International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State

Global Issues Media 
& Ethics
An Electronic Journal of the U.S. Department of State - April 2001 Volume 6, Number 1

From the Editors
Focus | Journalism in the United States Today | Additional Resources

(Download Adobe Acrobat version | zipped ASCII version)

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"America's hometown papers, whether large or small, chronicle the daily life of our nation, of our people .... Put it all together, and community newspapers do not just tell the story of American freedom, (they) are that story."

Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State
Speech to the American Newspaper Association
March 25, 2001

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The United States constitutional guarantees of free press and free expression have ensured a press largely without governmental regulation. This does not mean media without standards. In this journal, noted U.S. experts explore the central role of media ethics as the core values which shape the functioning of U.S. journalism.

In the American system, our free media is an essential source of the information that is at the heart of a free society. This critical role endows the media with its own power, which, when used irresponsibly, can threaten a free society. How, then, do we manage this challenge?

In many nations, the government takes on the role of primary regulator of the media. In the United States, our solution has been to rely on market forces, competition, responsibility, and a highly evolved set of self-controls that we call journalism ethics.

Journalism ethics provide a process by which individual mistakes and excesses are corrected without jeopardizing the ultimate objective of a free media -- to provide a healthy check on centers of power in order to maintain a free and enlightened society.

Broadcast media and the Internet have created a new set of challenges that are on occasion addressed in the United States in a governmental regulatory framework, but always in the context of basic constitutional principles and protections of our free press.

Journalists everywhere have a vital role to provide the public with knowledge and understanding. But as they practice their craft in a world that is both technologically and geographically changing, systematic standards must guide their work. Only in that way will journalists serve their society in an ethically responsible and constructive fashion.

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Defining the Land of the Fourth Estate
The First Amendment, economics, and a presumption against regulation play major roles in shaping press freedom in the United States.
By Nicholas Johnson, Visiting Professor of Law,
University of Iowa College of Law

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The Role of the Media in Building Community
A new kind of journalism challenges citizens to get involved and help tackle problems in their communities.
By Jan Schaffer, Executive Director,
Pew Center for Civic Journalism

Why Democracy Needs Investigative Journalism
Investigative reporting remains one of the most important contributions that the press makes to democracy, but journalists in this field must constantly assess the ethics of their techniques.
By Silvio Waisbord, Author of "Watchdog Journalism in South America: News, Accountability, and Democracy"

Journey Through the "Ethical Minefield"
An investigative reporter is faced with an ethical dilemma in covering a story about the children of drug-addicted parents.
By Tran Ha, a reporter at The Poynter Institute

Understanding Media Watchdogs
Media watchdog groups have motivations and biases of their own that must be evaluated to understand their criticism.
By Virginia Whitehouse, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Whitworth College,
Spokane, Washington

Journalism in the Era of the Web
The speed and interactivity that make online journalism appealing may also be factors that undermine the traditional pursuit of accuracy, balance, and clarity.
By Bob Giles, Publisher of Nieman Reports, Nieman Foundation of Journalism, Harvard University

News in the Age of Money
Business journalists covering a surging economy face an ethical dilemma as they are tempted to skew their coverage to gain profit from rising markets.
By Diana B. Henriques, Financial Writer at
The New York Times

Media Ethics Codes and Beyond
Two leading media ethicists analyze the codes of ethics followed by journalists at 33 U.S. newspapers, delving into everything from how to handle moral dilemmas to dealing with the impact of new technologies.
By Robert Steele and Jay Black


Books, documents, and articles on journalism issues.

Selected Internet Resources
A list of Internet sites offering further information on media organizations and journalist groups.

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An Electronic Journal of the U.S. Department of State
Volume 6, Number 1, April 2001

The Office of International Information Programs of the U.S. Department of State provides products and services that explain U.S. policies, society, and values to foreign audiences. The Office publishes five electronic journals that examine major issues facing the United States and the international community. The journals -- Economic Perspectives, Global Issues, Issues of Democracy, U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda, and U.S. Society and Values -- provide statements of U.S. policy together with analysis, commentary, and background information in their respective thematic areas.

All issues appear in English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish language versions, and selected issues also appear in Arabic and Russian. English-language issues appear at approximately a one-month interval. Translated versions normally follow the English original by two to four weeks.

The opinions expressed in the journals do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. government. The U.S. Department of State assumes no responsibility for the content and continued accessibility of Internet sites linked to herein; such responsibility resides solely with the publishers of those sites. Articles may be reproduced and translated outside the United States unless the articles carry explicit copyright restrictions on such use. Potential users of credited photos are obliged to clear such use with said source.

Current or back issues of the journals, and the roster of upcoming journals, can be found on the Office of International Information Programs' International Home Page on the World Wide Web at They are available in several electronic formats to facilitate viewing online, transferring, downloading, and printing. Comments are welcome at your local U.S. Embassy or at the editorial offices:

Editor, Global Issues & Communications
Office of International Information Programs
U.S. Department of State
301 4th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20547
United States of America
E-mail: [email protected]

Publisher Judith S. Siegel; Editor William Peters; Managing Editor Jim Fuller; Text Editor Charlene Porter; Internet Editor Tim Brown; Associate Editors Carlos Aranaga, Jenifer Bochner, Melissa Cooper, Wayne Hall, Kathleen Hug, Cynthia LaCovey, Paul Malamud, Ellen Toomey, Rosalie Targonski; Reference and Research Joan Taylor; Art Director Chloe Ellis; Graphics Assistant Sylvia Scott; Editorial Board Howard Cincotta, Judith S. Siegel, Leonardo Williams