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Journal of Mass Media Ethics: Exploring Questions of Media Morality


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Philosophical Foundations for Global Journalism Ethics


Stephen J. A. Ward Published online: 17 Nov 2009.

To cite this article: Stephen J. A. Ward (2005) Philosophical Foundations for Global Journalism Ethics, Journal of Mass Media Ethics: Exploring Questions of Media Morality, 20:1, 3-21, DOI: 10.1207/s15327728jmme2001_2 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15327728jmme2001_2

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Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 20(1), 321 Copyright 2005, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Philosophical Foundations for Global Journalism Ethics


Stephen J. A. Ward

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School of Journalism University of British Columbia


o This article proposes 3 principles and 3 imperatives as the philosophical foundations of a global journalism ethics. The central claim is that the globalization of news media requires a radical rethinking of the principles and standards of journalism ethics, through the adoption of a cosmopolitan attitude. The article explains how and why ethicists should construct a global journalism ethics, using a contractualist approach. It then formulates 3 claims or principles: the claims of credibility, justifiable consequence, and humanity. The claim of humanity is developed further by the formulation of 3 imperatives: to act as a global agent, to serve world citizens, and to enhance nonparochial understandings. The article concludes by considering some implications of a cosmopolitan attitude for the practice of journalism.

Any movement toward a global ethics for journalism should begin with clear philosophical foundations. The central claim of this article is that the development of these foundations will require the transformation of existing concepts. The globalization of news media requires a radical rethinking of the principles and standards of journalism ethics, through the adoption of a cosmopolitan attitude. Adopting a contractualist approach, this article proposes three principles and three imperatives as the philosophical foundations of a global journalism ethics. It then formulates three claims or principles: the claims of credibility, justifiable consequence, and humanity. The claim of humanity is developed further by the formulation of three imperatives: to act as a global agent, to serve world citizens, and to enhance nonparochial understandings. The article concludes by considering some implications of a cosmopolitan attitude for practice of journalism. I consider my foundation to be tentative. The intent of this article is not to lay down absolute principles or to claim dogmatically that this is the only approach possible. The intent is to make plausible proposals to stimulate discussion and to gradually alter our perspective on journalism ethics. It is important to be clear about what I am not arguing for in this article. I am not arguing that all journalists or ethicists today would accept these

Global Journalism Ethics

principles and directives. I am not arguing that these principles are embodied in all of the many forms of journalism around the world. I am reinterpreting concepts to meet new problems and guide new forms of journalism. These ideas are put forward in an experimental spirit: Let us consider whether these principles provide a framework from which to explore the issues and examine the consequences.1

Why Global Journalism Ethics?


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Global journalism ethics is another step in the evolution of journalism ethics. The ethics of journalism, understood as the dominant attitudes and norms shaping practice, has passed through two major stages, roughly described as the passage from a journalism of partiality and faction, to a journalism that claims to be impartial communication on behalf of the public. That journalists were partial was a dominant presumption for two thirds of modern journalisms 400-year historyfrom the 17th century onward. The ideal of impartial, public journalism became widespread only in the early 1900s when large newspapers claimed to provide the masses with unbiased reporting. By the 1920s, this ideal was entrenched in journalism codes of ethics. One can see the evolution of journalism ethics as a progressive enlargement of the class of people that journalism is supposed to serve, from political parties and economic or social classes (such as the middle class) to the general public. Even today, the news medias claim that they serve a public at large has limits. It is presumed that the public belongs to one nation, or a region of a nation. A global ethics would enlarge that public. Responsibilities would be owed to an audience scattered across the world.

Journalism ethics should become global-minded because the news mediaand the practice of journalismare increasingly global.
However, why should we take this next step in journalism ethics? First, journalism ethics should become global-minded because the news mediaand the practice of journalismare increasingly global.2 The facts are familiar. Media corporations are increasingly global enterprises. New technology gives news organizations the ability to gather information from around the world.3 News reports, via satellite or the Internet, reach people around the world and influence the actions of governments, militaries,

