15 Aug


The standard media ethics curriculum covers the usual subjects — deception, privacy, offensive content, stereotyping, etc. In my class we have units devoted to all of those issues. And the available media ethics texts (and there are a number, mostly good, some outstanding) deal exhaustively with those same topics.

But the texts, in general,  have yet to catch up with a fundamental ethical value of the digital age — transparency.

Media practitioners, regardless of discipline, must understand that information consumers (including news consumers) not only value transparency from their media organizations, they demand it. Understanding how and why decisions are made helps a consumer judge the credibility of the information and the credibility of the source delivering it. Transparency is directly linked to credibility.

Of course, there is a practical benefit, too. Getting out in front of a problem (or, better yet,  a positive development) allows the organization to shape the conversation. There are benefits to that.

Absent transparency, rumor, gossip and conspiracy theories take root and become the reality.

So I teach transparency as a fundamental ethical value.

Our industries were engaged in a relatively robust — and healthy — debate about transparency some years ago. But as economic pressures have increased, the fight for business and economic survival has left little room for the transparency discussion. And that is not a good thing.

steve smith


One Response to “Transparency”

  1. judge3690 August 22, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    Testing my WordPress login and commenting ability.

    I think transparency is a needed thing, except for where said transparency can have a negative impact on the safety and/or privacy of individuals. The Internet—while offering the ability for better communication and openness—also carries with it the ability to be exploited by malicious hacker, creeps and corporate competition. It truly is a blessing and a curse.

    Jonathan Gradin

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