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Ethics in Entertainment Journalism Research Paper

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Updated: May 21st, 2020


Entertainment journalism, as the name suggests, refers to the category of journalism whose major products are of the entertainment nature. The entertainment journalism industry includes television, music journalism, video game journalism, and celebrity coverage and film criticism.

Music journalism is meant to criticize the music as relayed to the public by means of reporting, holding discussions, carrying out evaluation, and attempting to interpret music and its performance as an element of entertainment. The other forms of entertainment journalism are as well concerned with the reporting, discussing and evaluating those particular forms of entertainment.

The entertainment industry, like any other, has or is supposed to have standard practices and ethics to help streamline the profession. Adherence to and observance of ethics in any profession are measures to ensure that activities and processes of the particular industry are regulated for the effectiveness of the participants in relation to fair treatment of customers.

There have, however, been questions about a number of issues and cases relating to ethical values that has led to the impression of lack of ethical values in the entertainment journalism. This paper seeks to establish if there exists lack of ethical standards in the entertainment journalism.

The paper will look at ethical values as defined in the industry and as well discuss issues and cases in the industry that seemingly undermines these ethical standards. By looking at how personalities are covered in the media, the paper will attempt to identify or qualify the view that the entertainment journalism undermines ethical values in the business.

Ethical Values in Entertainment Journalism

Journalism seeks to provide information to the pubic regarding arising issues in the society. The purpose of journalism is and has always been to provide knowledge to the public so as to help people make decisions that are informed from current events. Standards and ethics are supposed to ensure that the exact objective of journalism is achieved.

However, issues are being raised and the public is coming to a conclusion that the ethical values are being sidelined and the journalism in general is loosing out in achieving its objectives. One of the problems that undermine the media’s aim to create a discursive and analytical criticism on the emerging contemporary issues in the society has been attributed to the media industry itself.

The increased investments in the entertainment journalism and the increased technology in terms of internet communications have negatively affected journalism in general and even entertainment journalism in particular.

The felt effects of this phenomenon are the infiltration of the industry with a lot of information and data paying no attention to the main objective of providing a discursive and analytical approach to the information provided. This has reduced the value of journalism since the information or rather data offered to the public do not carry an effective impact on the society.

This has also in a way threatens to further infiltrate the entertainment journalism as people seek to rise up and fill the missing link. Some of these people not trained professionals and hence the ethical values, some of which are acquired in professional training continue to fade (Brown, n.d.).

Reporting the Truth

One of the ethical values that are supposed to be observed in journalism is identifying and reporting information that is true and correct. According to society of professional journalists, journalists are supposed to be “honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information” (SPJ, 2011, p. 1). One of the responsibilities of a journalist is to ensure that the information provided to the public is accurate.

A journalist is expected to critically test and ensure that the sources of information used in the production are reliable and accurate. The accuracy of the information can be determined from two levels.

The first level is the source of the information while the second level is the journalist. In an attempt to protect, cover or even try promoting an entertainment personality, a source of information may prefer to fabricate the information being sort in order to satisfy some personal interests. Sources can also shy away from providing negative information about these personalities for fear of counter accusations or even attacks.

The entertainment journalist can at the same time be carried away by the personalities they are reporting about or by the products of these personalities. Attitude, therefore, comes to play an important factor in the level of truth that an entertainment journalist will report, discuss and analyze about a subject.

A journalist who does not like an entertainment personality for example might be tempted to over criticize the personality or the person’s entertainment products beyond the availed facts. A journalist who, on the other hand, likes a personality might move to protect the person by either, omitting negative elements about the personality, or fabricating good nonexistent information about the person.

In either way, lack of truth in the entertainment journalism, just like in other fields, has negative effects in the development of the industry. It also leads to loss of trust among those who depend on the industry. Journalists, therefore, have the obligation to ensuring that sources of information are clearly and carefully identified to eliminate chances of personal interests in the representations of information (SPJ, 2011).


Another value that is expected of a journalist is the independence from aspects that can induce impartiality in the course of journalism. Apart from that of the general public, a journalist should not submit to any external pressure that could affect judgment of the representation of facts reported.

Journalism, entertainment journalism inclusive, requires some sense of “integrity and credibility” among its audience and a journalist has to maintain this confidence by not expressing any allegiance to any party, save for the public interest. A journalist for this manner should not be in direct association with any subject party to the entertainment scrutiny.

