Week 3: Ethics in news and academic research

right or wrong

Photo credit: tweakyourbiz.com

  •                 Ethics vs. morality

Regarding this week’s readings, I consider that first it is fruitful to make a distinction between ethics and morality. Even though the two concepts frequently overlap, according to my personal understanding, morality is something subjective, internal. Morals are related to values, known also as personally beliefs, which are very hard to change. Ethics, in my opinion, are related to the rules established in society viewed as societal norms.  A clearer and more detailed definition of the two terms is available here.  

On the other hand, the readings also made me think that ethics can be different from countries to countries, from societies to societies, from cultures to cultures. A simple example can be related to ways of greeting people which can be very different from countries to countries. I also believe it is essential to make a differentiation between ethics and law.

  •                 Practical implications

In regards to the case studies overviewed this week, I consider that firing the photographer who altered that shot was the right thing to do. When it comes to ethics and policies clearly stated in any work field, I find that it is crucial to consider facts that have broken the norms and apply the rules equally. It does not matter the impact of the original versus the fake picture towards the public as long as the unethical practice has happened.

Ms. Smart’s example could be a severe case of falsification and should be severely penalized by the committee if found guilty. Such violation, if confirmed, could require in my opinion the removal of the degree. The committee should try to replicate the experiment to see if they achieve same results and should find as much evidence as possible, along with Ms. Smart’s position towards this issues. What makes this case so important is that Ms. Smart has a PhD degree and this allows her to work in the academic environment. A validation of guiltiness makes this situation unacceptable, while suspicions of similar facts have a solid argument. Ms. Smart needs to understand properly the ethical norms of conducting research since she most likely will be in the position to train other students and produce knowledge.

  •                 Your thoughts?

Finally, I want to share with you a famous example of a picture taken by a photographer who was awarded with the Pulizer Price.  This case raised high controversy among the public and lead to the photographer’s death. What is your opinion towards the ethical practices and implications in this case? Please leave your thoughts below.


5 thoughts on “Week 3: Ethics in news and academic research

  1. Hi Anca. Great post. The link to the photograph and story at the end of your post is agonizing. It is noted that journalists were instructed not to touch famine victims for safety reasons yet it appears the photographer faced criticism and guilt for not removing the child from the situation or picking her up. On the one hand he was performing the duties of his job and following guidelines. This is striking to me as we explore topics of ethics and integrity — we make a commitment to follow instructions and guidelines, however, if faced with an extreme circumstance it is possible that “rules” or even safety might be pushed aside for valid, humane reasons. It’s a delicate balance.

    • Great comment, Ellen! This is a conflicting ethical guideline with how most people would act normally. The photographer was criticized for not showing empathy towards the child and apparently, the criticism destroyed him. I think you raise a good point that there can be real life situation where we criticize how people act. On the other hand those people have to respect some policies, duties and responsibilities for their jobs and performances. There was a plane crash few weeks ago in Romania, transporting two pilots and five medical representatives to pick up some organs for performing transplants. After six hours in the woods due to plane crash, some local people found them, not the authorities! They were not able to localize their GPS position even though one doctor called several times 911 and gave the geographical coordinates. Several institutions criticized for not helping in the situation defend themselves by saying that according to the law and procedure, they could not intervene unless another institution asked for help. Sometimes, some guidelines and requested practices can aggravate important actions, like emergency help in this situation.

  2. I am not sure that I see anything wrong with the picture or how it relates to academic integrity. I thought in the beginning you posted this link because he had photoshoped this picture, but he was criticized for not helping? Doing what exactly? The only useful thing would have been to steel the girl from his parents and bring it home with him to give him a life full of food. I am sure he wouldnt have let the vulture attack. The child was not in danger by the bird. (apart from starving). Sure he could have picked the kid up, brought it to its parents or given her some food – but that wouldnt have done any good either. Instead of killing himself he should have worked tiredlessly for the rest of his life to make enough money that he could donate and do some good in the world. It is a gruesome picture, but I don’t see anything wrong with taking it. On the contrary – it raised awareness and got people thinking and remembering him. I feel absolutely sorry for this guy who thought he needed to take his life.
    It was his job – I dont see anyone complaining about all those people taking animal videos of dying pets – like the BBC movie about the baby elephant walking through the dessert for weeks.

    • Yes, I agree that he could have done a lot of greater actions instead of killing himself. However, we should not blame him. Only he knew what was in his heart at the moment. Maybe he needed help…

  3. Hi Anca,

    I think this is a model post for the class. You’ve done a lovely job articulating the heart of our course, which is the dilemma and blurred line between personal morality and institutional ethics. I do think that you’re also correct that ethics (and I would argue morality) vary, sometimes significantly across cultures. Even within them–just look at our debates in the US about abortion and gun rights!

    Your last example of the photograph really haunts me. I found it difficult to imagine being in such a complicated position as that photographer found himself in. As a photojournalist, much like a journalist, it’s ones job to stay objective in order to bring to the world images of conflict and heartbreak. I don’t fault him his ethics at all. His image likely did great good for the cause he photographed. What I suspect bothered him wasn’t his ethics in his job but his personal morals, his beliefs and his guilt. How horrible and, in my opinion, understandable.

    Thanks for sharing!

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