My personal ethics code will use Aristotle’s Golden Mean as the theoretical basis for developing my ethical standards as a journalist because of the emphasis on finding a middle ground between extremes and because it is not a “one-size fits all” approach. Nicomachean Ethics holds that virtues are an essential part of living a happy life, and that these virtues are also a habit. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains Aristotle’s argument that, “we must also acquire, through practice, those deliberative, emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion.” So based on upbringing and life experiences, people learn habits that enable them to make good decisions.
Making ethical decisions based on Aristotle’s Golden Mean is a process, which also depends on the facts of each unique situation: “finding the mean in any given situation is not a mechanical or thoughtless procedure, but requires a full and detailed acquaintance with the circumstances,” according to the Stanford article.
Aristotle’s emphasis on developing good virtues or my personal values and then taking into account the specific situation you are facing is the way in which I will approach making ethical decisions.
My upbringing has contributed to the values I hold today and how I approach journalism. I was raised in Connecticut, in the same town where my mother grew up, and primarily attended a private, religious school. I attended the University of Vermont and earned my B.A. in English. I also studied abroad in England and spent a year teaching English in France. Traveling gave me greater perspective of the world and my education gave me a love of stories and good writing. I find that these experiences influence what I prefer to write about and how I approach a story. They also have created the virtues that I use to begin my decision making process.
Professionally, and personally, there are several principles I will strive to uphold and use to guide my decision making. These standards come from a combination of my upbringing and background, as well as the values held by the Society of Professional Journalists and The New York Times and the Associated Press.
I will aim to tell the true story with context and background. I will use a variety of sources and evaluate their credibility and the value of information they can provide. Facts will be verified.
I will take personal responsibility for myself and my work, by striving for accuracy and correcting my mistakes. Objectivity is prized in journalism, but I feel it is not fully achievable. I will instead try to acknowledge my biases and diversify my sources.
I will act with integrity and aim to be honest, truthful and empathetic with my reporting and writing. I will hold myself accountable for my work and make independent judgements.
I will work to minimize harm by depicting subjects of stories, events and sources fairly and accurately. I will welcome the comments from other sides of an issue and tell the stories of people who are sometimes overlooked. I will evaluate sensitive information for its newsworthiness and not write anything, even if true, if it does not add value or is not essential to the story, that would damage my sources.
These core values will help me to uphold my professional standards and make ethical decisions.