Media Code of Ethics


Executive Summary

The purpose of this report is to evaluate the eight principles that are used to assess the code of conduct of corporate bodies based on the Global Business Standards Codex (GBS Codex). These eight principles include the fiduciary principle which deals with diligence and loyalty, the property principle which addresses the code of conduct when it comes to matters such as theft and protection of property, the reliability principle which deals with commitment to an organization, the transparency principle which covers full disclosure and honesty during job performance, the dignity principle (Health and Safety), the fairness principle, the citizenship principle and the responsiveness principle. The report will seek to evaluate each of the eight principles in detail and also how they can be implemented in selected newspaper articles from New Zealand. The principles will be implemented with regards to whether the articles reflect ethical or unethical behavior. Suggestions and recommendations on how to improve media ethics will then be offered as a finalization to the report.

Introduction

Codes of ethics are important for all corporate bodies as they allow them to govern their standards of conduct when performing business operations and activities. Codes of ethics refers to the principles that are developed or established by an organization based on its mission, goals and objectives to ensure its business activities do not contravene on its ethical practices. Codes of conduct on the other hand refer to the organizational practices and principles meant to influence the behavior of employees when performing their work duties. Codes of conduct establish the procedures that should be used in the event employees or employers find themselves in certain ethical situations (Ferrell et al 2008).

The Global Business Standards Codex (GBS Codex) provides useful guidelines for most employers and employees on how they should conduct themselves when performing business activities. The original developers of the GBS Codex did not want the codes to be a model for conduct within organizations but they wanted to provide organizations with benchmarks which they would use to develop their own codes of conduct. Paine et al (2005) who were the developers of the GBS Codex developed the codes after an extensive study of five well-known global codes of conduct that were used by various international organizations around the world. The researchers examined the principles that underlined the codes of conduct so as to determine whether they had any similarities (Carroll and Buchholtz 2009).

From their research, Paine et al (2005) were able to identify eight principles that adequately represented the worldwide ethical standards which they thought best exemplified ethical practices of employees within organizations. The eight principles which would be used to identify and describe codes of conduct within organizations include the fiduciary principle, the property principle, reliability principle, transparency, dignity, fairness, citizenship and responsiveness principles. These principles according to Paine et al (2005) would be important for organizational managers when it came to assessing their current codes of conduct for effectiveness and also when developing new  codes of conduct that would be used to govern the operations of the business.

Evaluation and Assessment of the GBS Codex

This evaluation will be related to newspaper articles from New Zealand newspapers where various articles will be assessed based on whether they reflect ethical or unethical behavior based on the GBS codex. The following newspaper articles will be assessed based on whether they demonstrate ethical or unethical practices in the New Zealand Media.

New Zealand Herald, Cries of ‘utu’ as Vanessa Pickering’s murderer sentenced by Jarrod Booker, Monday April 18, 2011

The newspaper article covers the story of the murder of Vanessa Pickering by Malcolm George Chaston a year ago where the suspect who was known to the victim kidnapped and attacked her by stabbing her several times with a knife. Miss Pickering was reported missing from her Christchurch home in February last year after being kidnapped by Chaston whom she knew from her place of work. Two days after her disappearance, Chaston was arrested after he was found driving Ms Pickering’s car in Cheviot. The body of the victim was discovered with stab wounds down a hillside in Godley Head on February 11. The newspaper article offers an objective analysis of the suspect, Chaston and his violent past where he has been accused of violently attacking and killing several women (Booker 2011(a).

The reporter provides a fair coverage of both sides of the story where he focuses on the suspect’s history of violence. The article therefore follows the transparent principle where the writer offers a transparent coverage of Chaston’s previous crimes as well as how the prison authorities fear that the suspect will continue committing his crimes in the event he is granted parole or probation. The article is open and truthful where the writer makes timely disclosures of important information while at the same time respecting his obligation to maintain the confidential nature of the victim’s life and the privacy of Ms. Pickering’s family.

