ARTICLE: Freelance journalists follow their own ethical judgement

Untitled by Andrew Martin, licence CC0 1.0

Freelance magazine journalists display strong professional confidence in dealing with ethical dilemmas in their work, Joy Jenkins, of University of Oxford, writes. Jenkins interviewed 14 American freelance journalists over the ethical issues they face, and the ways said issues are dealt with.

Instead of ethical codes, the interviewees largely rely on their personal moral judgement, Jenkins found. As freelancers they face pressures from both their clients and sources, which requires a level of flexibility of them. The interviewees described Jenkins having to draw lines between when morally dubious choices can be tolerated for the sake of completing (and selling) the story and when they need to follow their personal judgement.

Many interviewees, however, suggested that their area of focus is less prone to ethical dilemmas. Stories on lifestyle and travel, for example, are seen to involve “lower stakes” and thus allow the writers more room to maneuver around client and source demands.

The article “Low-Stakes Decisions and High-Stakes Dilemmas” was published by the Journal of Media Ethics. It is available online on the publisher’s website (abstract free).

Picture: Untitled by Andrew Martin, licence CC0 1.0.

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