Make Your Own Ethics

Am I ethical? I answer this question emphatically YES. But any time I think about such complex philosophical questions I immediately ask more questions. For example: What is ethics? How do we determine what is ethical? How are ethics formed?

I’m not turning the original question around to avoid answering it. Nor am I interested in obfuscating the core question. It’s just that when you start discussing such fundamental human issues you MUST take into consideration the complexity of human history and culture. There are a lot of different points of view. We can not just accept one ethical definition. We must analyze many.

Yet we must also consider what context, what frame of reference, we’re discussing these ethics within. The areas I’ve been thinking about recently are blogging, podcasting, citizens and professional journalism. Recently I was asked about my journalistic ethics during a talk about Audio Activism and podcasting. I almost immediately said, “I don’t consider myself a journalist. I consider myself a media activist. I don’t uphold myself to journalistic ethics.”

This was half jokingly answered, “Oh so you don’t have any ethics.” I suppose in the context of this talk among young journalists there is no other set of ethics to consider but journalistic ethics. Thus by disavowing ethics in general did I cast aside the one true ethics for media making? Not really. Just like I’m making my own media I can MAKE MY OWN ETHICS.

Without succumbing to hubris I will say I have strong moral and ethical values. They’re just not the most popular values of our country right now. I refuse to use only one name for my ethics and values. I refuse to adopt only one. I reserve the right to make changes to my ethics when ever I like.

Categories for your personal philosophy or ethics are valuable. It’s hard to deny category. Our brains crave them. We identify culturally and personally with groups that have names. But because of our chaotic world, values with precise names can become corrupted and vague over time. Maybe I am a moral relativist

So here I would like to recommend that all students and professional journalists question “Journalistic Ethics”. If anything this is precisely what blogs and podcasts are helping us do. Many of the ethics journalist hold dear are valuable and important. Do not throw all of them out. Just revaluate and recreate them. Then vow to be more diligent in upholding until serious events compel you to do otherwise. The power of twenty first century media making is one of those times.

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