Ethical Motivations


As a Religious Studies major, I took many classes in undergrad about or related to ethics. At the time, I simply enjoyed them for the debates and conversations they inspired amongst my classmates (and I hope this class does the same). Now, I realize the importance of ethics as a businesswoman, and hope to continue to expand on them as a student of social media.

The “gray area” of ethics is what makes it so interesting. Would you? Could you? And why? These are all questions that are completely subjective – truly at the discretion of each of us as individuals within our moral landscape.

Professor Kings broke down the steps of the ethical decision making process into 3 key questions:

  1. What are your motivations and why?
  2. What are the likely effects of your decision and to whom?
  3. Where does your duty lie strongest in making this decision?

The questions posed are fair, and can certainly encourage the decision maker to look at the motivations and potential results of each decision. However, I am not sure that many (if not most) people have the true ability to make these real self-assessments honestly. I know that when I want to do something, I am usually able to convince myself that I should do it. I would venture to say that most people could easily justify their own actions based on their own agenda.

In the video shared in lecture, a professor asks his class whether or not it is ethical to send a Facebook friend request to a friend of a murder victim without identifying yourself as a journalist, with the intention of getting more information about the story. Let me start off by saying that unlike many of my classmates, I do not work in journalism or broadcasting. That being said, I do think that it is unethical to misrepresent you, or improperly identify yourself, in order to get a story. In this specific case, the friend of the murder victim is likely grieving and their privacy should be respected. How would you feel if you received a friend request from a journalist in a time of personal tragedy? Would you be more inclined to accept a friend request from an unidentified stranger or an identified journalist?

The motivations behind the friend request would likely be self-serving, even if the journalist justified it as utilitarianism by providing the story to the inquiring masses. Again, I do not work in journalism, so my views may be biased, but I think it is impossible to really take the egoism out of these types of breaking stories and other sensational stories. Regardless of the fact that you are trying to share a story with the masses, you still want to be “the ONE” that broke the story. Perhaps by opinion is skewed by watching too many episodes of House of Cards over the break. A question for those in journalism: How much of journalism is for the glory of the story and how much is for personal glory?


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