the state by unlawful actions may be considered a violation of this value.

If a rule passes all these biological and human values, the actions must be put to test against the qualifying principles. The natural law has two qualifying principles which are—

The Principle of Forfeiture which holds that the biological value of life can be violated as long as the person involved has forfeited his right to life e.g. the case of criminals. A criminal who is punished for murdering an innocent person cannot plead violation of his biological value of life. It can be argued that since he deprived an innocent of life, he or she has forfeited his/ her right to that value. Similarly, a person who commits murder in the light of self- defense can claim that his/ her right to life was being violated. In such a case the person has not forfeited his/ her right.

The Principle of Double Effect has four parts to it. According to the principle, an action or rule is morally permissible if the action has two effects of good and bad which meet the following criteria—

a. The action/ act has to be good in itself e.g. murder is bad in itself as a whole.

b. The bad effect cannot be avoided if the good effect is to be achieved. In this case, we have to consider other feasible alternatives-- are there any other courses of action which can be utilized which do not result in the bad effect? Thus, here the intention of the action is significant—the primary, basic intention of the action has to be good.

c. The bad effect should not be the means of producing the good effect but the bad effect can be a side effect.

d. This criterion relates to the concept of proportionality between the good and the bad. Which is more and which is less?

Applying this moral theory to the issue of objectivity in foreign news reporting, it is apparent that even though the basic biological values are not being violated, the human values are being jeopardized.

Knowledge—Lack of objectivity in news reporting is promoting inaccurate information and wrong perceptions about people of the third- world countries in the minds of western audiences. Isn’t this violating the value of knowledge where reporters are depriving innocent people of pursuing correct knowledge about the world?

Sociability—Related to knowledge is the value of sociability. Reporting in a biased fashion is leading audiences to formulate negative perceptions and attitudes which in turn affect their ability to properly develop relationships with people of the third- world nations. In short, lack of objective reporting is exposing western audiences to violate the value of sociability. They are molded to think in a biased manner towards populations of the third- world nations resulting in racial tensions and the deprivation of tolerant relationships among all people in the world. Thus, this practice of media encourages a racial split: Us versus Them.

The action of biased reporting fails the human values and thus the researcher can solve the dilemma at this juncture. It is more beneficial to practice free and objective reporting while covering events and issues in the third- world countries. But for the sake of argument and completeness, the next step of the theory is pitied against the action.

The claim of biased reporting fails to pass the first qualifying principle of forfeiture. The people of the news report, the people of the third- world countries, have not committed any murderous deed and deprived any member of the western audience of their life. Hence they have not forfeited their right to be presented in a fair and accurate manner. Here, the context becomes important as there can be two different situations: reporting about innocent civilian populations and/ or reporting about a criminal who has murdered many innocent people.

Coming to the second principle of double effect, the action of biased reporting fails to meet the first criteria. The act of reporting in a biased manner, encouraging the ignorant western audience to think in a certain negative fashion cannot be described as a good act in itself. Can the action be achieved without the bad effect? Can a reporter portray foreign events accurately without resorting to biased news reporting? Are there other alternatives open to him/ her? The reporter can stop biased news reporting and follow the practice of contextual objective news reporting. The good effect of reporting foreign events and delivering knowledge to the western audience will still be achieved. Hence, the action fails to meet the second criteria.

The action does meet the third criterion. In this case, the bad effect is being used as the only means to achieve the good effect of reporting foreign news events. The fourth criterion of proportionality states that both the good and bad effects should be balanced. But in this case, the bad effect outweighs the good effect. Several parties are affected and wrongful attitudes are being promoted: the western audience is being encouraged to think and formulate negative attitudes leading to racial tensions and divides, feelings of resentment among both the parties involved towards each other.

Thus, the issue of biased news reporting may prove to be more harmful and is not morally acceptable according to Natural Law. Thus, as an editor, I decide that all reporters of my newspaper should cover news events, domestic and/ or foreign objectively and provide the audience with accurate facts helping them to make appropriate judgments. Reporters should practice contextual objective reporting.


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A Set of Guidelines Prepared by the SPJ Diversity Committee


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