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April 9 event: Global Media Ethics and the National Interest

On April 9, the WVU Department of Philosophy is hosting its annual Applied Ethics Day. This year’s topic is of particular interest to College of Media students: “Global Media Ethics and the National Interest” by Stephen Ward, an internationally recognized media ethicist. The talk is scheduled at 8:00 PM in 209 Armstrong Hall.

This talk explains how an emerging digital, global ethics provides a new framework for understanding difficult issues concerning journalism and the national interest. The issues range from media freedom in an era of heightened security and the promotion of national interests abroad to citizen “hackers” posting intelligence documents.

I argue that this globally minded media ethics favors media freedom and the revelation of embarrassing documents on a global scale, while locally it opposes ensnaring journalists such as James Risen in the justice system. But this ethics adopts these positions in a nuanced manner, allowing for key exceptions and for counter-balancing reasons to be heard. Moreover, global media ethics employs a different set of reasons. It appeals to global principles that can override nation-based values found in the pre-digital media ethics of the previous century.

I contend that, in a global world, we – citizens, scholars and the journalists—need to examine these new forms of argument and practice. We need to explore the age-old tension between journalistic freedom and legitimate social restraint. The overriding question is: What does responsible journalism mean in a global media world, where nations are still key players?

The talk will begin with the current state of journalism. It will outline the transition from a pre-digital, non-global ethics intended for professional, mainstream journalists to a digital, global ethics for professionals and citizens. I then explain how the new ethics provides a framework for approaching national interest issues. I conclude by showing how the framework applies to several current and controversial cases, including the Risen case.