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humanitarian agencies, and warring ethnic groups. The reach of the Al-Jazeera and CNN networks, for example, extends beyond the Arab world or the American public. These developments have consequences for the ethics of journalism. With global reach come global responsibilities. Reports with global impact should be accurate, balanced, and diverse in viewpoint, as judged from a more international perspective.4 The need for global journalism ethics is due to factors other than technological and ownership change in news media; it is also due to changes in the world that journalism inhabits. Of primary importance is the fact that this media-connected world brings together a plurality of different religions, traditions, ethnic groups, values, and organizations with varying political agendas. Our world is not a cozy McLuhanesque village (McLuhan, 1965). Our world is connected electronically like never before, yet this grid of connections coexists with a collision of cultures. In such a climate, the role of the news media must be reexamined. What are the ethical responsibilities of journalism in a radically plural world, no longer divided politically into two Cold War camps? One responsibility is to report issues and events in a way that reflects this global plurality of views, to practice a journalism that helps different groups understand each other better. A global-minded journalism is also of value because a biased and parochial journalism can wreak havoc in a tightly linked global world. Unless the information is reported properly, North American readers may fail to understand the causes of violence in the Middle East, or a drought in Africa. Jingoistic reports can portray the inhabitants of other regions of the world as a threat. Biased reports may incite ethnic groups in a region to attack each other. In times of insecurity, narrow-minded, patriotic news media can amplify the views of leaders who stampede populations into war or urge the removal of civil rights for minorities. A global ethics is a bulwark against undue influence of parochial values and social pressures on journalism. Moreover, journalism with a global perspective is needed to help citizens understand the daunting global problems of poverty, environmental degradation, technological inequalities, and political instability. These problems require concerted global action and the construction of new global institutions. A successful appreciation of the problems that face the world, and what actions are necessary, requires reporting from an informed and nuanced international perspective. We need a more cosmopolitan attitude in journalism for the same general reason we need it in ethics in general: to make sure we do not withdraw into an insular ethnocentrism as a response to the confusing, pluralistic world around us. A cosmopolitan attitude refuses to allow us to hunker down into a narrow and minimalist ethics that refuses to confront the major issues (Christians, 1989, p. 5).

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Global Journalism Ethics

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I can now say, more exactly, what a global journalism ethics amounts to: (a) the application of an international perspective to the coverage of issues and events and a rejection of the distortion of reports by more narrow perspectives steeped in ethnocentrism, extreme patriotism, and partisanship; (b) a reinterpretation of the ethical role of journalism and the news media in a global context; (c) a reinterpretation of existing journalism principles and standards in global terms; and (d) where necessary, the construction of new principles and norms as evaluative guides for global journalism. Ethicists cannot say that journalists should be cosmopolitan in outlook and leave it at that. We need to show what the global responsibilities of journalists actually are, in detail, so that these duties cannot be ignored. We should construct a global journalism ethics.

Philosophical Foundations
How to begin to look for the principles of a global journalism ethics? Some ways of approaching ethics will be more useful than others in the search for principles. I propose a contractualist view of ethics, as found in the writings of Rawls (1993, 2002, 2003) and Scanlon (1998). Later I will say why I think it is useful for the construction of a global journalism ethics.

Ethical deliberation is reason in social practice, the construction of fair moral frameworks to guide decisions through reasonable dialogue among all interested parties.
My contractualist perspective sees ethics as the attempt to identify and justify principles that govern actions in general and actions within professions and fields of endeavor.5 Ethical deliberation is reason in social practice, the construction of fair moral frameworks to guide decisions through reasonable dialogue among all interested parties. Ethical principles are humanly constructed restraints on social behavior. What is right, obligatory, or wrong in any domain of society is determined by principles that define a reasonable cooperative framework. An action is right or wrong if the act accords with, or violates principles that are, or would be, the object of a suitable agreement between equals (Darwall, 2003, p. 1). The framework in question could be the principles for all of morality, the principles of a part of morality (e.g., the principles of justice), or the principles of a profession. Ethics is the never-completed project of inventing, applying,

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and critiquing the basic principles that guide human interaction, define social roles, and justify institutional structures. The frameworks can be conceived of as social contractsparties explicitly or implicitly agreeing to abide by a set of rules for their mutual benefit.6 However, the content of ethics is not the moral status quoexisting agreements, bargains, and contracts. Contracts, to be ethical, must be fair and reached through an equitable, open process.7 The ethics of any domain is the set of legitimate principles that ought to govern the practice in question. We identify legitimate principles by asking what principles would gain the rational consentor could not be reasonably rejectedby free and equal participants in the process. For the contractualist, duties and responsibilities arise out of fair contracts whereby agents claim rights and impose duties on themselves and others. General duties, such as the duty to avoid unjustified violence against others, hold for all adults. Special duties arise when we enter into special relations with others, such as agreeing to keep a promise. We incur special duties when we enter a profession or occupy a social role, for example, parents obligations to their children.