Receipts of gifts and offers from such parties should as well be rejected by the journalists. The independence of the journalists further requires them not to accept “secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in the community” (SPJ, 2011, p. 1) as steps to uphold media integrity.

If at all a journalist finds himself or herself in any unavoidable ethical breach leading to conflict of interest, then such must be disclosed to at least help the public understand that it was not intentional.

The aspect of independence among journalists ensures accountability among the entertainment personalities as it ensures that any unsatisfactory conduct or entertainment representation is criticized. As the journalists avoid receipts from the personalities to uphold independence, they also must not make such offers to potential sources of information (SPJ, 2011).


This is another value that should be observed among the entertainment journalists. Whether in the print media or in the television presentations, the entertainment journalist must ensure “accountability to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other” (SPJ, 2011, p. 1).

This accountability is enhanced by enlisting the participation of the public in the industry as well as taking responsibilities over mistake done by the same journalists (SPJ, 2011)

Respect over Subjects

Respect of individuals and personalities is another critical value of a journalist. However much information is needed for the public, it must not be forgotten that people also have rights to be protected such as the right to privacy. In attempt to achieve a mutual co existence with the society, the journalists have the obligation to compassionately interact with the society in response to issues like calamities.

The media is also restricted from causing any form of harm to the public either to individuals or to a society as a whole. Information should be represented within a mutual balance between the welfare of the public and that of the entertainment personalities (SPJ, 2011)

According to the New York Times Company, journalists are expected to abide by the law in their course of duty. Cases of journalists breaking into people’s premises to obtain information are therefore not acceptable. The journalists are further not allowed to gain unlawful access to private information.

Such modes of unlawful access include tapping communications, invading people’s stored information among other unlawful means. The privileges of press cards and other authorizations that relates to journalism should also be strictly used for the intended purpose.

The journalists in the entertainment field are further not allowed to assist other people to “develop market or promote artistic, literacy or other creative ventures” (New York Times, 2010, p. 1). The journalists are at the same time prohibited from such activities like to “introduce artists to agents, producers or galleries” (New York Times, 2010, p. 1).

Further requirements are put to ensure that the journalists don’t use as resources informal works that have not yet been officially published. A journalist is also not supposed to report on any company or party with whom he or she has direct dealings or relations (New York Times, 2010, p. 1).

Other media institution also requires their journalists to generally avoid engagements that offer direct competition to their employer media company. The direct competition could arise from a journalist’s collaboration with another media organization at the time of contract with a different media group. Any form of freelancing must also be permitted by the employing media company (NPR, 2011).

Issues and Cases: Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen is a well known actor in the American film industry. His father was an actor and he seemingly took the trade after his father. Sheen fully came to the lame light through the film called “Oliver stone” in the year 1986. He has since been a prominent figure subject to the scrutiny of the media (Biography, 2011).

An article, for example, was published in March, 2011 with the title, “Charlie Sheen vs. Chuck Lore” by Allen Floyd (Allen, 2011). Allen (2011) started the article by describing Sheen as having an anger that is similar to “a Hawaiian dormant volcano that was triggered by the magnitude of Japan quake” (Allen, 2011, p. 1).

In the article, Sheen is accused of loosing control of his temper that saw him trigger the loss of jobs to many people as well as his then salary which was and is still the highest amount ever paid to an actor in the television field. Charlie had called off a show which was scheduled to take place in October, 2010.

This move according to Allen (2011) caused the producers money in terms of millions of dollars. Charlie is quoted to have expressed his anger in public by using harsh terms and words against the producer of the show that had previously been canceled. After the august incident, a termination letter was addressed to Charlie and the harsh reactions were an online conversation with a correspondent of a radio station.

The article, however, gives the details of what Charlie said and only a perception of what the opponent ought to have said in response to the whole series of events. Analysis was then done over the two characters, Charlie and Chuck to categorize Charlie as a weak opponent in a fight (Allen, 2011).

Allen (2011) gives a captivating title of an attempt to show or to let the reader determine who is right in the conflict between Charlie and the producing company. A show is cancelled by Charlie and then later, a letter terminating the contract between Charlie and the producers is delivered to Charlie.

