Overcoming Ethical Dilemmas in Communication

Guest Post by Romayne Newton, Future Public Relation Practitioner

Who would’ve thought that those people, who choose to provide information to the public, would be the same people that consciously decide to deceive the public? Deception, fabrication, plagiarism are all unethical actions that those in the communication field should avoid. It seems like an obvious and easy concept to follow, but too often unethical actions occur.

As a future Public Relation practitioner, I understand that the field especially, public relations has a bad reputation for deceiving the public, but in fact, similar to journalists public relations has an ethical code that practitioners must follow.

Accuracy, confirmation, and credibility are some of the few qualities a practitioner must embody. However, it’s quite frightening to think of various cases such as Jayson Blair—journalist caught plagiarizing articles, ESPN’s Manti Te’o article—an article that didn’t perform fact checking, and Mike Daisey—fabricating news stories about the company Apple— in which people disregarded ethical breeches and misinformed the public to solely publish a news story.A

I am entering this field to become a part of this entity known as communication. We all communicate in our daily lives. However, people such as public relation practitioners, journalist, and advertisers are taking on a huge responsibility. A responsibility that requires honesty, integrity, and above all keeping the public’s best interest at heart.

This is not to say that taking on such a responsibility will be easy and that there won’t be any ethical dilemmas along the way. However, the point is that when a dilemma is encountered there are codes of conduct to follow and actions such as plagiarism and deception are wrong. The bigger picture involving losing credibility and the trust of the public should always outweigh the instant results of publishing a story first or receiving publicity.

I recognize that as time passes there are more ways to take short cuts. The internet and social media are advancements that effect how decisions are and will be made in terms of communication. It will be something I will encounter and need to make decisions regarding. However, if I keep in mind the purpose of public relations, which is to maintain and manage the relationships between organizations and the public and remain mindful of ethical news values such as tenacity—story is important enough for additional effort, reciprocity—treating others as you wish to be treated, equity—seeking justice for controversial issues and treating all subjects equally, and community—social cohesion, I will have the right mid-set and tools necessary to deal with ethical dilemmas.


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