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On August 9th, 2014, Michael Brown was allegedly murdered by Ferguson Missouri Police Officer Darren Wilson. According to the CNN report via (https://www.cnn.com/2014/08/11/us/missouri-ferguson-michael-brown-what-we-know/index.html ) Brown and his friend were not aggressive towards the officer and were attacked for being African American, while other reports state that the officer was attacked and was defending himself, resulting in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. Here’s where the ethical issues begin. News broadcast station KSDK (St. Louis) aired a video of Brown’s home, while The New York Times disclosed his home address and the West Virginia Daily Mail called Brown “An Animal” and “A gigantic thug who was higher than a kite”. As journalists, our first priority and ethical responsibility is to be unbiased, truthful and protect critical information such as a victim’s home in this case. Characterizing a victim as an animal or a thug or as “No Angel” violates our code of ethics to “Avoid stereotyping.
Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.” We are to advocate for our sources, protect them and in some cases reserve anonymity by keeping sources unnamed for safety. The news stations and newspapers beyond violated the victim’s privacy and the family’s safety by airing the victims home and address. The New York Times also aired Browns police history resulting in more controversy, causing riots, some peaceful and some violent. Protesters were subject to much controversy, causing media storms to air the violent protests instead of peaceful ones, such as “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”. In these types of situations, journalists need to err on the side of caution and show compassion for victims and their families, while also protecting the suspects rights and showing unbiased journalism to them as well. Both parties will be subject to criticism regardless of who is right and who wrong, it is our job to report with accuracy and without biased criticism.
We must take accountability for our actions and report without inaccuracies. Acknowledging mistakes makes us stronger journalist and protects reputations with the public and media sources. As journalists and reports we need to work closely with other journalists when the time calls for it but also keep our standards high and expose any wrong doing from other reporters. The situation with the Michael Brown shooting and the ethical violations could have been avoided simply by avoiding biased language, stereotyping and reporting accurate information.
Resources: Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2014/08/11/us/missouri-ferguson-michael-brown-wha