Charlie is offended and expresses his anger in public. This gives Allen (2011) a reliable source to discuss and possibly criticize Charlie. But Allen (2011) does not discuss what led to Charlie calling off the show. He also does not discuss the circumstances involved in the conflict and the legal implications on both parties.

He therefore lacks a reliable source of information to pass a judgment on who is “David” and who is “Goliath” in the battle as he probably don’t understand the legal implication. He therefore risks his credibility and that of his company on the ground of not using sufficient sources as well as not expressing the truth of the story. This may be particularly true if the producers breached a term to the contract leading to Charlie’s action.

The two insufficiencies in information could lead to Allen’s (2011) statement of Charlie being a weak opponent in the legal battle to be false and considered as looking down upon Charlie. The ethics of reporting absolute truth and respect to subjects will then be put to question. Credibility and trust of Allen (2011) could also be questioned if events turn out to be otherwise (Plaisance, 2008).

As Miguel Perez (2010) expresses it, the media is being impartial and discriminative in handling its criticism. Miguel reports that civil rights organizations have rose to task and questioned the intentions that the media has in its continued criticism of Charlie Sheen. According to the groups, Charlie is a victim of what they term unfair criticism because of his Latino descent.

David Valdez, a member of Take Back Azlan, one of the civil rights groups claims that such unfair treatments by the media are a common occurrence among the Latinos. Valdes believes that whites are given a different treatment when it comes to media criticism. He further claimed that many Latin actors are reporting this unfair treatment from the media.

If the claims by the civil rights organizations are true, then there is a great deal to worry about. This would be considered as discrimination which is legally unacceptable (Perez, 2011). Discrimination on its own elements undermines human dignity. Subjecting people to different treatment is a form of degradation to the undermined parties.

In according actors different treatments as pertains to criticism is a direct expression of discrimination that undermines human dignity. This, according to Ward Stephen (2011), is in breach of global media ethics. Ward (2010) explains that such unfair criticism amounts to the definition of undermined human dignity with respect discrimination (Ward, 2010).

In another article by AAyles (2011) titled “Charlie Sheen news:porn star recounts shocking cocaine-fuelled night”, a story is aired about Sheen, disclosing some very personal information. In the article dated January 2011, a media group covers a story about Charlie when he is still in serious health condition. A third party gives information about Charlie’s association with drugs like cocaine and alcoholic drinks.

The lady who addressed the journalists was a mere friend, not even a relative, and probably the media was not interested in the nature of their friendship or whether the lady just had vested interest in destroying the reputation of Charlie. Charlie’s associates at the same time were in fact giving contrary information as to the cause of Charlie’s hospitalization (AAyles, 2011).

According to Pattyn and Network (2000), the definition of privacy includes reputation. The media, in this case TMZ, are busy collecting information about Charlie and they are using an external source. The information which they took, and which was probably used by AAyles (2011), turns out to be harmful to Charlie’s reputation in the sense of the narcotics involved.

The information can also be considered as harmful to Charlie’s reputation owing to the fact that his team, probably lawyers and family took the task to defend him against issues of the drugs issues.

In the view of Pattyn’s definition, TMZ, can upon the dissemination of the information they received from the so called friend to Charlie be considered to have infringed Charlie’s right to privacy thereby compromising the ethical standard that require journalists to respect people’s privacy subject to rules of law. Pattyn and co defines privacy to not only include intruding into somebody’s affair, but also on a person’s information.

The information about usage of cocaine by Charlie, if at all it was true, had at the moment not been revealed to the public by Charlie himself or any other person responsible for him like his lawyer or his family member. Access to such information could therefore be considered as infringement of his privacy, an act contrary to ethics of journalism (Pattyn & Network, 2000)

A report of Charlie’s mother reacting to accusations over her son also gives an avenue to evaluate the media in terms of its ethics. An article by Newscore in March 2011 describes an instance in which Charlie Sheen’s mother reacted negatively to towards comments made over Charlie. In the article, Janet’s reaction was prompted by the claim that Charlie’s wife “was a victim of “Sheen’s bad boy behavior” (Newscore, 2011).

The accusation by Donald against Charlie in the public domain are also elements of infringement of privacy and should be kept off the media unless they are brought forward by a person that is entitled to the responsibility of Charlie.

