Libel and Ethics
Ethics are of the utmost importance for a journalist. Ethics are the social currency journalists use to get sources to trust them. Without a strong set of ethics, you will fail as a journalist.
Libel is defamation in the form of writing. People can often sue on the grounds of libel, but winning such a suit is complicated. The person suing must first prove malicious intent. Then he must prove the “libelous material” harmed him in some way (ex: lose of money due decreased business). Libel should not be confused with slander, which is spoken. Regardless, though, the best defense in a libel case is the truth. If it is damage but true, that’s OK. You can’t sue someone for telling the truth. Ethics and libel go hand-in-hand. If you have poor ethics, you are more likely to libel someone.
- What are the consequences of falsifying sources or stories?
- How is credibility of journalists affected in the eyes of readers when information is false?
- What are the steps in determining libel?
- How reliable is the newspaper?
- How reliable should it be?
- Can you believe everything you see on televised news broadcasts?
- Should you believe everything you hear on the radio?
- How do journalistic ethics apply to the Internet?
- How effective are journalists in policing unethical activity among themselves? How effective are they compared to other professionals in medicine or law?
- Should American journalists be imprisoned for false reportage?
Critical Engagement Questions
- When is it appropriate for a journalist to be less than truthful?
- What effect does false reporting have on readers, viewers, listeners?
- How can a student journalist safeguard the truth?
- Is it ethical for student newspapers to publish gossip columns? Letters to the editor? Horoscopes?
- What methods can students develop to avoid using questionable information from the Internet?
Discuss the Essential Questions and the Critical Engagement Questions. As a group, come up with answers to each of them.