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International Journal of Applied Philosophy

Volume 13, Issue 1, Spring 1999

Sandra L. Borden
Pages 93-104
DOI: 10.5840/ijap19991314

Character as a Safeguard for Journalists Using Case-Based Ethical Reasoning

As suggested by David E. Boeyink, casuistry is a promising method for making ethical decisions in journalism because its “case-oriented strategy fits [the] general approach” of many journalists while its stress on consistency guards against arbitrariness. Despite its emphasis on consistency, however, casuistry gives self-interested decision makers enough wiggle room to rationalize whatever is expedient. For this reason, casuistry relies also on character. Yet writers who have studied casuistry have said relatively little about the link between character and casuistry and, when they have, they have focused on the intellectual virtue of phronesis. This article articulates the essential moral virtues necessary to prevent arbitrariness in casuistry when practiced by journalists and demonstrates their relevance in relation to a recent case in which the journalist’s character was a key factor. The article concludes with several strategies for nurturing good character among journalists.

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