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The Media Ethics Workshop: Principle of Privacy


Media ethics refer to a collection of ethical principles and standards that govern the collection, processing, and publishing of content on various media platforms, namely broadcast media, the internet, arts, and the print media. Media ethics comprise several moral principles, namely privacy, transparency, conflict of interest, deception, and social responsibility. Journalism ethics is a branch of media ethics that refers to the moral principles that govern the conduct and roles of journalists, as well as the type and quality of content that they produce. It involves numerous issues that include privacy, impartiality, transparency, objectivity, and the public interest. This essay will present a plan for a media ethics workshop on privacy, targeting investigative journalists.

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Workshop Context

My dream job is to work as an investigative journalist at one of the top international media companies. This job would have several responsibilities: reporting and delivering in-depth news stories, analyzing data and creating stories from them, producing stories for digital and social media platforms, and investigating topics of interest such as corruption and crime. It would also entail working on long-term projects, interviewing people with crucial information, and digging deeper beyond the facts presented in mainstream media or by the government and public organizations. I would like to work for the Cable News Network (CNN) as a member of their Investigative Unit. In 2017, the firm embarked on a new initiative that aimed at improving its investigative reporting division. Their goal was to become a media organization that breaks news rather than an organization that talks about breaking news. The firm’s investigative reports are centered on the interests of the public, and they create a balance between the need to inform the public and the duty to respect the rights of the individuals involved.

The workshop will be attended by workers in the investigations department, and any other employee working in any other division in an investigative role. This group has been chosen as the target audience because upholding people’s right to privacy is one of the moral principles that should be observed while on duty, and a challenge that is experienced frequently (Berry, 2016). People who work in the media employ several strategies and measures to minimize harm while collecting information for various purposes. Additional training for this group on the importance of, and the need for a strict observance of this principle is critical to the enhancement of the image of the organization. This group needs to understand the significance of safeguarding the right to privacy; it is a sign of professionalism and responsible journalism, it enhances fairness, and avoids lawsuits that could tarnish the firm’s name and bring financial losses through fines (Berry, 2016).

Workshop Focus

The moral principle chosen to be the focus of the media ethics workshop is privacy. Investigative journalists face the challenge of creating a balance between respecting people’s privacy and offering information for the benefit of the public (Christians, 2019). In many cases, journalists are faced with the challenge of interfering with someone’s privacy as the only way of obtaining information that is crucial to the development of a story. Cases such as corruption, incompetence in organizations, injustice, and crime are difficult to investigate because victims try their best to conceal their identities in order to avoid public shame (Patterson et al., 2018). In such instances, the violation of the right to privacy is necessary because it could be the only way of exposing the person’s wrongdoing.

Privacy can be defined as the right to be autonomous and free from other people’s intrusion or interference. It encompasses anything that a person might expect to be kept private and not public knowledge. Every journalist has to deal with challenges that involve a citizen’s right to privacy (Christians, 2019). For example, these could range from the use of cookies on the internet to the hacking of email accounts in order to find key information about a specific story. Privacy could also cover information that is known by few people, and that an individual would not like revealed to the public (Patterson et al., 2018). In other cases, people in the public eye will expect some privacy while in public places. It is important for the journalist to understand how to behave in such situations in order to act ethically. For instance, it is unethical to invade the privacy of an individual receiving treatment for an illness that they would like to remain private.

In today’s world of technological advancement, user-generated content (UGC) has become one of the main sources of information and content for journalists. UGC encompasses any content originating from or produced by members of the public, and it includes still images, sound, and recorded videos (Christians, 2019). This information is usually shared with media organizations or uploaded on social media platform where it can be accessed by anyone. In such cases, journalists need to be vigilant because some of the content, though public, involves serious violations of individual privacy. Editorial principles and media ethics should guide them on whether to use it in their stories. Moreover, they need to be careful when dealing with submitted content collected from mobile phones, security cameras, and webcams because its verification is challenging.

Many organizations require their journalists to discard any content that cannot be verified as genuine. Displaying, airing, or publishing content that was obtained through unethical means could compromise the values of the journalist and the organization they work for. Moreover, public trust could be lost if a journalist contravenes the people’s right to privacy in order to get information for stories (Perebinossoff, 2017). The legal implications for violating people’s privacy can be serious. Privacy laws majorly focus on key concepts that are applicable to the media. These include appropriation, intrusion, and private information (Perebinossoff, 2017). People that work in the media industry have an ethical responsibility to respect the privacy of other people, unless they relinquish it willingly. Journalists have a duty to investigate matters of public interest and publish or broadcast their findings. However, they should do so within the provisions of the law.

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Learning Objectives and Learning Activities

The workshop aims to achieve several learning objectives. First, every attendee should be able to explain the concept of privacy, its importance in the media, and its legal basis. They should be able to explain the legal implications of violating the principle. Second, the attendees should be able to explain how they would behave when confronted with a situation that necessitates the violation of privacy in order to obtain information for a story. They should be able to decide whether they would use UGC that exposes a person’s private information.

Three workshop activities will be used to enhance the understanding of the principle of privacy. Attendees will be required to write down their personal understanding of privacy, and the type of material that constitutes private information. This activity will help the attendees to refine their understanding of the concept and expand their awareness of what constitutes private information. Second, the attendees will be provided with different scenarios to resolve by stating what they would do in each situation. This activity will demonstrate the difficulty of balancing between fair reporting and respecting people’s right to privacy. Third, the participants will work in groups of twos to simulate potential situations during data collection in the field. One of the two will act as the journalist and the other as an individual with information that could help in the development of a special story. This activity will bring the attendees face to face with the challenges of verifying information and determining whether to trust a source or not.


Privacy is one of the most important principles of media ethics. The media is comprised of several divisions, and each relies on the application of ethics for the maintenance of professionalism. In journalism, there is a challenge of balancing the people’s right to privacy and providing information that is of public interest. People in the media have the duty to respect the privacy of others and not invade it for the sake of obtaining information for a story. The media ethics workshop aims to increase the awareness of investigative journalists regarding the concept of privacy, its legal basis, and how to uphold it in order to enhance professionalism and accountability. Case studies, simulations, and quizzes will be used to achieve the program’s objectives.


Berry, D. (2016). Journalism, ethics, and society. Routledge.

Christians, C. G. (2019). Media ethics and global justice in the digital age. Cambridge University Press.

Patterson, P., Wilkins, L., & Painter, C. (2018). Media ethics: cases and issues (9th ed.). Rowman & Littlefield.

Perebinossoff, P. (2017). Real-world media ethics: Inside the broadcast and entertainment industries (2nd ed.). Routledge.

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