Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2018

12. Harm in Journalism

From the book Communication and Media Ethics

  • Ryan J. Thomas


Harm - and more specifically, its avoidance, minimization, or mitigation - remains a prominent concern within journalism ethics and a frequent topic in discussions of journalistic performance. This chapter discusses some of the issues involved in defining harm (including the tension between universalism and relativism that is involved in developing such definitions) and draws on philosophers including Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and W. D. Ross in an evaluation of the philosophical issues relevant to considerations of harm. The chapter argues that the nature of much journalistic work, supported by journalism’s societal obligations and maximized by journalism’s reach and influence, makes harm inevitable and thus shifts the locus of concern to more granular questions of how harm can be minimized, including harm done to third parties. The chapter identifies a typology of journalistic harms, drawing on the work of Stephen Ward, and identifies utilitarian and duty-based justifications for harms. Finally, the chapter addresses emergent ethical concerns pertaining to harm that are brought to bear by the rapid changes engulfing journalism and how it is practiced and consumed.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
Downloaded on 23.3.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow