The Grand Ethics Debate in the Field of Writing

The field of writing has grown throughout the years and is facing challenges that have been ushered in by the modern age. In the media sector ratings and popularity are dictating standards and driving gatekeepers. In this mass frenzy to thrive in the business of writing, the issue of ethics is on the rise. Within media it is now common for writers to be pressured into “battery farming” or “churnalism” which is using press releases, wire stories and other existing content to create news articles in order to draw an audience and save on time and cost. Other common practices include baiting readers by using misleading title’s, malicious editing practices, bullying, false “expert” advice and nepotism. Female journalists who are also minorities seem to suffer the most as they are subject to the everyday turmoil of the business on top of being victim to a larger number of threats of rape, murder and mutilation from readers (Morris, 2014).

When the television camera was accepted into the courtroom in 1990, many debated the execution of First and Sixth Amendment rights. The ethical prowess of Journalism is now receiving more attention. The expectation of the media is for its journalists to be fair and truthful in providing information and writing the news. Journalists are also expected to adhere to ethics and use ethical reasoning in writing news pieces, when dealing with sensational issues or issues of privacy. However, it is difficult to determine ethical boundaries in writing. Every journalist has their own ethical standard but should ethics be defined? In his work, Borden suggests that in defining ethics, “the reasoning is an analytically epistemic activity that is difficult to capture adequately with most of the mapping techniques that have been used to represent sense making in various discipline” (Conde, 2006).

Modern technology has ushered in a slew of ethical questions and controversies because of the ease of capturing news events on a mobile phone, hidden camera, microphone or the use of the internet or databases to mine personal information about individuals. Online rogue journalists and freelance journalists who write their version of the news in blogs or tabloids and more complexity to the situation. Ethical misjudgment can easily damage journalists reputation, the reputation of the media organization and the overall profession.

“Different journalists with different educational backgrounds and experience may have differences in their knowledge, attitude and acceptance of journalism ethics” (Conde, 2006).

In the literary field many writers are at the mercy of the publisher (Klems, 2014). Publishers are often guided by industry trends which can leave writers feeling pressured to write pieces that attract attention. What if a book contains highly explicit content but holds valuable truths? Are all works in this category unethical? Young adult (YA) works that are bathed in the occult are these considered to be unethical? Ultimately, do writers have a responsibility to censor their own content? 

The need has risen for writers to explore their own level of knowledge regarding ethics and their attitude and acceptance of writing ethically in order to find out whether they are aware of ethics in their own profession. Whether ethics is taught by an institution or reflected in one’s profession, the concept of ethical conduct is a highly personal choice and subject to interpretation.  Many of us develop our personal values over the course of our entire lives.

We are aware of our values, the values of others and these experiences and observations guide us. We must build our own core value system in order to formulate our own code of ethics.

Conde, S. N. (2006). Capote in the jury box: Analyzing the ethics of jurors writing books. The Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, 19(3), 643-661
Klems, B. (2014, April 08). Do You Have What Publishers Really Want? | Retrieved March 04, 2016, from
Morris, M. (2014, October 16). 10 Dark Truths About The Modern Writing Industry – Listverse. Retrieved March 04, 2016, from

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