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The Connections between the MEAA Code of Ethics and Three Philosophical Traditions Essay

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Updated: Oct 27th, 2019

The MEAA code of ethics is based upon the traditional concepts of moral theories. The main concepts of the social contract theory, the utilitarian theory and the virtue theory can be used or explaining the main principles of the journalist professional code and providing a deeper insight into its basic aspects, namely truth telling, respecting the human dignity and the interests of others and taking the responsibility for the outcome of professional activity.

The social contract theory which was developed by Thomas Hobbes in his work The Leviathan in 1651 justifies the existence of government as a means of protecting the community from the destruction caused by the natural conflicts of interests.

Comparing the government to a mythological sea creature, Hobbes and his followers claim that in the primitive condition defined as the state of nature, humans would quarrel and destroy the whole world.[1] Every member of the community has to follow the rules outlined in the social contract for preventing the disaster and securing their survival.

The principles of the social contract theory can be applied for explaining the principle of MEAA code of ethics which obliges journalists to disclose the conflicts of interests which can affect the accuracy of their professional activity.[2] Hobbes’ explanation of the basic ethical forms as the necessary means for preserving the peaceful coexistence of all individuals is relevant to the journalists’ ethical code because of their professional role in the community.

The utilitarian moral theory which was formulated by Bentham and presented in his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation in 1789 evaluates every human action through determining the usefulness of its outcome. Using the rationale for evaluating the moral actions through measuring the pleasures and pains cause by them, this theory is also known as the utilitarian calculus.[3] Bentham’s theory was criticized as Godless and skeptical because of its rejection of more traditional moral principles.

The mechanism of the utilitarian calculus can be used for complying with the principle of MEAA code of ethics which says that journalists should not exploit people’s ignorance of the media practice.[4] Thus, in every individual situation, journalists should evaluate the possible outcomes of their professional activities, taking into account all the pleasures and pains caused by their professional to all the sides of the process.

The virtue theory can be regarded as one of the oldest with its roots going to the ancient Greek philosophy, for example, Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Rex, showing the negative consequences of the main character’s moral decay. The virtue theory was developed by Aristotle, particularly in his work The Nichomachean Ethics in which he defines the main eleven virtues as the means for controlling the human desires and avoiding the negative effects of going to the extremes.[5]

Treating the moral virtue as the central concept of ethics, Aristotle explains its value for defining and avoiding the hazards of excess or deficiency of certain qualities. The virtue theory can be applied for explaining the importance of the principle of fair correction of errors as a method of continuing self-improvement and development of virtue qualities and achieving the end goal of happiness.[6]

The principles of truth telling, showing respect for human dignity, treating other people’s interests equally to your own and selecting the responsible means for obtaining and using the materials as the main underpins of journalistic ethical code can be explained through the implementation of the main concepts of the three above-mentioned moral theories. Thus, the social contract theory would explain the importance of truth-telling in terms of observing one of the conditions of the agreement and preventing the conflicts.

The utilitarian theory allows using the utilitarian calculus for measuring the pains and pleasures of using the verified and trustful information in every individual situation. According to the virtue theory, truth telling can be defined as a moral virtue itself which is important for the journalist’s spiritual growth and approaching his/her personal happiness as the end goal of every person’s existence.

The aspect of showing the respect for human dignity can be justified by the basic principles of the moral theories. Thus, in terms of the social contract theory, this principle can be interpreted as an obligatory condition required for fulfilling he professional functions without offending somebody’s feelings and consequently preventing the possible conflicts.

The utilitarian approach can be used for explaining the benefits of showing the respect for the dignity of others, including the colleagues, interviewees and participants of journalist surveys. Measuring the benefits of preserving good relationship and doing no harm against the reduction of the chances to capture the audience’s attention and bearing in mind the above-mentioned aspect of telling the truth, professionals will be able to improve the outcome of their activities and find the moral justification for their decisions.[7]

The virtue theory would explain the importance of respecting human dignity as one of the moral virtues required for not going into the extremes of hurting somebody’s dignity or overemphasizing the role of the respondents’ feelings in case if telling the truth would hurt them to certain extent.

The aspect of treating the interests of other people equally with their own is important for complying with the journalist ethical code and celebrating the moral values in professional experience. The social contract theory would view this principle as the necessary condition for ensuring the peaceful interaction of journalists with their colleagues, employers and the community in general. For example, plagiarizing and distorting the facts for the purpose of receiving the gains at the expense of others is inadmissible for the journalist professionals.

The utilitarian theory allows evaluating the positive and negative consequences of making a concrete professional decision, taking into account the significance of treating the others’ interests equal to their own. The virtue theory would define account of the interests of other members of the community as the virtue of altruism required for making the professional activity a part of the overall life strategy for achieving the primary goal of happiness.

The aspect of taking the responsibility for the effects of professional activity by implementing the most appropriate strategies can be justified by the moral theories. Hobbes’ social contract theory would explain this aspect with the importance of predicting the consequences of one’s actions for minimizing the risks of conflicts and preserving the peaceful coexistence of the community members through their collaborative efforts.

The utilitarian theory allows weighing all pros and cons of implementing the fair and honest methods in every individual situation. However, the results achieved from the utilitarian calculus will not diminish the importance of following this principle of the ethical code, but rather would provide the rationale for acting in accordance with the code. Regarding the virtue theory, it would appraise fair methods as the only possible way of achieving success in not only professional domain but also personal development.

In general, it can be concluded that the traditional concepts of moral theories are preserved in the journalist ethical code, and the social contract, utilitarian and virtue theory can be applied for explaining the importance and benefits of ethical conduct in professional environment.

Reference List

Fieser, J 2001, Moral philosophy through the ages, Mayfield Publishing Company, Mountain View.

Rachels, J & Rachels S 2006, The elements of moral philosophy, McGraw-Hill, New York.

Research Journalism, . Web.

Footnotes

  1. Fieser, J 2001, Moral philosophy through the ages, Mayfield Publishing Company, Mountain View, 94.
  2. Research Journalism n.d., MEAA code of ethics,
  3. Fieser, 194.
  4. MEAA code of ethics
  5. Fieser, 36.
  6. MEAA code of ethics
  7. Rachels, J & Rachels S 2006, The elements of moral philosophy, McGraw-Hill, New York, 147.
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IvyPanda. "The Connections between the MEAA Code of Ethics and Three Philosophical Traditions." October 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-connections-between-the-meaa-code-of-ethics-and-three-philosophical-traditions/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The Connections between the MEAA Code of Ethics and Three Philosophical Traditions." October 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-connections-between-the-meaa-code-of-ethics-and-three-philosophical-traditions/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'The Connections between the MEAA Code of Ethics and Three Philosophical Traditions'. 27 October.

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