Ethics, the Media and the Mohammed Cartoons

Every profession inherently develops its own code of ethics or convictions that helps individuals to legitimize their job and give purpose to what they do. Professional athletes play “for the fans” and strive to never miss a game. Actors, having a harder job to defend, have created a strong code of ethics that gives them an air of nobility and exults them when they star in a controversial role that is sure to bring fire or takes a shot at the establishment. The stars of the recent Syriana, Good Night and Good Luck, and Brokeback Mountain have all found themselves basking in the praise and worship of fans and peers for their brilliant work and strong conviction.

Another industry, rapped with uncertainty and dying to return to its former glory has also created a sturdy belief system which is also constitutionally mandated. Journalists have always been quick to invoke the first amendment in order to legitimize their work and they are right to do so. Since the inception of our union, journalists have rightly known that it is their responsibility to inform the people of the comings and goings of our world and our country. People relied on the media to provide them with accurate and dependable news.

However, with the coming of the information age, the rise of the alternative media and the mistrust created as a result, journalists have increasingly less influence, and less sway over our thinking and our view of the world. Despite this, and understandably so, the media’s banner of free speech and free press waves just as high as when Pulitzer was king. And it should. There is nothing wrong with the concept of journalistic integrity and a dedication to free speech. The framers gave us important freedoms in the first amendment and those who exercise them should always do so with the same fervor as those who did in the early days of our nation.

It is unfortunate then, that the media sometimes forgets its own ethics. For example, most of the mainstream media in America has refused to publish the Mohammed cartoons. Why? Big media says it is because the cartoons are not newsworthy. Hundreds of thousands of rioting and protesting Muslims is not newsworthy? Is seems to me that it is difficult to fully understand the extent of the hypocrisy of the Muslim protestors without viewing the relatively benign cartoons that spiked the controversy.

The riots are a direct attack, not on our religion or the individuals responsible for the cartoons, but on our right to free speech. The media should be the first body to stand up and defend that right by showing the American people the reason for the riots. But unfortunately, in the name of self censorship and newsworthiness, the American media (with the exception of a few papers and magazines) chose to be a party to the rioters and walk all over their own ethics.

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