Ethics in Online Journalism


Journalism is a profession the aim of which is the unveiling of the truth and presenting facts that have been a subject of discussion for lengthy periods of time. There exists a relationship between journalism and media communications since both disciplines revolve around the process of disseminating facts to various sources which range from individuals to large establishments. As such, reporting becomes celebrated a lot in varied circles. On-line journalism is a type of journalism that accomplishes its tasks virtually. These sphere has been facilitated by the advent of the World Wide Web where various forms of communication like blogs, news sites, and citizen journalism groups have gone hi-tech. It is with the spread of on-line journalism that the question of ethics arises and, as such, forms the foundation of this paper. Real facts can be distorted in on-line journalism with the onset of hastier and actual-time reporting.

In an era where anything gets shared and found virtually, there exists the concerns of whether virtual journalism has compromised the moral rationales set by customary print reporting. Therefore, it becomes imperative to assess whether or not the ethical guidelines of print broadcasting are still being employed, or they work with virtual journalism so as to be capable of evaluating whether there exists a need to make new moral rules for on-line reporting. The following paper analyzes ethics concerns in on-line journalism within the context of the peer-reviewed journal articles listed below. Additionally, the paper offers a detailed literature review concerning the research subject.


Topics Bibliography

  • Akoje, Topic Peremobowei, and Mohd Helmi Abd Rahim. "Development of Journalism Ethics: A Comparative Analysis of Codes of Ethics in Nigeria, United Kingdom, United States of America, India and Russia." Malaysian Journal of Communication, vol. 30, no. 2, 2014.

    Many years have passed, and ethics continues to transform from a personal into a societal issue to become a necessity for numerous professions and establishments. The journal article describes journalism as being familiar with the field of ethics due to its sensitivity. As such, codes of ethics are essential in controlling what is broadcast and reported to facilitate quality and reliability. The article examines media codes of ethics associated with different state journalism bodies. The article further explores the challenges related to establishing sound codes of ethics.

    *I found this journal article on-line by searching for "communication journals on on-line journalism ethics."

  • Kane, Gerand C, "Setting up Digital to Tell Stories to a Global Audience." MIT Sloan Management Review, vol. 57, no.2, 2016.

    In this journal article, the author examines the digital aspect of on-line journalism which translates into storytelling for a universal audience. The article primarily deals with the importance of digital media reporting where certain features come out distinctly, like being responsible for what is spread on-line. The article evaluates the individual nature of going on-line to get information. The MET museum was used as an example in this particular case.. The article merely seeks to define the power behind virtual information access where it has proven that individuals will always opt to use the Internet for access to information.

    *I found this article in the ProQuest database.

  • Villegas, Juan Carlos Suarez. "Ethical and Deontological Aspects of Online Journalism. Their Perception by Journalists." Revista Latina de Communication Social, vol. 70, 2015, pp. 91 – 109.

    The journal article examines the extent to which various ideological, commercial, specialized, scientific, and social features impact reporters’ work in the new professional culture created by digital media. The article further surveys how journalists value the level of impact of such issues in the ethical exercise of journalism. According to Villegas, virtual journalism may be prone to many ethical missteps. Such concerns have been identified as information lacking credibility and reliability due to the significant proportion of individuals accessing the Internet. The article further examines the appropriateness, application, and challenges of ethical codes of conduct in the virtual reporting field.

    *I got the article from RairaRubiaBooks

Literature Review

Morals play a significant part in reporting as they assist in maintaining the appropriate standards and best practices of the field. Journalism ethics codes are created to guide reporters through their daily encounters with ethical impasses in the event of discharging methods to establish the similarities and differences in codes of ethics as promulgated in their roles (Akoje and Rahim). The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) in their code of ethics states the four key rules, namely searching for the truth and reporting it, reducing harm, acting freely, and being responsible. Traditional reporting has been adhering to the guidelines for years, but with the onset of virtual journalism such commitment is harder to fulfill (Hulin and Stone n.p.). The rise of virtual journalism has been pbeserved of late and has consequently affected traditional reporting. Virtual reporting is both ubiquitous and significantly cheaper. The last factor can be explained by on-line journalism mainly concentrating on who breaks the story first and not the credibility or accuracy of such (Akoje and Rahim).