Objective ethical principles are based on nothing moreand nothing lessthan intersubjective agreement obtained from rational, public deliberation, in light of common purposes, values, and facts.
Ethical statements, therefore, are fallible, evaluative judgments about the most reasonable course of action. They are not descriptions of special moral facts or a special moral order. Objectivity in ethics is not a description of reality from the point of view of the universe (Darwall, 2003, p. 215).8 Objectivity is the activity of providing others with the best available reasons for types of actions. Nor are ethical statements absolute and unchanging truths discerned by a special moral faculty. Objective ethical principles are based on nothing moreand nothing lessthan intersubjective agreement obtained from rational, public deliberation, in light of common purposes, values, and facts. The application of contractualism to journalism means that we regard its ethics as a set of legitimate but fallible principles that ought to guide the difficult decisions and actions in a particular domain. The responsibilities of a global or nonglobal journalism originate in the overarching contract of the profession of journalism with the public it serves. In critiquing journalism

Global Journalism Ethics

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ethics, contractualists ask what journalists implicitly or explicitly promise the public through their social contract. Contractualists ask what the public, or any segment of the public, can legitimately expect from journalism and its purveyorsindividual journalists, news organizations, and the news media as a whole. Principles are legitimate if they can be recognized by all parties involved in the social process of journalism through a fair process of deliberation. An action by a journalist or news organization is right or wrong if its performance under the circumstances would be disallowed by any system of legitimate rules for the regulation of journalistic behavior. The ethics of journalism is the never-ending task of inventing and reinterpreting its moral framework, because the project of journalism is ever changing. The interpretation of journalisms social contract may vary according to society, but in all contracts the public grants (or guarantees) certain freedoms and privileges to the press on the expectation that journalists will act responsibly, fulfill a range of functions, and provide benefits.9 In some countries, freedom of the press is granted constitutional protection on the public expectation that a free press will support such values as individual liberty, public education, informed democracy, diversity of views, and social integration.10 Journalists support such benefits by providing accurate and independent information about the economy, environment, public health and education, the state of politics, justice, and social institutions. To the extent that journalists fail to meet these responsibilities, the justification for any special treatment of the press is substantially undermined (Klaidman & Beauchamp, 1987, p. 130).

Professional journalism is the organized, socially recognized activity of communicating to the public for the public, from the impartial perspective of the public good.
Journalisms contract implies a special social role for the news media, and this special role implies special duties in the form of principles and standards. I would define this special role as the requirement that journalists act as impartial and independent communicators for the public at largenot for the state, not for the governing party, and not for partisan interests. The professional journalist is obligated to speak to the public in a manner that is different from partisan public communicators such as the social advocate, the government official, the lobbyist, the public relations person promoting a product, or the lawyer representing a client. Professional journalism is the

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organized, socially recognized activity of communicating to the public for the public, from the impartial perspective of the public good. The ethics of journalism is not based on a personal or subjective decision by an individual to abide by certain rules. Journalism ethics must reflect a number of social obligations that cannot be shirked or arbitrarily dismissed. These obligations restrain the set of plausible candidates for the title of journalism principle. The social role of journalism cannot be reduced to the dissemination of bits of data or the most sensational news. The social role prohibits the debasement of journalism as a vehicle for partisan propaganda or for the advancement of ones own interests. The public has a legitimate expectation that journalism will disseminate and analyze, as objectively as possible, the most important information and views for a self-governing polity. Ideally, journalism should be a particular kind of democratic practice (Carey, 2000, p. 22). What recommends the contractualist approach to the construction of a global journalism ethics? One advantage is that contractualism gives us a flexible approach to the variety of values in journalism. Contractualism is the broad idea of a fair moral framework for journalism constructed through open deliberation by interested parties. It does not stipulate in advance what the principles of that framework must be. Contractualism is an open invitation to all to begin deliberation on what principles capture the journalists global responsibilities. It is not wedded, intractably, to an ideology or philosophy. There is no predetermined result, no attempt to impose some colonial creed or absolute religious principle. One possible objection to contractualism as an approach is that it is Western in origin and not global in some undefined sense. It is true that contractualism has its own tradition, values, and perspectives. It values open deliberation. It perceives ethics as fair contract-making. Yet this perspective is broad enough to allow a discussion among diverse approaches in journalism. Any approach to global ethics will have to borrow ideas from somewhere. What is crucial is not where ideas come from, but where they lead us. We should ask: What promise does this approach portend for the task at hand, and is it open to change and challenge? Contractualism provides a tent under which many types of journalists and ethicists can sit down and debate the global responsibilities of journalism. Contractualism can give such difficult and amorphous discussions some form and direction. Contractualism has other advantages. It avoids refutation by unrealistic expectations, such as the belief that global ethics depends on universal agreement on principles among journalists or ethicists. Universal agreement is not the goal of contractualism. Contractualism hopes to formulate principles that could obtain general (but not universal) rational acceptance across a wide spectrum of journalists, ethicists, and members of the public. Another unrealistic expectation is that the project of global journalism eth-

