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Media of all kinds needs clear ethics

August 26th, 2014 Comments off

Because it can: death, respect and distasteful coverage 

WE all know why a dog licks its testicles: because it can.

That inelegant intro is the key to the recent furores over media behaviour in the wake of two tragedies – the death of Robin Williams on August 11, and the execution of James Foley on August 19.

Both incidents unleashed torrents of coverage on both professional and social media, and came to raise issues of contemporary importance for both streams. The events also highlighted the difference in ethical attitudes between the two streams – the old, legacy, sclerotic media, as some would depict it, compared to the swift, chatty, pervasive digital-only style.

Both men died violently: all streams of media have had an evolving relationship with handling death. Death, as I’ve often argued in lectures, is the fulcrum for all current affairs news. Death is what we all fear, so when it happens to others it is a cause of horrified fascination. Anything that might hasten our own deaths, whether it be an excess of alcohol, road traffic, a meteor colliding with earth or radon gas under the ground, is also riveting because of its possible implications. Read more…

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