The Solomon Star News, Shut up or Ship Out: DPP lashed out at Mr. Alfred Sasako,  Tuesday January 5, 2010

The newspaper article carries a story of how the Director of Public Prosecution in New Zealand, Mr. Talasasa has issued a warning to Mr. Alfred Sasako, a freelance reporter who wrote about a hit and run accident that occurred in 2006 within the Honiara region. The DPP accuses Mr. Sasako of misleading the general public with incomplete sets of information he gathered regarding the accident which inevitably forced the DPP to drop the case. Mr. Sasako on the other hand defends his investigation of the accident by stating that he collected all the facts of the case and that there was sufficient evidence to condemn an expatriate who escaped prosecution and punishment for the hit and run accident that occurred along Kukum Highway (Solomon Star News 2010).

This article reflects good ethical behavior on the part of Solomon Star where they have been able to present both sides of the story without demonstrating any form of biasness or prejudice against the director of public prosecution and also demonstrating any form of favoritism on the part of Mr. Sasako, a freelance reporter for the newspaper. The principles of GBS codex that are relevant to the story include the responsiveness principle where the article has dealt with the legitimate claims and concerns of both parties as well as the fairness principle where the Solomon Star newspaper has engaged in free and fair treatment of the news story by ensuring that there is no discrimination of either parties when presenting their stories.

Scoop Independent News, Cook Islands: media ethics and codes of conduct, Monday, February 14, 2011.

The story highlights media ethics in running certain stories by focusing on a story highlighted by the Solomon Star where they decided to name the source of a controversial intelligence report run by the newspaper. The source of the intelligence report was revealed by the press secretary to the Prime Minister, Danny Philip. The newspaper had refused to run the article containing the intelligence report by stating that it lacked any legitimate foundations and news coverage into the report’s allegations. The newspaper article run by the Solomon Star lacked any evidence and there were questions as to who wrote the intelligence report. The newspaper story highlighted by Scoop Independent News demonstrates the lack of transparency and reliability to the running of the story which means that the Solomon Star newspaper did not observe the reliability and transparency principle that requires the honest and truthful distribution of news content. The story is therefore an example of poor unethical conduct by the media when running newspaper stories (Scoop Independent News 2011(a).

Vanuatu Times, Vanuatu Tragedy, Saturday March 18, 2011

The story covered by the newspaper was that of a child who died from an injury incurred from an unsecured timber yard premises. The story carried by the newspaper showed a photograph of the dead child known as Kaloran as well as the exact location of where he died within the timber yard. The coverage of the story by Vanuatu Times borders on unethical practices with regards to media ethics where the reporters failed to consider the special coverage of children by refusing to involve decency and sensitivity when airing the images of the dead child. Media ethics governs that newspapers should not publish pictures of dead people in the newspaper as these images can psychologically damage the readers of the newspaper article (Scoop Independent News 2011(b). Vanuatu times did not observe the GBS codex principle of dignity that requires respecting the general dignity of people when it comes to publishing newspaper stories. The newspaper failed to protect the privacy of the child’s family as well as consider their human rights to being exposed to the dead images of their child published in the newspaper article. The article was therefore unethical where it failed to provide privacy and confidentiality to the victim’s death as well as respect for the deceased child (Paine et al 2005).

New Zealand Herald, Real row over writer’s fake Aborigine comments by Kathy Marks, Saturday April 9, 2011

The newspaper story carries an article of the racist comments and outbursts made by the Herald’s Sun columnist Andrew Bolt towards members of the Aborigine community in Australia. The matter has been taken to court where the accused columnist has been charged with committing racial vilification on members of a protected community. The article highlights the aspect of media ethics where newspapers and columnists have failed to engage in the dignified portrayal of members from minority groups (Marks 2011). The GBS codex that are relevant to the newspaper article are those of transparency and fiduciary where the story has been carried in a transparent and open manner. The story offers full disclosure of Mr. Bolt’s outburst by communicating in a candid way and truthful way. The fiduciary principle is relevant to this story because the newspaper is able to conduct its publication of the story with a lot of due diligence and loyalty to the media fraternity in New Zealand. While it identifies that one of its reporters has engaged in unethical behavior, the news story promotes the legitimate interests of the Aborigine community from being racially massacred.