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ics depends on the discovery of a definitive list of principles or values underlying almost every code of ethics.11 Even if surveys found such universal principles, we would still need a normative argument as to why such principles ought to be maintained.

Three Claims
Using this contractualist approach, I begin to construct my global journalism ethics by proposing three foundational principles. My aim is to identify principles that have three features: (a) They express important features of journalisms social contract, features that can be extended to a global journalism; (b) they help to organize journalisms many values into a coherent, global system; and (c) they can be plausibly regarded as principles that have potential to address global issues in journalism. I call these principles claims to emphasize that they are components of a social contract. If the news media do not observe these principles, the public has a legitimate ethical claim against them. The first principle is the claim of credibility: All journalists (and news organizations) have the ethical duty to provide the public with credible news and analysis, within the limitations of newsgathering.12 To judge that a journalist, a news organization, or the news media as a whole are credible is to judge that they can be relied on to provide accurate, reliable information. Credibility implies that the news media have used the best methods of fact-gathering and verification to reach the most truthful account possible, given the constraints of deadlines, conflicting views, and incomplete information. Without credibility, public confidence in journalism erodes. Journalistic credibility is a species of credibility in general. Credibility belongs to a circle of normative termstrustworthy, believable, reliablethat apply to situations of trust, in which someone depends on another person or institution. To say x is credible is to attribute a disposition to x to provide believable information under certain conditions. The usual context for discussions of credibility is epistemological. Questions of credibility are questions about the evidence for a scientific claim, the methods and expertise of a professional, or the accuracy of witness testimony. Credibility is a social virtue because credible people meet expectations. A state of nature is a world without trust.13 Our need for credible media is part of our need for credible institutions. My claim of credibility contains a subclaim, what I call active credibility14: The public has a right to actively test the news medias claims of credibility in general and for specific stories. The public should not be limited to passively accepting assurances of credibility. It should have the ability to question procedures so that it can arrive at a reasonably placed trust in a story (ONeill, 2002, p. 64). News media have a duty to facilitate the publics ac-

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cess to information on the evolution of stories, the nature and variety of sources, and possible conflicts of interest. The second principle is the claim of justifiable consequence, which states that journalists should be able to justify the significant consequences of their actions, according to their social contract. This principle deals not with public expectations that journalists will provide credible reports but that they will consider carefully the harm caused by their reports. Journalists cause unjustifiable harm by publishing false reports or reports distorted by exaggeration and innuendo. The claim of justifiable consequence is that ethical journalists claim that the consequences of their actions may be justified in three ways: (a) The consequences are insignificant or ethically neutral (or permissible); (b) the consequences are beneficial to individuals or society; or (c) if the consequences are harmful, then they are necessary, given journalisms social functions.

