Public Relations Professionals Have Virtues… Don’t They?

In briefing through some of my old writings from previous classes, I came across a piece about the virtues needed to be a good journalist.  In reading through it I realized that the values of a journalist and a public relations writer really should be no different at all.  I believe the three most important virtues (and dare I admit that I think Aristotle would agree with me) of a journalist/public relations professional are honesty, devotion, and trustworthiness.  Codes of ethics exist like SPJ Code of Ethics, but when it comes down to it, it is up to the individual to make right, ethical decisions.

Aristotle: The Virtuous Man

**For the purpose of this article, anywhere the word “journalist” appears could also be the phrase “public relations professional”.  Just a little heads up before you dive in.**

First and foremost, if a journalist is not honest, there is no question that he is not only unethical, but he is also simply just not doing his job.  A journalist’s primary concern should always be to get the needed information to the people, and what good is information if it is anything but the truth?  The most common questionably unethical situations arise when this one simple rule of honesty is twisted, or just ignored completely.  Honesty can sometimes create a dilemma however, because unfortunately in life the truth is not always what people want to hear.  This is the point where the journalist has to remember that his job is not to tell the people what they want to hear, his job is to tell the people the truth, and nothing more.  If a journalist had to choose one and only one virtue to lead his career by, honesty should be it. 

Another important virtue in the profession of journalism is devotion.  While honesty is absolutely important, if a journalist is not devoted to his job and devoted to getting the story, how will anyone ever hear the truth?  While the stereotypical view of a journalist is often a pushy, loud, bossy person shoving a microphone is someone’s face, is that really so bad?  This is merely a picture of an extremely devoted journalist.  This is a profession where thick skin is needed; one cannot worry about how people view him, the only thing a journalist needs to worry about is getting the story.  There are also many situations in which a journalist may be on-site trying to uncover the truth, and without devotion to his job, no one would ever hear the story.  Devotion to finding the truth and delivering an honest story is a virtue of extreme importance in journalism.

The third primary virtue that must be possessed by journalists is trustworthiness.  Trustworthiness ties into both honesty and devotion in a sense that while yes, telling the truth is essential, and being devoted to uncovering the story is imperative, but if a journalist is not trustworthy, what good will any of that be?  Sure, the story could be out there and it could be nothing but the truth, but if the general public doesn’t trust the particular journalist, they won’t even believe that they are hearing the true story.  Establishing one’s reputation is crucial, albeit sometimes difficult for a journalist.  It can take years upon years for a journalist to establish a trustworthy reputation, but once this is accomplished, almost nothing stands in the way of delivering the truth to the public.

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~ by emily074 on December 9, 2009.

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