New Zealand Herald, Little- noticed bill a threat to freedoms, Friday 12, 2010

The article addresses the search and surveillance bill that is made to remove the civil liberties that are enjoyed by the media fraternity when relaying important news to their audiences. The bill requires that any person with the knowledge of fraud or organized crime should present this information to the police failure to which they will be termed as accomplices to the crime. The bill also stipulates that police officers will have the power to demand from innocent victims any materials that might be related to criminal offenses. The surveillance bill gives authority to the police and other law enforcement agencies to force media houses to reveal their confidential sources of information (New Zealand Herald 2010). The GBS codex that is relevant to the newspaper article is the transparency principle where the author of the article is transparent about how the surveillance bill will affect the media’s right to protect confidential sources. The newspaper story offers full disclosure of the effects of the bill in providing accurate coverage of newspaper stories and the writing is objective and candid in the same breath. The story demonstrates good practice of ethical behavior when reporting on matters that affect the media (Paine et al 2005).

TV New Zealand, Plumbers shocked by minister’s ignorance, Monday April 18, 2011

The story covers the reaction of plumbers to New Zealand’s building Minister Maurice Williamson’s ignorance with regards to leaking pipes in the country. The article addresses the issue of how the minister has been ignorant about the plumbing situation in the country and how he is ignorant of the building codes of the country. The article portrays the minister as being ignorant to the issues raised by the plumbers where he failed to return phone calls sent by the newspaper (TV New Zealand 2011). The article therefore fails to observe the principle of dignity which requires that news coverage should respect an individual’s right to privacy with regards to certain issues. While highlighting the fact that the minister was unaware of the leaking problem, the article fails to accord the proper dignity to the minister when reporting the story about the leakages. The article is therefore termed to be unethical in reporting the plumbing problem in many New Zealand homes.

New Zealand Herald, Christchurch Earthquake: Dead bodies lying around, Tuesday February 22, 2011

The news article covered by the newspaper evoked various reactions from both the local and international media houses as it carried stories of dead bodies which had been discovered in the Christchurch area after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit the area in New Zealand. While the article was meant to portray the situation on the ground in Christchurch after the earthquake hit early this year, many news organizations termed the article as being unethical because it was not sensitive to the plight of the affected victims of the earthquake. The article was not relevant to the dignity principle of the GBS codex which would have best explained the exercise of respect for the dead as well as for the grieving family members (New Zealand Herald 2011 (a). The newspaper article is however relevant to the responsive principle of the GBS codex because it addresses the concerns of the affected victims of the earthquake in Christchurch who have become overwhelmed by the number of dead bodies in the small town of New Zealand.

New Zealand Herald, Home detention for man who fondled breasts, Monday April 18, 2011

The story highlights a Papamoa man, Owen Yaemes, who is suspected of fondling the breasts of women who visited his acupuncture clinic. The suspect was charged of indecent assault early this year in January after a law suit filed by three of his clients was presented in court (New Zealand Herald 2011 (b). While the article highlights the sexual exploitation of the victims who visited the acupuncture clinic, the main caption or title of the story fails to adhere to the dignity principle which requires the media to present its new stories in a dignified manner. The readership of the paper covers both the young and old target audience where children as young as nine years old read a copy of the New Zealand Herald everyday either in school or at home. Therefore the use of the word ‘breasts’ is inappropriate for a national newspaper such as the herald and this demonstrates its lack of practicing media ethics when it came to choosing a proper and acceptable title for its newspaper caption.

New Zealand Herald, Girl’s nose broken in cinema bashing by Morgan Tait, Monday April 18, 2011

A group of eight 12 to 13 year old children were attacked at the Reading Cinemas on Heretaunga Street in New Zealand by a dozen teens as they were leaving the cinema. One girl suffered a broken nose while others received severe bodily injuries that resulted from the physical attack by the teenage youths. The article talks about the assault of the 12 year old children by the group of teens and the reactions of their parents and the Hastings intermediate school towards the attacks. The most relevant GBS codex principle with regards to this story is the citizenship principle which requires that people have to act as responsible citizens of the community by respecting the laid out law and cooperating with the public authorities to ensure that the law has been observed within the community. The children who were attacked represented part of the Reading community and most of its members were upset that such an assault could occur on a Sunday afternoon in their locale. The newspaper article therefore adheres to the citizenship principle of highlighting the violation of the community’s human rights making the article to be termed as ethically proper (Tait 2011).