Almost every profession, and every ethical and legal system, makes the avoidance of unjustifiable harm a basic obligation.
The claim of justifiable consequence recognizes the demand for professional responsibility. Almost every profession, and every ethical and legal system, makes the avoidance of unjustifiable harm a basic obligation.15 All professions cause some harm as part of their normal activity. The physicians ethical dictum, primum non nocere (first, do no harm) is inspiring, but in practice, physicians must harm (e.g., amputate a leg to save a life). Similarly, journalists regularly publish reports on corrupt officials, incompetent professionals, and dangerous products. These stories harm some person or party. In many cases, the harm is outweighed by the benefits. In other cases, not publishing would be a greater harm, amounting to censorship or a failure to inform the public. The claim of justifiable consequence, therefore, does not state that journalists should avoid reports that cause harm. It talks instead of harm that is justifiable. Aware that harm cannot be avoided, journalism codes stress the principle of minimizing harm, for example, reporting compassionately on families grieving from tragedy. Whether a journalist causes justifiable harm depends to a great extent on how he or she constructs the story. Almost any report can have justifiable or nonjustifiable consequences. For example, reporting on a criminal trial harms the reputation of the defendant. The reporting, if factual and balanced, is ethically justified because of journalisms role in informing

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the public about the justice system. On the other hand, a reckless, inaccurate story about a trial is not justified. Issues of story presentation and justifiable consequence loom large in investigative journalism because investigations tend to produce extremely damaging stories, often through the use of deceptive practices such as hidden cameras. The third principle, the claim of humanity, deals with the fundamental allegiances of journalists and their priority ranking. The claim of humanity is as follows: Journalists owe their primary allegiance to humanity, not to parts of humanity. Journalists owe credible, justifiable journalism to all potential readers of a global public sphere. The claim of humanity extends the journalists loyalty from the public of his or her hometown and country to humanity at large. Loyalty to humanity trumps other loyalties, where they conflict. Confusion about the journalists primary allegiance may reflect confusion about the social role of journalism. In times of conflict, journalists may confuse their roles as patriotic citizens and as members of the news media. Allegiance to humanity does not conflict with other allegiances at every turn. Allegiances tend to conflict in the coverage of international events, global issues, and warwhere the publics of nations, with their goals and ideologies, are at loggerheads. The claim of humanity is the most controversial and unusual of the three principles. Credibility and justifiable consequence are related to existing norms of truth seeking and minimizing harm. The claim of humanity introduces a broader public to journalism, and it makes the strong claim that journalists have a duty to foreigners. Having stated the principles, we, as ethicists, can ask: Why should these principles be considered as foundational principles? Because other candidates are theoretically possible, we must turn to pragmatic considerations. Are these principles useful for constructing a global ethics? For starters, we ask whether the principles meet the criteria stated previously: They express cardinal features of journalisms social contract; they bring conceptual order to journalism ethics; and they have potential to deal with issues of global journalism. The three claims capture what are arguably the most general and important features of journalisms social contract: reliability, impact, and allegiance. I believe these features are general enough to apply to many forms of journalism across cultures. Is it possible to conceive of a responsible form of journalism that does not meet these basic norms? From a contractualist perspective, these principles are legitimate candidates because they appear to express fundamental public expectations of news media. It is likely that many publics would agree that the news media should report what is accurate and verified, that news media should consider their impact, and that journalists should maintain allegiance to a public interest that is greater than their own personal interests. The three principles state the basics of a plausible social contract for global journalism.

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Because these principles capture bedrock features of the social contract at a high level of generality, it is plausible to contend that they go a long way toward satisfying the second criteria: They can function as organizing principles for global ethics. One of the problems of constructing a global ethics is the confusing plethora of values espoused by codes, associations, and textbooks. Some conceptual economy is called for. To this end, it is possible to think of the major principles and standards of journalism as variants of my three principles, or as falling under one of the three principles as a subprinciple. Under credibility, we can place the subprinciples of truth seeking and independencemajor principles in many codes of ethics. Under truth seeking come such standards as accuracy, balance, completeness of facts, and verification. Under independence come the standards that prohibit conflicts of interest and require impartiality and fairness. The principle of justified consequence subsumes the subprinciples of minimizing harm, providing public benefit, and respect of privacy. Under the claim of humanity we can place principles that require the news media to serve the public, to protect civil and human rights, to act as a watchdog over authority, and to be accountable.

One of the problems of constructing a global ethics is the confusing plethora of values espoused by codes, associations, and textbooks.

