Beacon Journal Editor Explores Media Ethics with JMC Grad Students
Bruce Winges, editor of the Akron Beacon Journal and a member of the JMC Professional Advisory Board, spoke to a graduate-level media ethics class at Franklin Hall in early February. Winges is well-versed on the subject, after more than 30 years experience with paper, the last five as editor and vice president.
“Ethics are meaningful only when you stand by them as your gut is churning over what it takes to stand by those ethics,” Winges told students. “I rarely – if ever – make ethical decisions regarding our newsroom alone. I want to seek as much input as possible to gather as many diverse views as possible. In the end, I will make a decision, and it will be an informed decision.”
Winges pushed the class to think about questions that had no easy answers and shared real examples from the Akron Beacon Journal. In one scenario, Winges spoke of the paper’s policy not naming victims of crime in general and rape in particular. “We have this policy to protect the victims. But what do you do when the accused in a rape case has been found not guilty? What is the purpose of protecting the accuser who now is not a victim? What do you say to the accused if you do not name the accuser?” After discussing the privacy, fairness, and harm implications, Winges told the students that the paper named the accuser after the court concluded that the suspect was not guilty.
Students found the discussion relevant and important. Timilehin Oladele, a Public Relations grad student, noted, “Sometimes you’re faced with decisions where you can just say, ‘This is the way it’s going to be.’ But when you’re actually sitting there in that position, the decisions are a lot tougher.”
Throughout the class, students explored ways the media can reach ethical decisions without having their judgment clouded by personal biases. Winges reminded students that the media must be “as transparent as possible.” He stressed the importance of fairness, emphasizing that “at the end of the day all we have is our credibility.”