"Media ethics" merits an entry in A Dictionary of Media and Communication. This new paperback from Oxford University Press marks a handy starting place for policy makers, students and the general public to begin discussing media ethics. The entry offers a definition by description, and neither one of explanation nor one of delimitation.


If you relied on a standard desk dictionary such as Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.), you would have to cobble a definition from entries for "ethics" and "media." The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy has an entry for "business ethics", which can help in exploring business aspects of media ethics. The new Dictionary of Media and Communication Studies (6th ed.) (published by Arnold) provides an entry for "media ethics," which contains no definition as such and sends you to the entry for "ten commandments for media consumers."


You will find the following entry in the new Oxford dictionary: 


media ethics:  Issues of moral principles and values as applied to the conduct, roles, and *content of the *mass media, in particular *journalistic ethics and *advertising ethics;  also the field of study concerned with this topic. In relation to news coverage it includes issues such as *impartiality, *objectivity, *balance, *bias, privacy, and the *public interest. More generally, it also includes *stereotyping, *taste and decency, *obscenity, *freedom of speech, advertising practices such as *product placement, and legal issues such as *defamation. On an institutional level it includes debates over *media ownership and control, *commercialization, accountability, the relation of the media to the political system, issues arising from *regulation (e.g. *censorship) and *deregulation. (An asterisk (*) identifies that it is another entry in this dictionary.)


More than 2,200 entries are provided here, compared to more than 3,000 in The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.  Philosophy seems likely to continue to weigh in heavier than media and communication. Note the worldwide number of departments of philosophy in universities, the smaller number of university departments of media and communication, and be brightened by the existence of a newly made entry—even if it is for a descriptive and not a explanatory or delimiting definition of "media ethics."

Lexicographers Daniel Chandler and Rod Munday are in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television Studies, at Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Wales.


Samuel Johnson wrote of the lexicographer in the preface to A Dictionary of the English Language, "Every other author may aspire to praise; the lexicographer can only hope to escape reproach, and even this negative recompense has been yet granted to very few."


Blackburn, Simon. (2008). The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Chandler, Daniel & Munday, Rod. (2011). A Dictionary of Media and Communication. New York: Oxford University Press.

Johnson, Samuel. (1755). A Dictionary of the English Language. (Facsimile, 1983). London: Times Books.

Mish, Frederick. C. (Ed.). (2003). Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (11th ed.). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.

Watson, James & Hill, Anne. (2003). Dictionary of Media and Communication Studies. (6th ed). London: Arnold.