Blog Post # 1

robinwilliams

When looking at the Tom Cooper article you get a lot of information from all different aspects of media ethics. The biggest take away for me were the polls. The most recent in 2006 didn’t show any big difference from the polls in the 90s. “Americans reveal anxiety about the truth telling, functions of the press and remain concerned about privacy, violence and much more… when asked in 1993 what the “most important quality or characteristic the new media needed to have to maintain high standards,” respondents listed ethical issues at the heart of journalistic purpose: “ truth, honesty” (61%); “accuracy, check stories, sources” (26%); “fairness, balance” (19%); and “sensitivity” (7%) (Los Angeles Times, 1993).” (Cooper, 2008) Then  “Three years later, a similar set of issues emerged, although the order of concerns had shifted (Princeton Survey Research Associates, 1997): sensationalism/hype/exaggeration/disproportion (25%), bias/slanted/liberal/one-sided reporting (23%), offer their own opinions and views/distort facts (9%), overemphasis on the negative (8%), and invade people’s personal lives/privacy (7%).” (Cooper, 2008) With 25% of the vote going to sensationalism/hype/exaggeration/disproportion, this speaks to one of the saddest stories of last year, the death of Robin Williams.

After reading an article about all the negative comments and allegations after the death of Robin Williams it was extremely unethical. There was a Fox news reporter tat said he was a “coward” for killing himself. A Uk reporter was in trouble for saying he had no sympathy for Williams. There were allegations about him drinking during shows. This was such a sensitive subject for a lot of people that the Robin Williams had passed away. All of the different characters he played in movies resonated with all ages. For these reporters to treat a death like this is unethical and wrong. There were other sources that had negative things that say about Robin Williams, which is crazy to think about.

Coming off of that is an article that is somewhat of a guide for journalist to handle the terrible event of suicide. Some of the key pointers in it are, “Don’t say committed suicide instead died by suicide; Don’t romanticize the act; Don’t jump to conclusions; Don’t go into details about the method used; Don’t call suicide “successful” or attempted suicide “unsuccessful”; Death is not a matter of success, Don’t use or repeat pejorative phrases such as “the coward’s way out” which reinforce myths and stigma.”(Smith, 2014) All of these pointers make for a more ethical article and it is more respectful. No one in the family wants to read suicide in every article, they don’t want to sugar coat it either. You have to be respectful of their wishes. With Robin being part of everyone’s life through movies, shows or comedy, as a journalist you need to keep them in mind too. A 12 year old isn’t going to understand suicide as much as a 22 year old, so you do have to watch what you say and how.

When I constructed my interviews all five interviewees agreed that it is unethical to throw out false information especially when it comes to a death. That person can’t necessarily defend themselves and we will never understand why. Suicide is a very sensitive subject and all of my interviewees cringed at the thought of it. Once I mentioned how Robin was somewhat ridiculed they couldn’t believe it. One of the interviewees said, “Wow that is very unsettling… He was Mrs. Doubtfire and Peter Pan, how could anyone be cruel to that man… Especially after his passing that’s just wrong.”  One of my interviewees somewhat understood, “Robin was starting to look bad as he got older; his life was kind of going downhill. I am not saying he had the right to commit suicide because that is just awful. A reporter should never call another person a coward though for such events. You don’t know what was going on in his life!”

Moving away from suicide, every interviewee agreed that you have to be respectful and precise as a journalist. You can’t report on something that has no proof or sources. My grandmother was one of the interviewees and she watches the news more than anything. She was seriously concerned because when she watches the news, she expects it to be credible. As an older woman once she hears something, she has to share it. So if something she heard wasn’t credible she looks like the idiot, not the news or reporter. In general, as consumers we should feel that everything we are told comes from credible sources, and we can trust them.

Cooper, T. (2008). Between the Summits: What Americans Think About Media Ethics.Journal Of Mass Media Ethics23(1), 15-27. doi:10.1080/08900520701753106

Smith, S. (2014). Say ‘died by suicide’ not ‘committed suicide, ‘Ethical reporting tips on suicide. International Media Ethic News. Retrieved from http://www.imediaethics.org/News/4711/Say_died_by_suicide_not_committed_suicide__ethical_reporting_tips_on_suicide.php

Smith, S. (2014). Top 10 Media Ethics Issues of 2014. International Media Ethic News. Retrieved from http://www.imediaethics.org/News/4966/Top_10_media_ethics_issues_of_2014.php

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