A common element that different companies have across the board is a code of ethics. Not only do they have these codes of ethics, but they enforce them as best they can. From mass media to public relations, every kind of company has a code of ethics. Mass media has used codes of ethics for nearly 100 years. There have been arguments on if media should have a code of ethics. Michael Dorsher and David Gordon argue in Chapter 5 about these codes of ethics and how they fit in with mass media. Dorsher “argues that codes are too general and too idealistic to be useful in dealing with real-world” (Gordon 167). On the other side of the argument, Gordon then argues that ethics is beneficial for both mass media and society (Gordon 167).
Gordon begins the chapter arguments by verifying that codes of ethics cannot be enforced unless the company makes them something to live by. Codes have different implications and there are reasons that they are being used. One way is that they need to make sure that their employees actions will not harm the company. There are laws that pertain to business. If employees break a law, even without the company’s approval, the company can still be liable for that employees mistake. For our society’s sake, “codes may provide standards and guidelines that help the public discuss, debate, and measure media performance, and assist it in articulating reasonable demands and criticism of the news, persuasive, and entertainment media” (168). Gordon also states that codes of ethics is provided as “a reference point that can be invoked to protect media workers from pressures within their own organizations intended to force them to violate their own consciences” (169). These codes need to be written down, this way they can also help someone new to moral reasoning by giving them helpful tips to working ethically in their field of work. It also allows people to refer back to them and discuss their responsibilities in the media (Gordon 169).
Gordon states “It is certainly true that codes of ethics cannot be Kantian in their approach- that is, they can’t be written to apply without exception or to cover every possible situation where a media ethics issue may arise, given human ingenuity in creating unique dilemmas” (172). Obviously a company cannot give employees a code of ethics that will tell them what to do every turn they take. A lot of times, especially in the media, it is a judgment call on the reporter, then it is up to the editor to print it or get rid of it. Later in this section, Gordon states, “Ethics, by its nature, deals with what “should” happen rather than with what “must” happen according to the law” (172). This speaks volumes. Some things will fall through the cracks.
A problem that could arise with codes of ethics is the generalized ethics used, along with the vague statements used. By clearly stating what the company needs to happen, a company can avoid those gray areas and avoid issues. Gordon talks about how ethics is...