The study was basically developed to examine the application or impact of media ethics on the news gathering and dissemination with a study of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ). The objective was to discover whether NUJ uphold ethical standards like fairness, accuracy, balance, rejection of brown envelope, none disclosure of source of vital information and many others in its daily assignment or not. Ethical standard in journalism was developed to ensure good conduct and accord respect for journalism and practitioners. Findings show that the NUJ do uphold ethical standard in its day to day activities with 67% of the respondents attested to this fact. Survey random sampling technique was also adopted to select respondents. Data analysis and interpretations of findings done with frequency and percentage method of data analysis was used. It is recommended that media houses (NUJ) should increase the salary of their workers and paid them on time while regular allowance should be made available for them. Trainings and workshops are to be organized regularly to train and re-orientate their workers to uphold ethical standard.
1.1 Background to the Study
Ewuola (2002) defines journalism as the day to day gathering and transmitting of news, which means journalism, is primarily concerned with giving out of information to an audience on a regular basis through a suitable channel of communication. In essence, we can look at journalism has the gathering, processing, and dissemination of news and information related to the news to an audience. The word applies to both the method of inquiring for news and the literary style which is used to disseminate it.
Merriam Webster Dictionary refers to the activity or job of collecting, writing, and editing news stories for newspapers, magazines, television, or radio. Therefore, journalism practice wields such enormous powers and calls for the highest standards of ethics and commitment to truth. Ethics and truth in journalism have assumed global concern as scholars recognize that their basic constituents of objectivity, accuracy, fairness and balance have merely assumed mythical qualities as journalists battle to assign credibility to their news stories.
Tuchman (1978) cited in Kate and Majority (2013) describes objectivity as `facility' (a mechanism which allows the journalists to hide even from themselves the `constructed' and `partial' nature of their stories). This view seems to have garnered force as increasingly, scholars suggest that news even when professionally `selected' is guided more by organisational needs than by professionalism.
The journalist thus becomes `a walking paradox' (Nordenstreng, 1995) as one cannot fail to see that journalism is so full of contradictions that "we have to question even the most fundamental dogma of the profession - truth seeking - because the way it has been conceived and practiced in journalism serves as a deceptive filtering device preventing as much as helping the truth being discovered" (p.117) Cited in Kate and Majority (2013).
Ethics is a moral concept, it is believed to be synonymous with morality and both involve moral conduct. The word ethics comes from the Greek word “Ethos” which means character. The word moral is taken from the Latin word ‘moralis’ which means custom or manner.
Both ethics and morality are about custom and profound manner of conduct that are not only customary but also right. Ethics is a branch of philosophy or philosophical school of thought about morality and its problems.
Ethics is a moral philosophy and a branch of a knowledge which is concerned with the standard of good or bad conduct in the society using societal members as a basis for the evaluation of human conduct or behaviour.
According to Day (2000, p.3), ethics involves the accepted values or moral norms of a society’s notions about what is right and wrong and “the distinctions between virtue and vice”. It defines what is morally acceptable using “values as the basis of human behaviour”, where the criteria of “decisions about right and wrong are made”.
Journalism ethics and standards comprise principles of ethics and of good practice as applicable to the specific challenges faced by journalists. Historically and currently, this subset of media ethics is widely known to journalists as their professional code of ethics or the canons of journalism. The basic codes and canons commonly appear in statements drafted by professional journalism associations and individual print, broadcast, and online news organisations.
While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.
Journalism entails a high degree of public trust. To earn and maintain this trust, it is morally imperative for every journalist and every news medium to observe the highest professional and ethical standards. It is against this background that the research examines the application of media ethics in news gathering and dissemination with a study of Nigeria n Union of Journalists (NUJ) Edo Chapel.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Critics have identified distortion of news, imbalance in reports and the growing tendency for the public not to believe the media news as major problems inherent in most of the media content in Nigeria. Objectivity as an ethical standard is one of the most persuasive in all of journalism. Also, journalists are guided by the Constitution and ethical principles. For instance, chapter 2 section 22 of the 1999 constitution as amended tasked the press thus: “the press radio, television and other agencies of mass media shall at all time be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contain in this chapter and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the government to the public”. Also, it is unethical to disclose sources of information whereas in Section 133 (2) journalists are asked to disclose their source of information in court and if a journalist refused, it will amount to contempt of court (Arowosegbe, 2007).
The press went through a lot of criticism in the hands of people/government especially the military government which as a result many journalists/media practitioners were imprisoned, assassinated and assaulted. However, other problems include but not limited to:
- The effect of government censorship on journalists.
- Non access to public information kept by government, public institution and private bodies.
- Criticism and government suppression.
Problematically, a gap exists in academic examinations when it comes to examining issues ethics and how it has affected the content of news. It is in the light of the above problem therefore, that it became imperative to carry out a study into the application ethics by journalists in Benin when gathering and disseminating news.
1.3 Objective of the Study
i. To examine whether journalists maintain the ethics of the profession in newsgathering and dissemination.
ii. To highlight some of the challenges facing journalists in upholding the ethics of the profession.
iii. To ascertain benefits of media ethics to the practice of journalism.
1.4 Research Questions
i. To what extent do journalists in Edo state maintain the ethics of the profession in newsgathering and dissemination?
ii. What are the challenges facing journalists in upholding the ethics of the profession?
iii. What are the benefits of media ethics to the practice of journalism?
1.5 Scope of the Study
This study is streamlined to cover journalists in Benin. This is for proximity and to lessen the financial burden of covering other locations. The scope of this of study comprises all member of Nigerian Union of Journalists in Benin which include male and female, senior staffs and junior staff member. A hundred (100) of these journalists were selected for the research from Nigerian Union of Journalists in Benin of which 50 were from print media while the remaining 50 were representing broadcast media.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The study draws attention to the actual performance and adherence to the ethics of journalist and Nigerian journalism. This derived that media do not operate in vacuum because what media do affect the media and others. In fact, the issues are significant to media practitioners, owners and patrol of the media.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
This research work like every other has its own limitation, in the process of putting this work together. The study is limited by the population and the consequence sample draw from it. In other words, they are many chapel we have about 37 Nigeria Union of Journalists but only focus on Edo state Chapel.
1.8 Operational Definition of the Terms
Press: This is a collective name for mass media including print and broadcast e.t.c. Within the context of this research, the press includes all the media involved in the collection and dissemination of news.
Ethics: It is the principle or code of conduct that governed the practice of journalism, which involve accuracy, objectivity, fairness etc.
Brown envelope: It is a term in the media sphere which means bribe given to journalists. This practice negates ethics of the profession.
Journalist: A writer for newspapers and magazines. He/she is someone employed to provide news stories for newspapers or broadcast media. Within the context of this study, a journalist is a person who works with collecting, writing and distributing news and other current information to a target audience.
Credibility: Credibility is the belief or trust which audience or readers have on the contents of the broadcast/print media based on observance of ethics of the profession.
Gate keeping: Any person or formerly organized group directly involve in relaying or disseminating information from one individual to another mass medium. Gatekeepers can add or reduce the content of the message. Gate keeping remain a sacrosanct duty which the media should carry out without ulterior motive.
Newsgathering: The act of reporting or finding news worthy events and reporting them. This act must be carried out with observance of the highest ethical standards.
News Dissemination: Takes on the theory of traditional view of communication, which involves a sender and receiver. The traditional communication view point is broken down into a sender sending information, and receiver collecting the information processing it and sending information back in form of a feedback.