As users of media in this world, there are certain obligations we have as citizens. Every media decision made should not be made lightly because once something is out there, it is out there. Anyone who is affected by our decisions in media or has some effect on us is known as a moral claimant. A moral claimant can be anyone from a client to society as a whole. James Grunig, an explorer of everything to do with media explains that organizations are linked to their environment through consequences just as the individual level. Two primary linkages include inputs and outputs. Inputs are the suppliers of raw material or any person or group that provides a need for the organization to do it’s job. Outputs are the consumers of the product such as a newspaper reader or a news watcher.
What would it hurt?
Before putting anything out into the world, we, as producers and consumers of media, should think of the nature of consequence. The affects of our own actions on others are the main reason that we recognize obligation. People feel a duty to others whether it be personal, familial, occupational, or societal. This obligation can be seen as some version of the Golden Rule; if you do not want it done to you, do not do it to others. The duty we feel towards others can be both voluntary and forced according to philosopher Bernard Gert. This voluntary duty is caused by some moral obligation you may feel as a user of media while this forced duty could be caused by a contract obligation.
There is a Choice to Make
William David Ross explains that there are six areas that we as humans consider morally binding. These include fidelity, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, and non-injury. These six areas create the obligations we feel to do what is morally right for moral claimants. The relationships between moral claimants and ourselves as decision makers are represented through obligation. For example, journalists face a decision every day. They have the choice between money and accuracy. The could be given a story and turn it around to be published as soon as they can without even knowing if it is entirely accurate but they would make the most money for getting the story first. Or, they could wait to ensure the story is true.
Everyday, we as citizens and users of media make a choice. We have the choice between ourselves and the people we feel morally obligated to. Media is more powerful that we may initially believe it to be. It has the power to hurt people but also the power to help. All we have to do is make the choice.