"To write about Jesus is to invite critique. Those who believe
he is the Son of God will take issue with the recitation of cold
facts, as if he were simply someone who lived long ago and whose
teachings remain influential even to this day. To those who believe
that he was simply someone who lived long ago and whose teachings
remain influential to this day, any nod toward his life as salvific or
his death as a sacrificial necessity will raise eyebrows if not
We've just gone through a presidential election where press
coverage was basically all sound and fury signifying nothing--heavy on
rumors and ratings, tiptoing around policy and anything else useful.
Now we're back to the more everyday journalistic malpractice. If it
bleeds, it leads not only keeps us in a state of fear (so not good for
our health), but makes relatively minor dangers (terrorism) into major
perils we most focus on and give up our freedom for--all the better to
keep the stuff we should be afraid of (polluted air and water) outta
sight, outta mind. A lot of space is wasted on crap like what celeb
is in rehab. The dismal cherry on the putrid sundae is the rapid
consolidation of news sources into the hands of the wealthy.
Do you find yourself wondering if journalism and ethics have
even a passing acquaintanceship? Do you believe the latter should
strongly influence the former? Do you still have hope that this can
happen? If you can say yes to all three questions you will probably
find Ethical Communication: Moral Stances in Human Dialogue, edited
by Clifford G. Christians and John C. Merrill, to be quite a thought
Twenty leading philosophers across a wide historic span
(including some who might not have considered themselves to be
philosophers) are grouped into five major schools of thought based on
their priorities. Loyalty to others motivates those who take the
altruistic stance. Those who take the egoistic stance put número uno
first and foremost. Those who take the autonomy stance place a lot of
stock in freedom, especially when it is necessary to oppose
dictators. Legalists are big backers of law, order, and authority.
Communitarians (my people) put community first.
Although the essays are written by different authors, they
follow a similar format: biographical information, major issues and
ideas, and applicabili to journalism.
Lutheran minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer is considered one of those
who took the autonomy stance. He came into a world in which it was
dangerous to be a philosopher or think for oneself in general:
Hitler's Germany. He protested against Hitler (whom he considered
evil) and the Nazi regime until he was silenced by being executed. He
portrays for journalists the necessity of courage in the face of a
world where good does not always win out.
Not all the writers are enamoured of their subjects, some taking
them as cautionary tales rather than exemplars. Pity the poor guy who
I think Ethical Communication is a great text for journalistic
ethics classes and a good time investment for students and
practitioners in the field as well as laypeople with a good grounding
in the liberal arts.
On a personal note, after church on Sunday I went to a wonderful art
show at Wilson Center. The paintings were beautiful with a Hispanic/
Native American sensibility. One of a butterfly emerged from a
coccoon and ready to fly reminded me of me. The artist was there for
people to talk to. There were refreshments including chocolates and
sparkling cider. It was delightfully posh but not the least bit stuffy.
A great big shout out goes out to all who participated in that
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