Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee

Journalistic Ethics and Challenges in Digital Age

Ethics is concerned with human character and conduct. It is a treatise on morals. Ethics attempts to determine what conduct is good or what is bad or what might be approved and what disapproved. Every profession has its ethics. In fact ethics is an important construct for a vocation to become a profession. Journalism as a profession also has its set of ethics, developed and consolidated over hundreds of years. A closer look at the function and dynamics of media makes it clear that media ethics has some unique constructs, peculiar to the profession. One interesting characteristic of media ethics is the disparate nature of its goals. Ethical dilemmas emerge when goals conflict. The goals of media usage diverge sharply. From economic profit to social development, from providing entertainment to the masses to providing information and education- media can and do have several goals. Ethical dilemma arises when the goals are in conflict with one another.

Another interesting characteristic of the media, especially the news media is its watchdog role, which it has taken unto itself. When media attempts to be the guardian of the society, the ethical obligations of the guardians themselves comes more strongly into the foreground.

Digital media is a form of electronic media where data is stored in digital (as opposed to analog) form. Digital media is networkable, dense, compressible, interactive and easy to manipulate. Digital media disseminates data at a lightning speed across the globe, across networks and delivery platforms. As it is easy to manipulate content, it has greater nuisance value. It is difficult to contain/censor. And there is an overload of data and information.

The issue of ethics in the digital age assume an extra dimension because of its special constructs. What can the journalists do in practical terms? I can offer three suggestions:

  1. Double check accuracy/authenticity: As fake news is easy to create and disseminate, the journalists need to be careful and vigilant. Learn ways to check authenticity of news. Learn reading between the lines.
  2. Leadership: In an avalanche of information, glitter and noise attract attention. Take leadership to rescue the important from the trivial. Help the readers/viewers differentiate the grain from the chaff.
  3. Offer mediated accessibility: Interactivity is accessibility. However, some form of mediation is required to preempt trolling and spreading of canards.

Ethics and freedom is vital to journalism. Digital media has democratised journalism. However, it has put professional journalism under severe pressure. The only way journalism can meet the challenge is by maintaining the highest ethical standard, as the survival of journalism hinges on its credibility and credibility is dependent on its ethical standard.

Art from Waste material

My Balasore-based friend Kesu Das is a maverick. He is a cartoonist, graphic artist, sand artist and an excellent installation artist. For quite some time now he is sprucing up public places by installing art made of waste material. Recently during World Tourism Day on 27 September he made a drive at Chandipur on sea with some of his students and followers and made the beach beautiful.

We need more artists like him and more support to persons like him from government, city administrators and civil society if we need more aesthetically pleasing public places instead of ugly places littered with waste.

Gains and perils of long distance train journey

Long distance journey by train has its gains and perils. You get to meet different people, strike a conversation, know their minds and perceptions. Discuss the most complex political and social problems as if you are the expert. You see sights from your window, unless you are in AC coach with dirty windows that allows no sights. You taste different food, snacks mainly. You have enough ‘me-time’ to reflect and contemplate, plan and ruminate.
On the peril side, well, you hear different kinds of snoring and farting sound and have to bear with the stink. Rescue plan: carry some cotton and perfume. Or, simply produce some of your own.

Clean Window

One of the perils of travelling in ac coach is you can’t see the outside world, which is the major charm of train journey. Look at the windows of my 2 AC coach of Ajmer Puri Express. It looks like frosted glass. You can’t know at which station the train stopped, unless you physically go to the door or surf the live train status in your smartphone, which may or may not have the current status. At times you feel clustrophobic.
The windows need to be cleaned. It is the least the Railways can do in the Swachata Pakhwada.

Choudhary ki Chai

Choudhary ki Chai. From Surat to Ahmedabad, at each station you’ll hear tea vendors crying this and asking you to taste this potion. It has become a much used and abused brand. I am now curious to know about this Chowdhury. Can somebody enlighten me.

Tailpiece 1: Successful Marriage

A successful marriage is based on give and take.

Where husband gives money, Gifts, dresses and wife takes it and

Where wife gives advices, lectures, Tensions and husband takes it..!

Tailpiece 2: Notice at the Hotel Room

Read in a hotel room: Please keep windows closed. Your love may be blind, but our staffs are not.



Mrinal Chatterjee journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. He joins Snehasis Sur to compile and edit a book: ‘Gandhi: a Journalist and Editor’ which will be released in mid-October in Kolkata.

[email protected]