In her statement, Charlie’s mother states that they had not used the media concerning the issue, an indication that Donald’s remarks were not reactions to issues presented by Charlie to the media but primarily presented either by Donald or some other external parties (Newscore, 2011).

Charlie may have been a celebrity but he is not a public officer. For this reason, he has a great deal of privacy protected by law and ought to be respected by the media fraternity. The media is expected to respect and honor people’s reputation and to otherwise restrain from tainting reputations (Farkoosh et al., 2009).

Issues and Cases: Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan is an American an actress. Besides acting, Lindsay also sings pop music and is in addition a model. Lindsay started her profession in modeling but later developed into an outstanding actress. Her acting career was however hauled by an accident and moments in rehabilitation centers before picking up again.

The media, in its entertainment journalism has as well been up for every bit of events In Lindsay Lohan’s life. The daily mail for example published an article about Lohan on twenty fifth March, 2011. It the article title “the legal woes just keep on coming: DA kicks off investigation into Lindsay Lohan’s criminal battery case” (Daily Mail, 2011, p.1).

According to the article’s report, the authorities had commenced investigations into the allegations to determine who among Lindsay and the other party offended the other. The article also explains that the authorities were keen to know whether or not the witnesses to the alleged incident of assault were willing to help during the investigation and on trial.

The daily mail, however, noted that the witnesses were not decided on whether or not they would cooperate with the authorities if called upon. The person who accused Lindsay, however, withdrew the charge though the authorities still insisted on continuing with investigation. Daily mail describes the events of the assault incident as explained by Holland, the lady who accused Lindsay of attacking her (Daily Mail, 2011).

A view of this article on Lindsay seems credible. Details are given about the authorities and even the witnesses. No assumptions are made as every aspect of the daily mail as regards this article seems to be detailed. In a way, the daily mail has ensured that this article is made of facts and is built on a great deal of credibility. No room is left to reveal any assumption by the writer.

To the extent of this particular article, the opinion that ethical values and standards were upheld by the writer can be concluded (Daily Mail, 2011). In another article, Milberger, Murphy & Ayala (2011) wrote about “Lindsay Lohan rejects plea deal, faces trial” (Milberger, Murphy & Ayala, 2011, p. 1). The article described the accusations made against Lindsay over jewelry theft.

According to the article, an offer was made to Lindsay but she declined and opted for a formal trial. The judge is reported to have been clear with Lindsay that in the event that the case was settled in the court, then the judge would opt for a jail term for Lindsay.

In clarity of the facts, the journalists indicated in the article that the offered deal was not made public and they only reported established facts that were laid down in court and a possibility of jail term that they probably got from court precedents. Quotes from specialists are included to support the discussions giving it the desired credibility and level of truth.

A legal analyst is for example quoted to have said that “she (Lindsay)’s really rolling the dice here because she has a lunched-in-guaranteed good deal” and “that she has a set limited amount of time under sixty days in a county jail” (Milberger, Murphy & Ayala, 2011, p. 1).

Lindsay’s reaction to defend her self from accusation made, not by the journalists but by the accusing party in the subject alleged assault, is also reflected in the discussion by the journalists. Through her lawyer, Lindsay is reported to have maintained her innocence giving her own version of what happened.

In this view, the article is developed from visibly reliable resources who are Lindsay herself, her accuser, her lawyer, legal experts as well as the authorities investigating her case.

Again aspects of ethics are evidently observed as elements of truth, credibility and restraint to provided information are observed by the journalists. A circumstance under which ethics is observed in the entertainment journalism is again noted (Milberger, Murphy & Ayala, 2011).

A look at another review of Lindsay Lohan under the entertainment journalism covers the story about her jail sentence. In the article posted by the US magazine in July 2010, a brief discussion is made about the events in the court room when Lindsay was sentenced. The details of the sentence are discussed in terms of the period that the judge had prescribed for Lohan.

The nature of the expected manner in which she was to be handled is also discussed subject to the information provided by a sheriff department spokesman at that time. The possibility of Lindsay serving a shorter term was also discussed in the article subject to the statements made by the same spokesperson. A similar trend in the media professionalism is realized just like in the previously discussed articles written about Lindsay Lohan.

