How to make wise personal decisions

By · Monday, May 12th, 2014

All journalists have an awesome responsibility. Editors, in particular, have an obligation to protect the credibility of their product and their organization by making wise personal decisions. They can do that by recalling the tenets of ethical decision-making in a newsroom and by remembering the appropriate way to ACT.

Assess the situation. Look at the issue from the perspective of the news organization, the community and you. Before you consider the consequences, as part of the next step, think about the situation itself. Think about where you can go for advice. Talk with those closest to the situation and with supervisors. Check out the websites of journalism ethicists. Or, give them a call. How have they viewed similar situations and what advice have they given? See how other news organizations have handled such issues. Editors can learn from others’ mistakes and successes.

Consider the consequences. Every decision has a consequence. Be careful not to reach a conclusion prematurely before fully assessing the potential consequences. Make a list that includes all of them — for readers, your employer and you. What is at stake? Who could be harmed? List pros and cons. Weigh them against one another. Choose the best option to maintain the news organization’s credibility and readers’ trust. Then ACT. Inaction can be just as harmful as making an ill-advised decision.

Take responsibility. Make your decision with conscience and be open about it. Be available to discuss it, but then move on. Do not dwell on it privately or publicly. Do not replay it or re-live it. Do not expect consensus. Whatever choices you make, move forward with dignity.

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