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Published: 13-09-2019

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The Ethical Issues in Journalism in Absence of Malice, a Film by Sydney Pollack

Absence of Malice is a film released in 1981 that deals with ethical issues in journalism. The story revolves about a murder case in which Michael Gallagher, a deceased criminal’s son, is the primary suspect. In the film, there are different ethical problems with regards to how anews reporter, Megan Carter, reveals pertinent allegations about the case. Much more so, her initial supply about the case is of unethical nature. 1 key ethical concern in this film includes Megan Carter and Teresa Peron, Gallagher’s pal. With this regard, a brief overview is offered about this component of the movie just before an analysis of the ethical situation surrounding is provided. The evaluation is accomplished via the use of Bok’s Three Step Model.

In this distinct element of the movie, Peron tries to assist out Gallagher due to his suspicion of becoming a murderer by supplying an alibi for him. She turns to Carter and confides to her about the whereabouts of Gallagher in the course of the alleged time that he committed the murder. Peron tells Carter that she spent the weekend collectively with Gallagher considering that she was possessing an abortion out of town. Nevertheless, because Peron is a staunch catholic, she requests Carter to shield her anonymity and not reveal any info relating to her abortion as this is against the beliefs of Catholicism. Nevertheless, the story is released by Carter, which benefits in Peron becoming so ashamed to the point of committing suicide. The ethical issue, in this case, revolves around Carter’s choice to reveal private information about Peron. Concerns raise include the assumed proper to privacy in Peron’s case. Much more so, there is the wider query of whether the correct to privacy of an individual trumps the right of the public to be informed.

According to Bok’s 3-step model, the initial step is to consult my individual conscience with regards to my feelings about the actions that occurred. Personally, I feel sorry for the loss of life that resulted from the release of Carter’s news story. No one must have to die just to save face and avoid the embarrassment that comes with certain details of a news story. On 1 hand, Peron confided in Carter in good faith with the hope of exonerating Gallagher from the public onslaught he was facing as the main suspect of a murder case. She went out of her way to reveal actions she had taken, which have been not in accordance to her Catholic beliefs. Her aim was to convince Carter that her earlier report was not correct. However, even soon after requesting that the details about her abortion be left out, Carter went against her word and released the story anyway. Therefore, she betrayed Peron’s trust in her. On the other hand, I feel conflicted since as a journalist, Carter was also obliged to give the public any details that was tied to the case. It is a pity that unforeseen events occurred due to her actions.

The second step below Bok’s three step model is the seeking of specialist tips and exploring of options.Two key philosophical principles come to thoughts with this regard. 1 of them is Kant’s categorical crucial, which purports that demands can't be subjected to situational aspects. There are two premises with this regard: (a) universality, in which the choices made by an individual may possibly turn out to be the universal law, and (b) respect for other people’s autonomy while not making use of them as implies to a specific end (Plaisance, 2007).From this principle, it is clear that a journalist has to put him/herself in the shoes of others when reporting news, which calls for transparency in all matters pertaining to the case, such as the source and its credibility. Carter revealed her source as Peron and gave all pertinent information about her in a bid to portray the credibility of the story. Anotherimportant principle that is applicable in this case is the Golden Rule, which calls for 1 to treat other men and women as he/she would like to be treated by them, which means any judgment made on reporting news has to be under the influence of compassion, the consequences of releasing the information,and intellectual honesty (Glasser, 2000).In this case, Carter should have weighed the positive aspects of releasing details about Peron’s abortion. She ought to just have stated in her news that Peron and Gallagher had gone away for the weekend for the sake of Peron’s safety. If information of this weekend getaway have been required in a court of law at a later date, then it would have been Peron’s prerogative to release the story to the public and not Carter.

The final step of the Bok’s three step model is the conduction of a public discussion with all the relevant parties involved. If each Peron and Carter had been to have a discussion right after the release of the story, they would both have conflicting points of view. Carter would possibly point out her duty as a journalist to reveal all pertinent details that she had found, which could have a large bearing on the case’s outcome. On the other hand, Peron would be mad that Carter had betrayed her act of confiding to her and revealed private details that hurt her feelings and place her into shame. The common public would also be conflicted in the release of the story. There would be these who would back up Peron with her correct to privacy. On the other hand, there are those who would back Carter with her appropriate to report, in addition to the proper of the public to know any relevant details of the case.

From this evaluation, I would behave in a distinct manner if I identified myself in a comparable situation. If I was in Carter’s shoes, I would not have revealed details about Peron’s abortion. I really feel that Carter had double standards in herpractice as a journalist. For instance, she did not reveal her very first source for her story. For that reason, she would also have completed Peron a favor by not reporting about her abortion. This data would be left to Peron to reveal it if want be in case she would have been referred to as to testify in a law court. On the other hand, if I was in Peron’s footwear, I would not have gone into also a lot detail pertaining to matters of abortion. I would just have mentioned that I had a doctor’s appointment out of town, which could have saved Carter the difficulty of getting to choose no matter whether to betray her trust or not. Overall, there is an ethical dilemma in this case, which is not effortlessly solvable. Carter was obligated to report news as she identified it, and it is unfortunate that a person had to die as a outcome.
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