Sunday, 13 July 2014

Digital Media Ethics

Ethics is the terms defined as a  set of principles of right, or moral conduct.    In  the media, ethics is usually defined in terms of a set of principles and practices articulated in a code for journalists or media professionals to help them act responsibly.  Common to most of these codes are the four principles of seeking the truth, acting independently , being held accountable and minimizing harm.  Most journalism codes contain both situational and absolute ethics.  
Digital news media includes online journalism, blogging, digital photojournalism, citizen journalism and social media. It includes questions about how professional journalism should use this ‘new media’ to research and publish stories, as well as how to use text or images provided by citizens.

In the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)’s ethics code,  journalists are admonished  to "never plagiarize."  But, they are encouraged to "Identify sources whenever feasible,". The implication being that anonymous sources are sometimes unavoidable and perhaps appropriate, depending on the situation. 
 There are essentially two types of ethics problems. 
 These are errors of commission and  errors of omission .
Errors of commission are things journalists and media professionals should not do example to  accepting gifts from sources.   
Errors of omission are things journalists and other media professionals should do, but fail to do.  For example, sometimes journalists should ask tough follow-up questions of sources, but fail to do so, perhaps because they are afraid of losing their access to a desired source. 

Errors of commission are the ethical missteps .
Using Anonymous Sources
 Anonymous sources are critically important in investigative reporting, and are the only way to get a source to reveal what he or she knows about a matter of public importance. 
 In some cases, a reporter should shield the identity of a source. This is an issue that confronts journalism whether in analog or digital format.  Although decisions may need to be considered in context, victims of sexual assault, particularly children, need to have their identities protected, even when serving as news sources.
PEJ notes that newspapers make substantially less use of anonymous sources. At newspapers, "Just 7% of all stories, and 13% of front-page stories, contained anonymous sources."

Using False Bylines
As a cost-saving strategy, a Chicago-based media company, Journatic, employed more than 100 overseas freelancers in 2012, primarily in the Philippines, who collected online information and then organized and presented it as stories under false bylines to hundreds of U.S.-based writers and editors for publication.  Ultimately, the public trust is violated and the relationship between journalists and the public is damaged as is the credibility of the news media.

Digital Manipulation 
 Image and video manipulation represent another significant error of commission in the digital age. In November of 2000 U.S. President Bill Clinton and Cuban President Fidel Castro did meet in New York at the United Nations.  But they never shook hands.  Yet,  the New York Daily editors created a digital composite image showing the two world leaders reaching out hand-to-hand in a friendly gesture. 

Publishing images, photos, video and audio often involves editing of that content in some fashion, such as simply for length or cropping to fit a screen or other media space.  Many of these simple edits involve no ethical concerns.  In general, the types of digital media manipulations possible include: 
1) the addition or subtraction of content; 
2) composite imagery or constructed images, where multiple video or still images or their audio equivalents are merged into one seamless image;
 3) synthetic images, video or audio, where completely real-looking scenes are created artificially depicting events that might have taken place or that might take place in the future; and 
4) animations. 

When publishing digital images, photos, video and audio (or 3D objects), editors should adhere to the following ethical principles: 
1.Most importantly, they should never edit any images, photos, video or audio that results in altering or distorting the meaning of that content.  
It is also essential that any digitally altered image, video or audio, or animation, or 3D printed object be clearly labeled so all viewers or listeners understand the altered or artificial nature of the content.  This labeling is the only way to maintain journalistic standards of truth, accuracy, and fairness.
Hidden Cameras 
Hidden cameras, whether digital or analog, raise similar concerns about privacy.  Or, consider remote-sensing satellite imagery taken from hundreds of miles above the Earth. These digital sensors can capture imagery less than half a meter in size.  

Balancing Rights
 there needs to be a balance between freedom of speech and other values As such, there is an ethical  to balance the public’s right to know with citizens' right to privacy.  There is a question of legal rights vs. ethical responsibility, and both of these must be placed in the context of corporate drive for profits and commercial exploitation. 

Invading a Roommate’s Privacy
While using a Web-cam to  video-record or transmit private or intimate behaviors of another person's activities without their knowledge or consent, particularly when the person involved not a public figure.  Such was the case in a dorm room on the campus of Rutgers University in 2010 when  Dharun Ravi used his computer's Web-cam to video-record the intimate encounter of his gay roommate and posted comments online about the encounter. Ravi, who was expelled from the University, was found guilty of spying on his roommate, who committed suicide shortly after the original incident. 

Digital Big Foot
Social media can mean balancing freedom of speech and civility, as well as being aware of the digital footprint or potential reach of one's online communications.  UCLA student Alexandra Wallace used her mobile phone to create a video and posted it to YouTube in March 2011 and it quickly went viral.  The problem was her video was a rant against Asians and their alleged misuse of cell phones in the library and beyond.  In response to her video posting, Wallace received death threats and she removed the video and apologized. 

Revealing State Secrets
 The problem of digital transparency is particularly acute when the secrets to be revealed may relate to matters of national security.  In 2006 this issue moved well onto the public stage when newspapers such as The New York Times revealed the Bush Administration's use of extensive warrantless phone taps and monitoring using various digital communications technologies. In 2010 Julian Assange's WikiLeaks digitally published hundreds of thousands of classified government and military documents.  
Networked, digital communication technologies, such as mobile phones, e-mail and social media, as well as the massive digital data collections provided by organizations such as WikiLeaks, are increasingly attractive sources of information for reporters.  In many cases, the information is obtained ethically and legally.  But in certain circumstances, such as where the digital information is delivered anonymously or from a confidential informant, journalists need to ask themselves several fundamental, ethically driven questions when pursuing a digital source and a story.   

File Sharing
Among the most popular activities many college students, as well as others, engage in is file sharing. Often, the files being shared are legally exchanged.  But, other times, the persons sharing the files do not have the needed copyright permissions to be in compliance with prevailing laws. 

In the digital age, one of the most common ethical errors of omission involves how journalists conduct interviews.  Traditionally, journalists conducted all their interviews with news sources in person.  These face-to-face interviews had many strengths, including allowing the journalist to establish a strong sense of connection with the source.   With the invention of the telephone, mobile communications, the Internet and e-mail, it became easier, faster, and much cheaper to conduct interviews from a distance.  For many sources, interviews via e-mail or mobile phone are a more convenient method of interview and this makes it an attractive option to many.  These technological developments meant reporters could conduct more interviews in less time at less expense without taking the time to go into the field. Moreover, distant sources, including those abroad, could be accessed via the Internet or the phone or Skype call. 
Many sources have increasingly sought to have reporters allow them to review their quotes prior to publication.  This is relatively easy via e-mail or even telephone.  In some cases, this can enable a reporter to ask follow-up questions or catch minor errors in a quote.