The three principles provide a platform from which to begin exploring global issues in journalism, as required by the third criteria. The notions of credibility and justifiable consequence have more potential to bring together a range of norms than alternatives such as reporting the truth. To make truth or report only the truth a foundational global principle would embroil us in skepticism over the possibility of truth, not to mention cultural and ideological debates over whose truth is presumed. Furthermore, the concept of credibility can allow a discussion on global journalism to begin without getting bogged down in disputes over controversial principles such as objectivity. The demand to provide credible information for the public appears to be a principle that could be endorsed by a large variety of journalists, from reporters to columnists, and by forms of journalism that do not endorse objectivity. Similarly, justifiable consequence underlines the need to be aware of the impact of ones journalism without raising fears among journalists that one is opening the door to censorship.

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Together, these three principles are justifiable restraints on the liberty of journalists. Justifiable consequence allows a discussion between journalism traditions that stress the freedom of the press and those that emphasize social responsibility.

Cosmopolitan Journalism
These principles give us a foothold on the difficult terrain of global journalism ethics. The foothold can be extended by considering further the claim of humanity and by adding three imperatives that explicate the idea of a cosmopolitan perspective. The claim of humanity is rooted in the Western tradition of cosmopolitan ethics, which regards all people as citizens of the world. Cosmopolitanism places great importance on universal principles of human rights, freedom, and justice. The nationality, ethnicity, religion, class, race, or gender of a person (or group) is morally irrelevant to whether an individual is a member of humanity and comes under the protection of cosmopolitan principles. We find anticipations of the cosmopolitan attitude in the stoics of antiquity, in the civic law of the Roman Empire, and in the universal brotherhood of Christian humanism (Colish, 1985; Inwood, 1985; Nussbaum, 1997). In philosophy, Kantian thought (1795/1917, 1785/1964, 1797/1991) grounds a good deal of modern cosmopolitanism. Kants categorical imperative enjoins us to universalize our maxims, and to treat others as moral equals, as members of a kingdom of ends. Kants political writings envisage a world that seeks perpetual peace through a federation of free states governed by international law, and respect for humanity.16 Outside philosophy, cosmopolitanism has influenced the Red Cross, the human rights movement, international law, and the establishment of the United Nations (see Goodman, 1995). In recent years, Nussbaum (1997) put cosmopolitanism forward as an antidote to parochialism in ethics.

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In a fragmented world, cosmopolitanism focuses on what is fundamentala common aspiration to life, liberty, justice, and goodness.
The cosmopolitanism imperative that our primary ethical allegiance is to a borderless, moral community of humankind is often misunderstood. Therefore, it is important to say what it implies and what it does not. The claim of humanity is not the cognition of a cold abstract principle. It is the

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ability to perceive and value our common humanity in the situations of life. It is respect for mankinds rational and moral capacities wherever and however they are manifest. It is in our concrete dealings with others that we recognize humanitys common aspirations, vulnerabilities, and capacities, as well as its potential for suffering. In a fragmented world, cosmopolitanism focuses on what is fundamentala common aspiration to life, liberty, justice, and goodness. The cosmopolitan attitude does not deny or devalue cultural diversity in life or in journalism. It does not deny the legitimate claim of our partialities and local attachments. The cosmopolitanist is under no illusion that people will stop loving their family and country. The cosmopolitan attitude does not deny that particular cultures and traditions are valuable for life and may be psychologically necessary for the development of ethical character. The cosmopolitan attitude is concerned with the priority and limits of our attachments. To say that our primary allegiance is to humanity is to say that more partial concerns have a prima facie right to be recognized, but may be trumped by broader concerns. The claim of humanity acknowledges that we live simultaneously in two communities: the local community of our birth and a community of common human aspirations. It insists only that, in negotiating our way between these two communities, we should not allow local attachments to override fundamental human rights and duties. When there is no conflict with fundamental principles, life can continue to be lived according to partial principles.17 The claim of humanity means that, when journalists consider their journalistic standards and duties, the place of birth, race, or culture of their readers is morally irrelevant. When political partisanship conflicts with principles of humanity, journalists should give precedence to the latter. To develop a global attitude in journalism we can begin by thinking analogically, extending notions that hitherto have held at a local or national level to an international level. For example, credibility for a local public becomes credibility for a global audience. Justifiable consequence means justifying the impact of reports beyond the borders of ones country. Even the idea of journalisms social contract can be interpreted globally. Journalisms social contract becomes a multisociety contract with citizens in many countries. The journalists role as special public communicator becomes transnational. Journalists claim to provide a credible journalism of justifiable consequence not to their fellow citizens but to all potential readers. Once again, misunderstandings must be avoided. The cosmopolitan attitude does not imply that news organizations will (or should) ignore local issues or regional audiences, or that the business plans of news organizations cannot focus on attracting regionally based subscribers. It does not mean that every story involves global issues or requires a cosmopolitan attitude. What is at issue is a gradual widening of basic editorial attitudes

