10 questions for unprecedented times

By · Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

not teaching,

Stakeholders are the most important people to journalists, and you — as news consumers — are among them.

Usually, when we talk of stakeholders, we mean the following people we consider when we face ethical issues:

Today, we broaden our definition beyond the journalism world to include all people who are in the news now, those who are following the news, and those who are participating in news in the making — be it the coronavirus pandemic or the death of George Floyd.

We ask all of you to consider these questions about stakeholders as you cover the news, consume it or play a role in it. However today’s news affects you, the hope is that these questions might help you in some way.

  1. What stake does each person have in this news and its effects? Are there any hidden interests, ones that are not readily apparent?
  2. Are there any ways in which these interests are in direct conflict? How?
  3. How might each person be helped or harmed, or otherwise affected by the different decisions we make?
  4. Is there one stakeholder’s interest that seems pre-eminent and that should “rule” our thinking?
  5. How would each stakeholder view each possible decision or action? What might the perception of each be?
  6. Are the interests of the least powerful fairly represented?
  7. To whom should we reach out in our community or profession for other views?
  8. Are there any long-term effects on any stakeholder that we might not see today?
  9. Are there alternative ways or compromises to accomplish our goals that relieve any pressures we have identified?
  10. Is our decision one that we would be comfortable sharing openly with others?

These are unprecedented times. Often we are faced with many more questions than answers. But asking questions is the natural thing to do and — especially now — the important thing to do.

(These two profs are no longer teaching at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, but we are still thinking.)

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