Privacy: A Major Concern in Media Ethics

With the amount of media platforms and increasing technologies in the world today, it is clear that there are many ethical concerns involving the media. According to the research in Between the Summits: What Americans Think About Media Ethics, the most prevalent concerns among Americans include media bias, media dishonesty, invasion of privacy and inaccuracy (Cooper, 18). These ethical issues appear through numerous media platforms such as advertising, journalism, public relations and the internet. It seems as though privacy is something that is very easily broken into when referring to the media and its audiences. It is very difficult for individuals to keep their information private, which is why this is such an important ethical issues. For instance, Facebook changed their privacy settings in 2014, which has allowed them to access users’ smartphone microphones to analyze, songs, television shows and other interests (Forbes, 2014).

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 9.50.58 PMIn recent times, news of Bruce Jenner, Olympic gold medal winner and star of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, going through a transgender transition has been circling the media. Numerous media outlets have been reporting on the issue both credible and non-credible sources. Although Jenner has yet to confirm or deny his transition, The New York Times has reported transgender issues involving Jenner in two separate articles including The Transition of Bruce Jenner: A Shock to Some, Visible to All and The Bruce Jenner story goes from Gossip to News. If the news about Jenner is true, The Times wrongly reported on the appropriate pronoun use and the proper name. This issue has gained a lot of attention recently, but without Jenner’s approval, it is absolutely an invasion of privacy. Although Jenner is a public figure, it is difficult for personal issues to remain private with how easily information is spread today. However, this is a significant ethical issue that demonstrates concerns within the media.

9% of Americans see privacy as an ethical concern within the media today (Cooper, 18). In 1993, The Los Angeles Times discovered that 11% of Americans believed that the media violates people’s privacy (Cooper, 21). These statistics demonstrate how deeply people in the United States are concerned about their privacy. After doing some unofficial, casual research about what individuals think about privacy when it comes to celebrities and the specific issue of Bruce Jenner, people believe that this topic should be off limits when the media reports about privacy issues. It was consistent among the few people I spoke with that the media creates false portrayals about celebrities and public figures. The way the media frames specific stories has the ability to influence consumers purchase intentions, as well as overall opinions about a person. The media tends to leak information and embellish on storylines to get the story out to the masses first, as well as get consumers interested. Many media platforms use public figures’ lives to make a better life for themselves. Since Jenner’s transformation has not been confirmed, credible sources are being seen as untrustworthy. Leaking private issues correlates to the loss of trust and credibility in a news source.

According to The University of Iowa’s Journalism Ethics, it is important to distinguish what information the public has a right to know, needs to know and wants to know. But, how does the media decide what the public has a right to know when the information being reported is not their own? Media platforms like advertising and public relations are required to adhere to a code of ethics, which include the vow to remain truthful. If media platforms do not follow this code, how are consumers and audiences supposed to trust what is being seen or read? Overall, the invasion of privacy by the media, especially when it comes to celebrities, is considered a violation. Although people enjoy staying updated with celebrities and following their lives, where do you draw the line at what is private and what is not? 

Resources

Bernstein, J. (2015, February 4). The Bruce Jenner Story Goes From Gossip to News. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/05/fashion/the-bruce-jenner-story-goes-from-gossip-to-news.html

Bruce Jenner never confirmed rumor, So Public Editor deals with NYT reporting transgender transition. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.imediaethics.org/News/10043/Bruce_jenner_never_confirmed_rumor__so_public_editor_deals_with_nyt_reporting_transgender_transition__.php

Journalism Ethics: Privacy. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.uiowa.edu/~c019168/168s6online15.html

Lyall, S., & Bernstein, J. (2015, February 6). The Transition of Bruce Jenner: A Shock to Some, Visible to All. Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/sports/olympics/the-transition-of-bruce-jenner-a-shock-to-some-visible-to-all.html?_r=0

Privacy Issues Could Threaten The Future Of Commercial Social Media. (2014, May 28). Retrieved February 24, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathansalembaskin/2014/05/28/privacy-issues-could-threaten-the-future-of-commercial-social-media/

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