The First Amendment and What It Means For Journalists

The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment gives all citizens the right to say what they want without fear of being reprimanded by the government. For journalists, exercising this right is crucial when reporting news to the public or writing a story. Although this right does protect what journalists want to put out into the public, it does not protect against defamation of law or slander. That means the press can release whatever content or news they feel the public should know freely, however if a journalist makes a false statement or damages a reputation, they will be in some serious trouble. Photojournalism ethics also advise against defamation and slander.

As a collegiate photojournalism student, the First Amendment plays a huge role in my career. The First Amendment gives me the courage to take photos of and report on news worthy events that I would like to share with the public. My press rights give me the opportunity to inform citizens in my community with pictures that are great and tragic without the government interfering with what I’m trying to do. As a citizen, a student, and photojournalist I feel that the First Amendment is definitely useful, appreciated and very necessary.

The three foundations of ethical decision making are the Utilitarian principle, the Absolutist and the Golden Rule as found in Kenneth Kobre’s book, “Photojournalism: The Professionals’ Approach.” The Utilitarian principle is “the greatest good for the greatest number of people.” This means that even when the circumstances are bad for the victims, pictures of what happened need to be put out because without a picture, the public could be at a disadvantage of crucial information that could possibly help save another family from tragedy. The Absolutist principle is when people feel that photojournalists should respect a person’s right to privacy and not put tragic pictures out in the news for a family’s sake. The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This rule is self-explanatory, but it makes you think about if you were the victim and someone else was the photojournalist. Then you’d have to ask yourself, “Would I want someone putting my tragedy on display like that?”

Of the three foundations of ethical decision making, the Golden Rule pertains to me the most. I am a very religious person and I have lived by that rule for as long as I can remember. I feel that the rule is true, fair and meaningful. The profession of journalism has many resources that journalists can utilize to form their own standards. Magazines, workshops and websites are the main resources at play for journalists to collect insight on the profession.

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