New Zealand Herald, Burning car may hold clues to Dunedin murder, Monday April 18, 2011

The article deals with how a burning car discovered in the western suburbs of Dunedin might hold vital clues to the brutal murder of an unidentified man. The article portrays the fiduciary principle of the GBS codex as the newspaper utilizes the resources at its disposal to determine the cause of the death of the unidentified man as well as the make and registration number of the burning car. By referring to police reports on the identity and location of the car which was found at the place of residence of the two people suspected to have killed the man, the article has ensured that it has properly utilized the sources of its information not for the newspapers personal benefit but for the purpose of addressing the concerns of the Dunedin community. The fiduciary principle requires that a company’s staff should exercise due diligence and loyalty when carrying out the company’s business. The article is able to demonstrate diligence and loyalty when exemplifying the amount of effort being put in by the local police in solving the murder and the case of the burning car (New Zealand Herald 2011 (c). This article therefore demonstrates good ethical behavior in media reporting.

The Dominion Post, Girls’ eggs taken as safeguard, Monday April 18, 2011

This article can be termed to be unethical in its reporting given that it highlights how parents are willing to have the eggs of their female children frozen so as to give them an opportunity to have their own children when they are older. The article lacks any sensitivity to young female cancer patients everywhere who might not want their eggs removed from their bodies and it highlights the basic exploitation that young girls go through in the event their parents agree to proceed with the invasive procedure (Dominion Post 2011). This article fails to incorporate the dignity principle of the GBS codex which requires respecting the individual needs of the consumer where female cancer patients who have not attained the age of eighteen years might be subjected to such procedures (Paine et al 2005).

Stuff New Zealand, Medical atrocities revealed, March 1, 2011

The article offers shocking revelations of how doctors in the US are experimenting on disabled people as well as prison inmates within the country. These experiments according to the article include giving hepatitis to mental patients who are in hospitals within Connecticut as well as squirting the flu virus into the noses of prisoners in Maryland. The article follows the transparency principle where it relays the truth behind the testing of various illnesses on mentally retarded patients and prisoners within the United States. The article is therefore ethically sound in its execution as there is full disclosure of how mentally incapable patients and prisoners are injected with flu viruses, cancerous cells and sexually transmitted diseases (Stuff New Zealand 2011).

New Zealand Herald, PM hits at ‘shallow, error-prone’ media by Claire Trevett, Tuesday December 11, 2007

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, gives a negative appraisal of the New Zealand media to be lacking in depth in this newspaper article. She terms the New Zealand Herald as lacking in fairness and equity when reporting about various stories. The prime minister identifies the newspaper’s coverage of the Electoral Finance Bill as a perfect example of unfair reporting where the New Zealand Herald carried stories that campaigned against the Electoral Finance Bill. The prime minister argued that the newspaper should demonstrate a balance when reporting various issues by ensuring that it maintained a neutral stand on the various topics it covered (Trevett 2007). The Herald therefore engaged in unethical behavior when it reported on the negative side of the Electoral Finance Bill, initiating a campaign that would the reject the bill. It did not exercise the fairness principle of the GBS codex which requires a company to engage in free and fair practices that are non discriminatory towards customers, employees and the various publics of an organization (Paine et al 2005).

New Zealand Herald, Why this voter will be returning to his roots by Garth George, Tuesday April 18, 2011

This news article written by columnist Garth George demonstrates the ethical standing of the Herald in its newspaper content where the columnist praises the paper’s weekend edition for not covering political news. According to New Zealand laws, it is illegal for a newspaper to publish or broadcast any political content and material on the Election Day. The columnist commends the good work that the Herald has done in providing important information that will be beneficial to the voters come election day in the country (George 2011). The newspaper is therefore reliable based on the reliability principle where it honors the agreement to publicize news content on the stipulated time periods set out by the New Zealand government. The article by Garth George also demonstrates how the Herald practices the citizenship principle by obeying the laws and regulations set out by the government with regards to reporting on political issues during the Election Day.