No unnecessary negative assumptions are made in the report about Lindsay’s sentence. The entertainment journalist or may be journalists who wrote the article assumed a neutral role of discussing the facts just as they were expressed from the sources which were the courts and the sheriff’s spokesperson.

The review does not further go into Lindsey’s private life other than the court case and sentence which was the subject of the review. One more time, the entertainment journalists who participated in this article are seen to be relying on ethical values like sticking to the truth and respecting people’s reputation as well as relying on reliable sources. This is a good indication of disciplined media industry (US magazine, 2010).

Another critical article written about Lindsay is the “Lindsay Lohan’s inner circle fears for her life” (Friedman, 2OO7, p. 1). In the article, Friedman stated that people close to Lindsay had confided to him that the behavior of Lohan’s parents was not the only reason to the problems that were facing Lindsay.

Friedman (2007) continued to blame some personalities for leading the young actress into drugs specifically because he felt that these people were older and more responsible to control their use of drugs yet they lured the young girl into the vice and neglected to help her when she was running down her life. However, throughout his article, Friedman (2007) continually refers to what he calls “my source”.

He by this gives an expression of credibility to the information he is giving the readers besides his illustration. In consistency with the previous articles about Lindsay, caution is taken to avoid getting into Lindsey’s privacy save for the issue of drugs which was the subject and was further in the public domain.

It is again notable that restraint is observed to comply with the ethical values and standards previously discussed (Friedman, 2007).

Justin Bieber

Justine Bieber is an actor, a singer and a song writer. Born in the year 1994, he met Scooter Braun, who later became his manager, through you tube. Justin is a Canadian citizen who has been trading his talent in the United States since he started working with Braun.

Justin has since produced some fine products which have been rated among best songs in the United States, Canada as well as in the whole world. His first hit song “one time” was produced in the year 2009 and was significantly noticed in his native country, Canada. He has since released other heat songs.

The media scrutiny has not spared Justin Bieber. A number of articles are often published about the teen age supper star. An article was published in by MSN news on thirteenth of March, 2011 about Justin Bieber. The article had the title, “Justin Bieber has a wardrobe malfunction on stage” (MSN News, 2011, p. 1).

According to the article, Justin Bieber had “an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction in front of a house-full crowd” during a concert (MSN News, 2011, p. 1). It is reported that Justin went to stage forgetting to zip “his pants”. For about two hours, Justin made his performance to the eleven thousand people crowd: singing and dancing while oblivious of the fact that his zip was down.

Not withstanding the fact that the journalists have to do their job of reporting, discussing and reviewing what happens, one might be tempted to think that some things should not be covered by the media. One can agree that at one moment or another, people including the journalists forget some simple things and make mistakes.

The provision of information according to media ethics is to help the public make some informed decisions. The criticisms on the entertainment personalities should at least be geared to their products or even aspects of their lives that are related to the products that the personalities offer to the public.

Criticisms at very personal levels, especially for a person whose life and income solely depends on popularity of his products and himself, are supposed to be fair to the extent of considering the possible harm that could be caused to the reputation of the individual.

Considering the status of Bieber, as a young teenager, the media should move to protect him in the sense that he might not be emotionally and psychologically mature to withstand some form of embarrassment. In publishing the “unzipped pants” during the Justin’s concert, there could be a high chance of psychological harm to the young boy due to embarrassment.

Under normal circumstances, Justine could have been too embarrassed by the publication of the incident to stand before a large audience again. Or worse still, the publication could have represented Justine as an immoral personality, could have a negative impact on his fans some of whom are still under authorities of their parents. The publication, though not fabricated, carried a possibility of causing harm to the young boy.

The harm could have been diverse ranging from killing the talent in Justine through psychological torture all the way to inflicting his financial capacity in terms of the negativity that could be developed among his fans.

Since the incident was not in the public interest, especially because it was not established to have been intentional neither is it reported to have been a repeated occurrence, the media ought to have taken more consideration of the possible harm that the publication could have caused to Justin Bieber.

This is because it is expected of the media to exercise restraint from causing any form of harm to subjects, whether individuals like Justin or groups like societies (MSN News, 2011).

“Selena Gomez upset with death threats due to dating Justin Bieber” (Staff, 2011, p. 1) was an article published in the “eCanada now” on the eighteenth March of the year 2011. In the article recorded to have been posted by “staff”, the author or may be authors began their article as “once again rumor mills and gossip benches” (Staff, 2011, p. 1).

