Media Ethics, Open or Closed ?

Mass media has been defined as any means of communication that reaches a large number of audience. Examples of media in our day and age are not restricted to just newspapers and television. Nowadays the internet has become one of the most important mass media tools that exists. Combined with the prevalent use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs the internet has become an integral part of our day to day lives. The idea of mass media stretches back to generations and characterizes a certain kind of society that consists of people somehow connected by some sort of communication, but at the same time, also dispersed in space and essentially detached from each other.

In this post I will examine some of the implication of mass media and communications in the present time and how it effects us and provide a few relevant points on social media ethics. The reason for analyzing mass media lies in the fact that it influences our way of thinking deeply and therefore unconsciously guides our actions in every facet of our lives. Therefore significant importance has to be assigned to the effects of mass media and a deep study has to be undertaken to fully understand it’s sociological and psychological effects. The effect of mass media on the society as a whole is of the utmost importance.

From a sociological perspective, the most striking feature of modern communication technology is its capacity to expand social relations beyond the clan, the tribe, and the local community. While ancient empires were built on military and the loyalty of a small number of chieftains to a central authority, the typical social unit today covers far more territory and embraces more people than could once have been thought possible. (Lang, 3).

From Lang’s paper we can surmise that in the last quarter of a century the effects of social media have dramatically increased. Mass media has made our social circles far more suspect to change without the use of violence and traditional means of interactions. The effects of mass media can be felt nowadays at a macro level since it connects strangers to each other not because of mutual sympathy but rather because social networking has become a necessity of life. In political and cultural terms, communications technology has led to a greater involvement from the masses. The increase in the use of mass media has completely reduced the geographical limitations that existed in the past. Mass media communications has had a profound effect on the cultural and daily day to day lives of individuals in a society and in particular how people spend their leisure time and how they take part in celebratory occasions. Traditional customary recreational activities and folk art have been replaced by a focus towards good and service’s produced for media. With the advent of different types of media in the past century, we have seen a change in how the public reviews media.

The current media revolution provides citizens with the publishing and communication technology to engage in journalism and the discussion of journalism on a global scale. Citizen participation in media is transforming the nature of journalism and ethics. (Ward, 275)

Media ethics deals with the specific ethical principles and standards of media, including  broadcast media, film, theatre, the arts, print media and the internet. The field covers many varied and highly controversial topics, ranging from war journalism to advertising. In the recent year as the usage of media by the global society has increased, it has forced a transitions from “closed professional ethics” to “open media ethics”. According to the Journal of Mass Media Ethics,

Closed professional ethics are defined as a form of ethics discourse where the guidelines are primarily (or only) intended for a relative small group of people, and places substantial limits on meaningful non­member participation in discussing, critiquing and changing the guidelines. (Ward, 277).

Open media ethics allows citizens to engage in ethical discourse at all levels without having to be approved by a newspaper editor. Moreover, the new media allows for interactive discussion on issues and principles,, which go far beyond the comparatively static form of a printed letter. (Ward, 279).

From the above descriptions of media ethics we can surmise that the increase in the usage of different sources of media has had a considerable effect on media usage and ethics. Although a lot of journalists do not support open media ethics, I believe that open media ethics provides the general populace a way of expressing their thoughts and views without being censored. This change has brought about an increase freedom of expression and has enabled growing number of people to express their views and reach a larger number of audience. This enables transparency of views and allows for a much more broader platform from which information can be parted to the users of mass media.

The sociological and psychological implication of media in the 21st century, especially with the current innovations in social media, have far-reaching consequences. Mass media nowadays is being used to communicate to a vast majority of the world’s populace. The messages and information being imparted through mass ­media reach users at a much faster level and therefore the users are able to respond to the said information at a much faster level. Also because of open media ethics user’s views are not censored and this enables sharing of a much larger amount of information. At the same time users are able to question this information and even modify it given the increase in the level of awareness among the common man.

It has been argued by a quite a few sources that the increase in innovation and usage of mass media has a negative effect on the populace and that usage of media to impart propaganda is compounded. This is an agreeable view and can be listed as a con of mass media communications. Although this is true, we find out in our research that the pros of mass media communication far outweigh its cons. Mass media like any other technological innovation should be categorized as an instrument and like an instrument it’s uses vary from user to user. It can be used as an instrument to impart life saving information and the same time it can be used as an instrument to impart propaganda.

I believe that mass media since its enormous growth in our daily lives has had a positive impact on the global population as a whole and that further innovations in this field should be encouraged. Mass media has brought us closer and allows for the sharing of ideas with unprecedented freedom of expression, and therefore makes it a instrument that is vital to the growth of the global population. On the other hand recent events such as fake news on media outlets such as Facebook has given light to additional concerns regarding social media and mass media communication and I believe it prudent to focus on media ethics in light of such circumstances.

Work Cited:

International Journal Of Communication ( 19328036); 2010, Vol. 4. 2. Interdependence in Media Economics: Ethical Implications of the Economic Characteristics of News. By: Martin, Hugh J.; Souder, Lawrence.

Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Apr­ Sep 2009, Vol. 24 Issue ⅔. 3. Open Ethics: Implications of News Media Platforms for Global Ethical Discourse. By” Ward, Stephen J. A.;Wesserman, Herman. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Oct­Dec2010, Vol.25 Issue 4. 4.

Examining the Political Implications of Audience Selectivity in the Multi­channel Media Environment. Conference Papers ­­ International Communication Association, 2011 Annual Meeting.

Journalistic Ethics And Safety Of Media Practitioners In Pakistan

(Additional thoughts forth coming)

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