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SPJ Code of Ethics: Problematic Contradiction or Perfect Combination?

by on October 16, 2014

Looking at the SPJ Code of Ethics after learning about the deontological and teleological approaches to ethical decision making has made me curious about something, and since I’ve been too sick to come to class the past couple of weeks, I decided to post my question here.

The deontological approach is all about adhering to a code or following one’s duty (in other words, “the means justify the ends”). Meanwhile, the teleological approach involves thinking about the consequences of one’s actions, and deciding what action would result in the most desirable outcome (in other words, “the ends justify the means”). The two are considered to be the opposites of each other when it comes to ethical decision making

One would think that adhering to the SPJ Code would mean you were following a deontological approach. However, the second rule of the SPJ Code, “Minimize Harm,” tells journalists to think about what the consequences of their actions, and to make the decision that would result in the least amount of harm to all parties involved, which sounds a lot more like the teleological approach.

So, my question is this: Is the SPJ Code a confusing paradox of two contradicting ethical approaches, or is it the perfect combination of the two that gets the best of both approaches, or am I just completely misinterpreting this whole thing and sounding like an idiot? Let me know what you think.

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One Comment
  1. mariahscafidi permalink

    I think it’s sort of a perfect combination of the two. I also think that sometimes, you can’t help but have a little bit of crossover – if you’re taking the deontological approach, at some point, you’re going to think about the consequences of your actions, and likewise, if you’re taking the teleological approach, you’re going to wonder if what you’re doing is morally right according to you. I think, especially in today’s world where everything isn’t as black and white as it used to be, there is always going to be a crossover, and we see it in stories every day. In the documentary we watched a few weeks ago, breaking the news on Iraq’s WMD’s could potentially hurt a lot of people, but the American people deserved to know there was some speculation and doubt over whether the WMD’s existed, or to what extent they existed. That intersects both teleological and deontological ways of thinking – you should minimize harm to the greatest amount of people, but wouldn’t knowing the truth potentially do that too? Same thing with Elliot Rodger and the UCSB shootings – releasing his manifesto could inspire people who share the same, twisted ideologies of Rodger, but couldn’t it also help people identify someone who shares the same mindset and clue police in to someone who has potential to snap? I think the SPJ code seeks to be a perfect combination of the two.

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