Migrant News, Diversity: Tur-banned by M. Fernandez, Tuesday April 18, 2011

The newspaper article offers an exclusive look at racial profiling by highlighting the story of Harminder Singh Mav who was kicked out of a Qantas flight to Auckland because of the way he was dressed. Harminder, who is a member of the Sikh community in New Zealand, was kicked out of the airplane for fear that he was a terrorist with connections to a terrorist cell. The article highlights the story of Harminder as well as the actions of the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee in addressing the concerns of the Sikh community. The article is therefore relevant to the responsiveness principle of the GBS codex as it offers important commentaries on how members of minority or migrant communities should be treated by the rest of the society. The article involves the responsiveness principle when it comes to addressing the concerns of members of the Sikh community by calling on public involvement to create awareness on migrant communities such as the Sikh within New Zealand. The article is therefore ethically correct when presenting the issues of minority groups and migrant communities in New Zealand (Fernandez 2011).

Local matters, A rainbow of students shines over Stella Maris, Tuesday April 18, 2011

This news paper article run by the Local Matters newspaper which serves the residents and communities of Auckland’s northern region addresses the topic of autism and how students from Stella Maris Catholic Primary School have been able to participate in the World Autism Awareness Day. This article best exemplifies the citizenship principle of civic contribution by basically increasing awareness of the disorder which affects millions of children worldwide thereby developing the social awareness of the community in Auckland. The article on autism awareness is therefore ethically right for the Auckland community (Local Matters 2011).

New Zealand Herald, Another twist in baby Tegan murder case, Monday April 18, 2011

The story covers the 14 year old Australian murder case of baby Tegan where a taxi driver has come forward claiming that the person suspected of killing the baby was in his cab the night the baby was found dead. The story offers a testimony from the taxi driver of how the suspect, Keli Lane, dumped the baby’s body in a near bushland after which she returned to the taxi and instructed the taxi driver to proceed with their journey. The story offers a transparent analysis of the taxi driver’s account of the night the baby was dumped in the bushland by objectively providing the cab drivers confession in an objective manner. The article therefore positively portrays the transparency principle of the GBS codex (New Zealand Herald 2011(d).

Marlborough Express, Cow’s death upsets passengers by Sam Morton Monday April 18, 2011

The newspaper being a community newspaper talks about how interislander passengers witnessed the death of a cow on the top deck of a trailer as it was being ferried by its owner. The passengers saw the cow dying on the top deck of the trailer in the ferry and they were deeply disturbed by this. The owner of the cow faces animal welfare charges which according to the article are used to punish transporters of livestock that are termed to be unwell or sickly. The article is ethically right given that it is relevant to the responsiveness principle which requires addressing the concerns of the citizens of a community as well as involving them in social issues such as the one covered by the article (Morton 2011).

New Zealand Herald, Is Auckland bad for your kids? By Edward Rooney, Thursday April 14, 2011

The newspaper article is ethically unsound because it gives a bad reflection of Auckland as a city that has poor walkability attributes. Walkability according to the author of the article refers to the distances between children’s homes and schools, parks, shops and other important community facilities. The article basically states that the Auckland area is not suitable for children because of the walkability or walking distance of some of the mentioned structures where the author states that the walkability in Auckland contributes to the increasing numbers of obese children in the city. This article is unethical because it basically portrays the Auckland area as an unsuitable place to live for parents with children. It fails to incorporate the responsiveness principle which requires addressing the concerns of parents who have obese children within the Auckland area of New Zealand. It also fails to offer any useful solutions that can be used by average or middle income parents as to how obesity within the area can be dealt without necessarily focusing on walkability (Rooney 2011).

Mjtp Magazine, Truth versus Sensationalism by Valmai Owens, Friday December 24, 2010

This article addresses the aspect of media coverage of various news stories and whether it was done in an objective and honest way. The news article positively reflects the GBS codex principles of transparency, fiduciary, reliability, dignity and fairness where the writer highlights that media houses should look for the truth and report it the way it is by ensuring that they minimize harm to the victims of the story. The writer of the story also stipulates that newspaper agencies should act independently when providing media coverage to avoid any conflicts of interest with their audience or public. The author also postulates that newspapers should be accountable for the news they publish in their newspapers by exposing any unethical practices by their journalists (Owens 2010). These aspects are basically addressed by the five GBS codex principles used to guide ethical conduct within corporations.

New Zealand, Mallard playing dangerous game on electric trains by Brian Rudman, Friday April 15, 2011

This article is unethically sound as it comes off as an attack on New Zealand’s Labour MP Trevor Mallard who demands that the tender process for Auckland’s electric train fleet be put on hold so that an investigation into Sammy Wong’s lobbyist activities have been completed. The author unethically refers to the labor MP as a dangerous tactician who is playing dangerous games with the commuter rail system in New Zealand. The author terms the MPs actions to be a dangerous gamble before the election date where he alludes to the fact that this could be a delay tactic by the politician and others who support the investigation into Wong’s lobbying activities. The author fails to report the story in a fair and objective manner where they demonstrate their biasness towards Mallard’s support for inquisition on shady dealings within the Transport Ministry (Rudman 2011).

New Zealand Herald, Something for bus drivers to note by Chloe Johnson, Sunday April 17, 2011

 This newspaper article is basically relevant to the citizenship and responsiveness principles of the GBS codes where its addresses a major concern to the community members of the Auckland region of New Zealand. The article calls to the attention of readers how bus drivers in the Auckland area should not refuse the $20 dollar bills for fare used by passengers. Some commuters within the area were refused to travel because of presenting the $20 dollar note as fare to the bus drivers. This article represents the citizenship principle where the bus drivers have failed to adhere to the laws that govern commuter provision services in the Auckland area. The article represents the responsiveness principle of the GBS codex principle where it highlights the various concerns of the Auckland community members who have been subjected to rude behavior from bus drivers who have rejected the $20 dollar bill as payment for bus fare. The article is therefore is ethically sound and correct in its presentation of important facts (Johnson 2011).

New Zealand, Murderer’s remorse ‘too little, far too late’ by Jarrod Booker, Monday April 18, 2011

This article fails to incorporate the fairness and dignity principles of the GBS codex in publishing the story of Malcolm Chaston who killed Vanessa Pickering and two other female victims. While the suspect is a criminal offender deserving of punishment and persecution, the article fails to provide any neutrality in its reporting of the news item. The writing clearly demonstrates the position the writer of the article has towards the suspect who has been charged with the murder of Vanessa Pickering and two other women. The article focuses on how the suspect was unable to seek redress from the court for his crimes and how those present in the court room called for his persecution for the killings. The writer fails to provide objectivity and candidness when reporting on the goings on of the courtroom meaning that he fails the ethical guidelines for objective news coverage by the media (Booker 2011(b).

Suggestions and Recommendations

 News coverage requires the practice of integrity, truthfulness, honesty, neutrality, objectivity and candidness to ensure that the news items published are reliable sources of information. To improve the practice of ethics in news coverage, newspaper agencies should ensure they incorporate all or part of the eight principles of GBS codex to ensure that media ethics in covering news stories has been adhered to. This will ensure that any repercussions that might be brought about by a newspaper story are dealt with efficiently and effectively, minimizing any negative publicity that the newspaper agency might suffer as a result of the story. Recommendations in the practice of positive media ethics will involve exercising the reliability, transparency, dignity and responsiveness principles to ensure the people covered in the story do not suffer any humiliation embarrassment or negativity publicity because of being mentioned in a news story.

Conclusion

This study has dealt with the eight principles of the global business standard codes that are used by many International businesses in performing their operations. The report has examined and assessed various newspaper articles in relation to whether they have portrayed ethical or unethical behavior in their reporting activities. This examination has been done in conjunction with an evaluation of whether these stories are relevant to the eight principles of the GBS codex. The report has been able to identify the particular principles that are relevant to each newspaper article examined within this report.

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