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and standardsa widening of journalists vision of their responsibilities and a reinterpretation of the standards used to evaluate stories. Through this shift in perspective, the cosmopolitan attitude seeks to place limits on journalists partialities where stories have impact on citizens in many countries. It asks them to consider their societys actions, policies, and values from a more impartial, global perspective. The following three imperatives state the essential components of a cosmopolitan perspective in journalism:

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Act as Global Agents


Journalists should see themselves as agents of a global public sphere. The goal of their collective actions is a well informed, diverse, and tolerant global info-sphere that challenges the distortions of tyrants, the abuse of human rights, and the manipulation of information by special interests.

Serve the Citizens of the World


The global journalists primary loyalty is to the information needs of world citizens. Journalists should refuse to define themselves as attached primarily to factions, regions, or even countries. Serving the public means serving more than ones local readership or audience, or even the public of ones country.

Promote Nonparochial Understandings


The global journalist frames issues broadly and uses a diversity of sources and perspectives to promote a nuanced understanding of issues from an international perspective. Journalism should work against a narrow ethnocentrism or patriotism.

Under global journalism ethics, objectivity becomes the ideal of informing impartially from an international stance.
What do these three imperatives imply for specific standards of journalism, such as objectivity? Under global journalism ethics, objectivity becomes the ideal of informing impartially from an international stance. Objectivity in journalism has usually been understood, in part, as the duty to avoid bias toward groups within ones own country. Global objectivity takes on the additional responsibility of not allowing bias toward ones country or

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culture as a whole to distort reports, especially reports on international issues. Objective reports, to be accurate and balanced, must contain all relevant international sources and cross-cultural perspectives. In addition, global journalism asks journalists to be more conscious of how they frame the global publics perspective on major stories and how they set the international news agenda. The aim of global journalism should be more than helping the public sphere go well at home, as civic journalists say. The aim should be to facilitate rational deliberation in a global public sphere. Global journalism ethics implies a firm journalistic response to inward-looking attitudes such as extreme patriotism. It was disturbing to see how during the Iraq war of 2003 some news organizations so quickly shucked off their peacetime commitments to independent, impartial reporting as soon as the drums of war started beating. Cosmopolitanism means that the primary ethical duty of a global journalism in times of conflict and uncertainty is not a patriotism of blind allegiance, or muted criticism. Public duty calls for independent, hard-edged news, investigations, analyses, and multiple perspectives.

Conclusion
This article has adopted a contractualist approach to the construction of a global journalism ethics, resulting in three principles and three imperatives. My framework is a starting point for reflection. Only through an open, sustained discussion among all parties will a legitimate global contract for journalism emerge. Meanwhile, the construction of a global code of journalism ethics faces theoretical and practical challenges. Global journalism ethics will have to amount to more than dreamy spiritualism about the brotherhood of man and universal benevolence. Conceptually, there is work to be done. Global journalism ethics must show, in detail, how its ideas imply changes to norms and practices:

What exactly do journalists owe citizens in a distant land? How can global journalists integrate their partial and impartial perspectives? How can journalists support global values while remaining impartial communicators? The practical obstacles are no less imposing. Building a conceptual framework is only the theoretical part of ethical reform.18 There is also the slow, complex, practical task of developing better media institutions and new practices. Exhorting individual journalists to be ethical will be futile unless individual moral progress is supported by an institutional climate that encourages global values in the newsroom. Aware of such difficulties,

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some journalists may accuse proponents of a global journalism ethics of being unrealistic in thinking that news organizations will provide the education, expertise, and extra resources needed to achieve a high-quality cosmopolitan journalism. Given these obstacles, global journalism will have to walk between nave idealism and cynicism. It is the duty of ethicists to show leadership and articulate new principles. Much is at stake. Only if journalists embrace the values of global journalism ethics will globalization mean something more than the development of broadband connections and converging media. Only if journalists reexamine their ethical role will they survive as critical informers, a force for humanity.

