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Have You Checked Your Moral Compass Lately?

on May 14, 2014

Ethics Definition

As we get started on this summer educational journey, what better place to start than with our own moral compass? This week’s ethical lecture focused on a couple of different areas from textbook definitions to a three-step process for decision making and a real-world example of ethical application. Before we get too far into it, let’s start with some solid definitions. Professor Kings shared that the definition of ethics is “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.” He went on to further define the word moral as “concerned with or derived from the code of behavior that is considered right or acceptable in a particular society.”

Now that we understand how both ethics and morals are defined – what do we do with this knowledge? Simply put, while ethics means “doing the right thing,” who says it’s the right thing? That’s a decision that you and your moral compass get to make! Not every decision that you consider right and ethical will necessarily be right and ethical to the person standing next to you. As you can see, ethics is a great big ball of gray – unlike law, ethical decision making is not as simple or clear cut as basic black and white.

So how can we be sure that we are making ethical choices and decisions? Professor Kings pointed out three “steps” that we can put into practice to ensure just that!

  1. What are my motivations and why?
  2. What are the likely effects and to whom will it effect?
  3. Where does my duty lie strongest?

Asking yourself these questions seems simple enough, right? Maybe not! Let’s put them to the test! The real-world example given during this week’s lecture definitely made me stop and think twice about my decisions. The example given from a lecture/debate facilitated by Norm Lewis was as follows – you are a journalist and you find out that a murder suspect’s friend is on Facebook. Is it ethical for you to send a friend request to this person? If you do send the person a friend request, do you identify yourself as a journalist or not?

Right WrongUnlike many of the students participating in this course, I do not have a strong journalism background. The extent of my journalism lies in the few classes I took in college and my one and only internship with a local FOX sports department. For this reason, I was quick to say “No” when the question was posed if I would send this person a Facebook friend request or not. At first glance, I see no real benefit in sticking yourself out there and risking you and your company’s integrity – especially if you do not identify yourself as a journalist. However, as the students in the video began to debate with Mr. Lewis my eyes began to open a little wider. What if her Facebook profile held key information in proving this murder suspect’s innocence or guilt? Isn’t it my “responsibility” as a journalist to be a “watch-dog” of sorts for the public? While this debate did open my eyes a bit wider to different points of view, I still would likely not send that Facebook friend request. If, for some unknown reason, I did send the request I would most certainly identify myself as a journalist and allow the person to either accept or deny my request having all the necessary information about me.

Moral CompassAs you can see, answering those three questions may seem simple at first; however, the more opinions that people throw your way, the murkier those ethical waters can become. For me personally, I am a people pleaser and most definitely relate more to a utilitarianism approach to ethical decision making. Utilitarianism was defined as “ethical decision making the greatest number of people happy” in this week’s lecture. I genuinely care about ensuring that my decisions are making the biggest portion of my audience or team content and pleased – I would rather make sure that those around me are happy than make a decision that puts my personal needs ahead of those around me.

And there you have it folks – my take on ethical decision making and the good ole’ moral compass!

Ta-ta for now!


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