Journalists claim that moral rules are necessary due to the services they offer to the public and for reporters to attain some independence. The issue facing the media and the field of reporting represents how to describe the expert niche as if it were opposed by those who operate in the new medium. Through virtual reporting, anybody can adopt the traditional journalistic roles of amassing and distributing information virtually, and the news takes a more personalized twist. The factor is of concern as many individuals use the Internet to get first-hand information (Kane). The line between professionals and amateurs is blurred by the simultaneous rise of blogs and interactive individual journals that mix talking, commentary, and factual reporting. However, the most insistent reproach of virtual reporting is the visible line traditional reporters have drawn between themselves and those operating on-line. Some argue that it has compromised ethical conduct. Thus, with the advent of new kinds of journalism ethical issues arise primarily in places where loyalties lie, since on-line journalism makes it difficult for ethics to be observed (Akoje and Rahim).

Virtual reporters do seem to lack a rulebook in the field that is dynamic and unpredictable with neither a lasting tradition nor a prospect for deliberation. Typically, it is a subject for discourse as to whether traditional moral practices may or should be transfered to virtual reporting. Reporters are divided on the issue of ethical guidelines with some advocating for a different set of rules for virtual reporting, while others insist that prevailing codes of conduct should be incorporated into the virtual field. There are some issues mentioned by the authors. These include challenges of verifying facts, editors exploiting their capacity to adapt stories and change them, and the prospect of speed making judgment of news more crucial than ever. From the analysis, one of the reasons that have added to the decline of credibility is the thinning line between reporting and commentary. Additionally, credibility is in a precarious position owing to the current idea that most virtual publishers are amateur expert reporters (Villegas). Credibility is further declining due to the growing necessity to break the news first. New media has provided writers with the capability to publish news faster than was possible ever before, but this speed has decreased the time required for the journalists to assess quality, truths, and mistakes.

Additionally, there are benefits that originated with the advent of virtual reporting and, as such, there exist some disadvantages too. Virtual reporting is a relatively new area and is yet to be traversed to establish credibility and accuracy as a news platform. Therefore, sticking to the traditional code of ethics is a preferred solution. In an article on the significance of ethics, reliability, and credibility in virtual journalism, Hulin and Stone (n.p.) note that in the contemporary world, the society undergoes significant changes together with the conventional definition of media. Such modifications paved the way for the formation of new media that provides consumers with the comfort of accessing facts and news virtually. They also facilitate the creation of a more collaborative media where communities can be created. The Internet has become one of the most essential and prevailing issues of contemporary culture and allows for the important community freedom to upload any news. In a scenario where everybody is a prospective publisher, virtual journalism is affected by issues like safety of personal property, access to facts, identity, and anonymity.

Questions on the subject of ethics, credibility, and accurateness behind the mass of content are closely connected to the freedoms virtual reporting offers. In their article, Hulin and Stone (n.p.) analyze how virtual journalism has paved the way to traditional reporting, and how the field has changed regarding reliability, ethics, and credibility. Villegas states that ethical concerns about virtual spaces are uncontrollable and defined as possessing a destructive approach in reporting. Every society is proud of its set of morals, which are subject to change in various cultures. Owing to this nature, Villegas states that it is challenging to amass the virtual domain under one roof that includes identical moral values.

As the range of the Internet surpasses that of a sole society, it becomes more and more challenging to form a uniform code of ethics that shall be acknowledged by all. Villegas further notes that the advent of new media is unstoppable. Further, it is likely that modifying the domain of morals and new media outlets can pave the way to new ethical issues. The formation of the Internet is considered to be the fourth type of reporting where the haste and secrecy may change the press (Villegas). Anybody may become a reporter on-line where the initial report is taken to be more essential than the preciseness of news content. just like print and optical media, the Internet can be further employed in a careless way or under proper regulations.


In conclusion, on-line journalism is a discipline that poses greater ethical concerns. The factor is facilitated by the fact that the ease of Internet access potentially makes every individual a publisher. Such influx of uncensored information raises the questions of credibility, reliability, and accuracy. The ethical concerns are further influenced by the lack of proper ethical guidelines and the clash between traditional journalistic guidelines and virtual reporting.

Apr 27, 2020 in Research
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