The article went on to talk about Justin and Gomez, the alleged girlfriend, being seen together in a party. The two, according to the article were seen entering the party in a jovial mood but then came out not quite happy. Staff explains that Gomez tried to hide something on her lip and the article then relies on imaginations to explain what could have caused the red spot on Gomez.

Thus far, the article was concluded and the readers are left wondering what the death threat could have been and who could have issued the threat. The two, Justine and Gomez, leaving the place “not so happy” could have been caused by a number of reasons. May be they didn’t like the place or they disagreed over something.

Still there could be many other reasons including one party failing to meet another’s expectations during the concert. It would also be judgmental to conclude that the two were not happy. People don’t always have to be yelling and shouting to express their happiness.

Besides, when people are tired or exhausted, they tend to withdraw their emotional expressions unless they want to make an artificial show to the media and other interested parties. There is therefore no concrete indication that Justine and Gomez were not happy when they were leaving the concert, apart from the facial expressions that could have been attributed to several other factors (Staff, 2011).

Even if the two were not happy, there is no indication in the article that this was caused by threats to Gomez. The red spot on her lip, if the writer actually saw it and was sure that the spot was not on Gomez’s lips when she entered the venue, could have been caused by a number of reasons as well.

She might have forgotten to wipe her lip after eating some colored food. No mention of the death threat carried out in the title is made in the article. It either never occurred or like the writer said; it was part of rumor and gossip. The writer, as it seems, imagined a topic to write about but never had the sources to work with.

Or worse still, the writer expressed an imaginative essay of what could be happening around the life Justine Bieber. In view to media ethics, the writer is not discussing the issues in the article from reliable sources.

The issues being raised like being unhappy and the red spot are neither of general knowledge nor resourced but based on rumor. The articled therefore lacks the standard and value of employing reliable sources in the journalism profession. The fact that rumor is the basis of the article further raises doubt over the truth and credibility of the whole article.

Rumors can be created and spread by people and they are not necessarily true. The captivating title of the article also bears no reflection at all to the discussion in the article. The writer, Staff, fails to account for the death threat that the article title claimed. No account or even reference is made to a death threat in the article.

This further raised doubts over the knowledge of the writer over his or her article. It as a result puts questions over the credibility of the articles written with regard to the contents of the article. The end result of this loss of credibility could be loss of audience to the particular producers and publishers of such reviews (Staff, 2011).

Chris Brown

Another personality in the entertainment arena who has not eluded the critical entertainment journalism is Chris Brown. In an article by Judy Kurtz, Chris Brown is described as a fallen star. In the article, Judy gives her opinion of what Chris Brown’s album title F.A.M.E. should mean (forget about my error).

Judy expresses Brown as an erroneous man for assaulting his girlfriend and indicates that Brown is loosing fans because of the assault incident. In the article, Judy gives details of another event in which Brown overreacted.

During an interview by Roberts of ABC TV, Brown was asked about his former girlfriend, Rihana. On leaving the studio, Brown was overtaken by emotions and “stripped off his shirt” leaving it within the studio. Judy reports that Brown also broke a window in the process. The writer remains skeptical about Brown’s apology over the incident and concludes that Brown ought to have grown up.

Judy in her article seems to have relied on the details provided by ABC studio as well as Brown’s apology. Her article is seen to have factored in a number of standards and values of an ethical journalist though her criticism is characterized by a lot of personalized negativity towards Brown, may be because Brown had assaulted a woman (Kurtz, 2011).


The considered reviews of articles by a section of entertainment journalists and in relation to the discussed ethics of the entertainment journalism and of media as a whole gives a significant notice of journalists going beyond ethics to undermine values like privacy, credibility, reliability of resources and restraint to cause harm among others.

The media to an extent can be seen to be impartial in exercising ethics in the profession. Though the discussed reviews of entertainment journalism were randomly chosen, it can be noted that to extreme extent, journalism ethics were questionable in the reviews about Charlie Seen and almost extremely perfect in the articles about Lindsay.

It can therefore be concluded that the lack of ethical standards in the entertainment journalism is significant and the vice is applied discriminatively.


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