In light of the recent events in Paris, we are sharing a case study from one of our journalism ethics museum classes. Case studies are used in our classes to discuss ethical issues journalists and photojournalists face on a daily basis.
A Danish newspaper publishes 12 editorial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, some of which depict him as a terrorist. Islamic tradition strictly prohibits images of the prophet. Muslim organizations find the cartoons offensive and blasphemous, and say they are part of a smear campaign against their religion. Several thousand people demonstrate peacefully outside the newspaper’s office in Copenhagen, but when the cartoons are reprinted in European newspapers, the protests expand and become violent. Danish embassies are set on fire, boycotts of Danish goods begin, and some Muslim countries pull their ambassadors from Denmark.
As the editor of a U.S. newspaper, how do you handle the escalating controversy?
What do you do?
Questions to Consider
Tips for Student Discussion:
In small groups, students should decide which of the options they think is the best choice. Challenge the students to think outside the box and come up with their own options if necessary. Ethically speaking, we hope journalists are accurate, fair and clear. Are all three of the characteristics met by the option chosen? Why or why not?