Loyalty: A Vital Ethical Concept in the Creation and Consumption of Media

Guest Post by: Ashley Argall, student

As a second semester senior at Marquette, I have successfully completed two philosophy classes during my time here. However, until a week ago, I had never heard of the philosophical concept of Loyalty. For that reason alone, I am glad I have made it through the first two weeks of my Media Ethics class this semester.

Loyalty, in the context of ethics, is the idea that every time a person makes a decision in life, he or she is essentially answering the question: “To whom or to what will I be loyal?”

There are, truly, thousands of ways to exemplify this concept, because it applies to every single decision we make every day – from small things, like, “Will I brush my teeth this morning?” to bigger things, like, “Which job offer will I accept?”

In the first example, if I decide to go ahead brush my teeth in the morning, I have decided to be loyal to my health, my dentist, the people with which I will talk that day (so I don’t bombard them with bad breath), etc. If the answer is no, I may have decided to be loyal to sleeping in 2 minutes longer, getting to class on time, or saving water.

When it comes to making ethical decisions, the concept of loyalty plays an even bigger, and oftentimes more complicated, role. In the world of communications, ethical decisions are a constant occurrence. These decisions do not come without consequence. Journalists, advertisers, and public relations professionals have an incredible amount of influence over the values and beliefs of the society in which they work. Therefore, ethical decisions made within the realm of mass communications are powerful.

DecisionsI truly believe that anyone considering a job in mass communications should be aware of the ethical concept of Loyalty. If all communications professionals understood that every time they and their coworkers made decisions, they were being loyal to one thing over another, they could become more attuned to actions within their company that may be stemming from unethical motives. As stated previously, when a mass communications organization is driven by unethical loyalties, the consequence is a negative effect on society as a whole.

Here’s an example to illustrate. A journalist who is unaware of the concept of Loyalty will not have thought consciously ahead of time about where he believes his loyalties as a journalist should lie. One example of a good loyalty for a journalist to have is a loyalty to society as a whole by creating balanced, accurate stories. If the journalist had not consciously established this loyalty to balanced reporting for himself ahead of time, he could easily become wrapped up in creating a story that simply attracts the most attention. In other words, his loyalty in that situation would unknowingly lean more toward his own personal success and profit, as opposed to creating a news story that is most beneficial for society. Had he been able to consciously see where to which causes his actions were being loyal in that situation, he may have reported his story differently…. and in an arguably better way.

Communications professionals are not the only ones who need to understand the concept of Loyalty. It is also an extremely important concept for media consumers (i.e. everyone) to understand. Media consumers who have a solid idea of where media outlets’ loyalties potentially could lie will have a better ability to analyze the media messages coming at them and detect ones that may be unethically motivated.

Educated media creators and media consumers are both vital to the formation of an ethically sound society.

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