Controversial Issues

Issue Characteristics Commonalities with other controversial issues Differences with other controversial issues
Institutional Racism A system of inequality based on an individual or group’s race. Groups have formed to seek justice/change (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People-NAACP, ect.) An ongoing issue, impacting minorities, resulting from generations of inequality.
Global Warming A continuous increase in the weather’s climate. Commonly discussed topic in media; deemed a national issue Does not affect just a single group of people but every living thing world wide
Women’s rights Promotion of legal and social equality between  women and men. Groups have formed to seek justice/change (National Organization for Women-NOW) Resulting from the inequality toward women past and present
Animal Research Federally funded science conducted through the use of animal models or cells. Groups have formed (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals-PETA) with strong opposing arguments but is considered an ethical practice Science is supported on many levels and involves government funding; proven to be beneficial.
Welfare/Public Assistance Minimal, public aid offered to all citizens. Strong opposing arguments (mainly from the upper class) but is deemed ethical and necessary Beneficial for low income families


What is the role of controversial issues in journalism?

A controversial issue creates the opportunity for open discussion. Journalists are required to educate themselves for the purpose of educating the public; eliminating ignorance. “Inform yourself continuously so you in turn can inform, engage, and educate the public in a clear and compelling way on significant issues.” (Poynter, 2014)

How does the coverage of such controversial issues test the journalist’s core commitment to accuracy in reporting the news?

Covering controversial issues challenges the journalist to detach themselves and report solely on the facts. This means the reporter needs to research and become educated enough, allowing a honest report, free of personal feelings and bias.

Does the coverage of such controversial issues warrant intrusion into the private or personal lives of newsmakers? If not, why not? If so, how far should journalists be allowed to go in reporting on the lives of private individuals? Of public figures?

“Recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast.” (SPJ Code of Ethics, 2014)

The goal of reporting is to expose the truth. However, a successful journalist should be capable of achieving this without little to no intrusion into personal lives. If the person is not directly involved in the controversy, their personal lives should be avoided.

Are there any controversial issues that justify censorship of the media by external entities such as governments or the court system? If so, identify those issues. Would news media be wise to self-censor themselves to pre-empt possible government censorship and regulation?

I think animal research warrants censorship. There are many aspects of animal research, including the actual science being conducted, that is sensitive and may be difficult to translate to the public (explain in a way that makes complete sense). While there are publications and resources offered to educate the public, that are just as many groups (including extremist like PETA) that negatively influenced the public.






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