Notes
1. The spirit of experiment and invention that guides this article is John Deweys (1927) experimentalism, a logic of method (pp. 202203) opposed to absolutist thinking. Experimentalism believes that concepts and principles should be shaped and tested as tools of inquiry (pp. 202203). Policies and proposals should be treated as working hypotheses, not as programs to be rigidly adhered to (pp. 202203). 2. Whatever I say about the ethics of journalism or journalists applies as well to the responsibilities of news organizations, media owners, and the news media at large. 3. John V. Pavlik (2001) discussed the impact of new technology on journalism. 4. For global media ethics and global ethics, see Christians and Traber (1997); Cooper, Christians, Plude, and White (1989); Weaver (1998); Seib (2002); Morris and Waisbord (2001); Beitz (1985); and Burger, Brezovszky, and Pelinka (2000). 5. For variety, I use ethics and morality as interchangeable terms. For brevity, I speak of the journalists public as his or her readers or audience. Either term refers to the users of all news media, from newspaper readers and television news audiences to surfers of Internet news sites. 6. The idea of ethics as a social contract stems, historically, from Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant (Darwall, 2003). Contract theory has two main traditions: contractarianism and contractualism. Contractarians, from Hobbes to Gauthier (1986), take a minimalist position. The aim is a nonmoral justification for morality. Rules and rule-following are justified by contracts that advance the interests of individuals. Contractualists are not minimalists. They require moral agreements to have additional features such as a desire on the part of participants to reach fair agreements for all. 7. The idea that the legitimacy of the results of ethical reflectionprinciples, norms, and so ondepends on the process of their construction is a familiar theme in recent writings by liberal ethicists (Habermas, 1990; Rawls, 1992). 8. The phrase is from Sidgwicks The Methods of Ethics (Darwall, 2003, p. 215). Putnam (2002) stressed that objectivity should not be equated with description. There are many evaluative statements that are correct or warranted but

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9.

10.

11.

12.

13.

14. 15. 16.

17.

18.

that are not descriptions. Such statements are under rational control, governed by standards appropriate to their particular functions and contexts (Putnam, 2002, p. 33). On the idea of public benefits, see Klaidman and Beauchamp, The Virtuous Journalist (1987, pp. 12638). Public benefits include the provision of accurate and balanced information on the economy, health, politics, and other essential areas. Also, the press is expected to act as a watchdog over other institutions and to provide a forum for the exchange of views. Many scholars categorize news media according to their emphasis on one or more of these press functions. For example, press systems are evaluated according to how much freedom they have, or how much they stress social responsibility (Altschull, 1984; Merrill, 1991; Picard, 1985; Siebert, Peterson, & Schramm, 1956). For recent discussions of the search for global media values, see Black and Barney (2002), Search for a Global Media Ethic, a special issue of the Journal of Mass Media Ethics; and Callahan (2003), New Challenges of Globalization for Journalism. The issue of declining media credibility has been a major concern and a source of several projects for the American Society of News Editors. See their materials on credibility at www.asne.org. In Canada, this issue of news media credibility was the topic of a major panel at the 2004 annual meeting of the Canadian Newspapers Association. See www.cna-acj.ca. News media credibility has been the subject of numerous public opinion surveys. For the most recent survey, see the Canada-wide survey by the Canadian Media Research Consortium at http://cmrcccrm.ca/english/index.html. Onora ONeill (2002) said that trust is basic for human rights and democracy (p. 27). Niklas Luhmann (1979) wrote that a complete absence of trust would prevent (one) even getting up in the morning (p. 4). On how we come to trust, see Uslaner (2002). Active credibility includes systems for dealing with public complaints about stories, such as press councils. On accountability, see Bertrand (2000). Mill (1859/1961, p. 263) made the prevention of harm to others the sole principle on which the state could legitimately limit the liberty of individual citizens. For Kants cosmopolitanism in ethics and politics see Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785/1964), The Metaphysics of Morals (1797/1991), and Perpetual Peace (1795). On Kants ethics, see Baron (1997). Nagel (1991) argued that the task of constructing a society that integrates our partial and impartial perspectives is one of the greatest problems of ethical and political theory. An ethical defense of our partialities is found in Cottingham (1986). For a global approach to media reform, see Price, Rozumilowicz and Verhulst (2002).

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