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Creating a Networked System of Global Media Ethics: A 35th Anniversary Report of the Carol Burnett Fund for Responsible Journalism

Carol Burnett - 1974Photo of Carol Burnett, 1974, Photographer UnknownBY ANN AUMAN 

Stephen Ward’s Carol Burnett lecture at the University of Hawaiʻi on April 6, 2016 was a reality check of the challenges of doing global media ethics. But it also provided a framework on which to build an ecology of global media ethics, enriched by cultural values in a networked system of Global Media Ethics (GME).

The goal of pacificmediaethics.org is to extend the work of Dr. Stephen Ward and others who are exploring this area by focusing on journalism in Pacific and Pacific Rim countries. Other scholars are invited to join the discussion.

It’s enough of a challenge to practice media ethics in Western democracies; so what happens “when your stories go across borders and spark riots?” asks Ward. Western codes of ethics were constructed for journalism that was not global, and serving the public meant serving one nation or even smaller groups classified by region or even gender. Nationalism was an implicit understanding in those codes. “Journalism ethics says little about journalism that goes across borders.” Is the code you follow pertinent when we should be mending differences and helping people understand each other? In fact, probably all your code does is talk about freedom of expression.

I have asked my own ethics students the same question about “doing journalism in Hawaiʻi” but framed it a little differently: What happens when your stories go across cultures and create a “culture clash”? What values are important in Hawaiʻi, and how do we incorporate those values while honoring local culture and producing journalism in our islands and in other Pacific and Pacific Rim cultures? For example, how can journalists balance the Hawaiian value of pono (to be righteous; harmonious) while at the same time acting as the “watchdog” in for the community?

Dr. Ward suggests that journalists should develop a global mindset and embrace cosmopolitanism. Stories have a global reach, so journalists should employ this mindset when reporting on global issues such as human rights, immigration and climate change. Our journalism codes offer no guidance on how to embrace the challenges of culture and nationalism, to name just two influences in the ecology of GME.

Perhaps we should do more to explore cultural values, as suggested by some survey questions in the Worlds of Journalism (Munich) study that assesses the state of journalism in the world (2012-2015). One such question is, “How do journalists embrace relevant cultural values and successfully apply them in daily storytelling?" Yes, there have been some studies done on this, but many more are needed.

Note about the Carol Burnett Fund for Responsible Journalism: The University of Hawaiʻi Journalism Program's long-standing emphasis on ethics and responsibility in journalism was strengthened by a 1981 gift of $100,000 from actress Carol Burnett. Income from this endowment has been used “to support teaching and research designed to further high standards of ethics and professionalism in journalism, and for awards to outstanding students who have demonstrated a strong sense of journalistic responsibility and integrity.” An annual public lecture is part of this program. Please contact the author of this report on procedures for obtaining a recording of the 2016 lecture by Dr. Stephen Ward.

 
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