Understanding Media Ethics


David Sanford Horner

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright


    For Linda, for her loving patience


    How to Use this Book

    This book is for students of the media. Its aim is to promote an understanding of media ethics. In other words, the kinds of moral issues and dilemmas that daily confront media practitioners and policy makers. I take ‘Media Ethics’ to be a species of applied ethics akin to medical ethics, business ethics and computer ethics. Each chapter addresses a single theme in the field of Media Ethics, such as violence or pornography. The chapters are therefore relatively independent one from another and do not necessarily need to be read in the sequence in which they are presented. However, the reader might benefit from reading Chapter 1 on moral judgement as a way into how we ought to approach moral issues and dilemmas that the other chapters explore. Similarly, the concluding chapter presents some more general reflections on the nature and origins of wrong-doing.

    Within the chapters there are a number of features intended to aid the student in getting the most out of the material and in thinking through and making moral judgements on specific topics. Boxes entitled ‘A Judgement Call’ present the student with a moral issue which may be actual or hypothetical but is in need of some resolution. These judgement calls are intended to help students to sharpen their analytical abilities and appreciate the complexities of moral decision making. Material helpful in resolving the dilemmas presented will be found in the adjacent text. Example boxes include specific examples to illustrate general principles, arguments and themes, and Definition boxes define important concepts. Some of these key concepts are repeated throughout the book as an aid to making the chapters relatively autonomous. Key arguments are summarized in the Summary of Arguments boxes.

    Each chapter is accompanied by an article from a journal which is available from Sage. A short introduction, ‘How to Use This Article’, draws attention to the connection between the chapter and the featured article. These articles are intended to take the reader more deeply into the primary literature of Media Ethics. This takes the form of a focus on empirical research relevant to the chapter, or a deeper theoretical interrogation of the material, or a combination of both. In addition to the featured article, there is also guidance on further reading relative to the chapter. Hopefully, these features will contribute to the our general aim of understanding Media Ethics and its implications for media practice.


    I would like to thank the University of Brighton for the support from its sabbatical scheme which helped to get this project off the ground. I would also like to thank the very helpful criticisms of the reviewers of the various drafts of this book. Their insightful contributions have helped to make this a much better performance than it would otherwise have been. The same may also be said about the guidance and support contributed by Mila Steele, my Commissioning Editor at Sage. In addition, I would like to thank particularly Dr Chris Boyne for his collaboration over the many years, during which we co-taught Communication Ethics and subsequently Media Ethics to media students at the University of Brighton. And last, but certainly not least, I want to thank the many cohorts of students whom I have had the pleasure of teaching over the years and from whom I have learned so much. The frailties and the faults of this work are, of course, all my own.

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