This bibliography lists some of the main works on media ethics that can help you understand the central issues in a range of media—fiction, documentary, journalism, and social media—from a global perspective.
To learn more about media ethics in relation to a specific topic—for example, political news, representations of gender, depictions of poverty—look for articles in scholarly journals as well as at reports from centers of research on media ethics (see the Research on Media Ethics tab).
The Journal of Mass Media Ethics is the main journal in the field.
Christians, C. G., Fackler, M., Richardson, K., Kreshel, P., & Woods, R. H. (2015). Media ethics: Cases and moral reasoning. New York: Routledge.
Couldry, N. (2012). Media, society, world: Social theory and digital media practice. Malden, MA: Polity.
Couldry, N. (2015). Listening beyond the echoes: Media, ethics, and agency in an uncertain world. New York: Routledge.
Ess, C. (2013). Digital media ethics. Malden, MA: Polity.
Gross, L., Katz, J., & Ruby, J. (Eds.). (2003). Image ethics in the digital age. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Gunaratne, S. A., Pearson, M., & Senarath, S. (Eds.). (2015). Mindful journalism and news ethics in the digital era: A Buddhist approach (Vol. 12). New York: Routledge.
Nichols, B. (1991). Representing reality: Issues and concepts in documentary. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Nichols, B. (2016). Speaking truths with film: Evidence, ethics, politics in documentary. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
Shohat, E., & Stam, R. (2014). Unthinking eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the media. Routledge.
Ward, P. (2006). Documentary: The margins of reality. New York, NY: Wallflower Press.
Ward, S. J. (2015). The invention of journalism ethics: The path to objectivity and beyond (2nd ed.). Montreal, Canada: McGill-Queen's Press-MQUP.
Ward, S. J., & Wasserman, H. (Eds.). (2010). Media ethics beyond borders: A global perspective. New York: Routledge.
This is a complete list of all the films mentioned or discussed in Think/Point/Shoot. It is divided into two sections: documentary and fiction. Where available, a link to the accompanying website or to streaming video of the film is included.
Amato, G. (Producer), & Sica, V. D. (Director). (1948). The bicycle thief [Motion Picture]. Italy: Ente Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche.
Blythewood, G. P. (Director). (2000). Love and basketball [Motion Picture]. New Line Cinema.
Buñuel, L., Braunberger, P. (Producers), & Buñuel, L. (Director). (1929). Un chien Andalou [Motion Picture]. France: Les Grands Films Classiques.
Clark, L. (Director). (1995). Kids [Motion Picture]. Shining Excalibur Films.
Danto, A. (Director). (2004). Shanti’s story [Motion Picture]. Belgaum, Karnataka, India: Pathfinder International.
Danto, A. & Ilango, S. P. (Directors). (2003). A daughter’s letter [Music Video]. Madurai, Tamil Nadu: Gandhigram Institute of Rural Health and Family Welfare Trust.
Deren, M. (Producer), Deren, M., & Hammid, A. (Directors). (1943). Meshes of the afternoon [Motion Picture]. United States: Mystic Fire Video.
DuVernay, A. (Director). (2014). Selma [Motion Picture]. Paramount Pictures.
Godfrey, J. & Paik, N. J. (Directors). (1973). Global groove [Motion Picture]. United States: Electronic Arts Intermix. www.eai.org/title.htm?id=3287
Kurosawa, A. (Director). (1950). Rashomon [Motion Picture]. Daiei Film Co., Ltd.
Lemmons, K. (Director) (1997). Eve’s Bayou [Motion Picture]. Trimark Pictures.
Myrick, D. & Sanchez, E. (Directors). (1999). The Blair Witch Project [Motion Picture]. Lionsgate and Haxan Entertainment. www.blairwitch.com/
Pugh, C. (Producer). (2010/2014). Star wars uncut [Motion Picture]. Available at www.starwarsuncut.com/about
Taylor, T. (Director). (2011). The Help [Motion Picture]. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Treem, S., Levi, H., Reiner, J., Overmyer, E., & Epstein, A. (Producers). (2014). The affair [Television Broadcast]. New York, NY: Showtime.
Wolf, D. & Stern, J. (Producers). (1990). Law & order [Television Broadcast]. New York, NY: National Broadcasting Company.
Yust, L. (Director). (1969). The lottery [Motion Picture]. Encyclopedia Britannica’s Short Story Showcase Series.
Alpert, J. & O’Neill, M. (Directors). (2008). Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery [Documentary]. United States: HBO. www.hbo.com/documentaries/section-60-arlington-national-cemetery/index.html
Alpert, J. & O’Neill, M. (Directors). (2009). China’s unnatural disaster: The tears of Sichuan Province [Documentary]. United States: Downtown Community Television (DCTV) and HBO. www.hbo.com/documentaries/chinas-unnatural-disaster-tears-of-sichuan-province
Alpert, J. & O’Neill, M. (Directors). (2012). In Tahrir Square: 18 days of Egypt’s unfinished revolution [Documentary]. United States: HBO. www.hbo.com/documentaries/in-tahrir-square-18-days-of-egypts-unfinished-revolution
Anderson, K. & Gold, T. (Directors). (1997). Out at work [Documentary]. United States: New Day Films and AndersonGold Films, Inc. www.andersongoldfilms.com/films/documentaries/oaw_au.htm
Anderson, K. & Gold, T. (Directors). (1999). Making a killing: Philip Morris, Kraft and global tobacco addiction [Documentary], Corporate Accountability International Distributors. https://org.salsalabs.com/o/2215/t/12985/shop/item.jsp?storefront_KEY=629&t=&store_item_KEY=2283
Anderson, K. & Gold, T. (Directors). (2004). Every mother’s son [Documentary]. United States: New Day Films. www.andersongoldfilms.com/beta/everymothersson/index2.html
Barret, E. (Director). (1999). Stranger with a camera [Documentary]. United States: PBS. www.pbs.org/pov/strangerwithacamera/
Black, S. (Director). (1990). H2 Worker [Documentary]. United States: Lionsgate. www.docurama.com/docurama/h-2-worker/
Black, S. (Director). (2001). Life and debt [Documentary]. Tuff Gong Pictures. www.lifeanddebt.org/
Briski, Z. (Director). (2004). Born into brothels: Calcutta’s red light kids [Documentary]. ThinkFilm.
Caouette, J. (Director). (2003). Tarnation [Documentary]. Wellspring.
Choy, C. (Director). (1989). Who killed Vincent Chin? [Documentary]. United States: Corporation for Public Broadcasting and WTVS. www.pbs.org/pov/whokilledvincentchin/
Choy, C. (Director) (1990). Best hotel on Skid Row [Documentary]. United States: HBO.
Choy, C. (Director) (1991). Homes apart: Two Koreas [Documentary]. United States: National Endowment for the Humanities, New York Council on the Humanities and New York State Council on the Arts. www.pbs.org/pov/homesapart/
Choy, C. (Director). (1992). Jennifer’s in jail [Documentary]. United States: Lifetime Network.
Danto, A. (Director). (2001). Portraits of two women from Burkina Faso [Documentary]. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
Danto, A. (Director). (2001). Shea nut gatherers of Burkina Faso [Documentary]. United States: United Nations Development Fund for Women.
Danto, A. (Director). (2006). The never ending path [Documentary]. San Francisco, California: Forwardintime.com.
Danto, A. (Director). (2011). Reflections on media ethics [Documentary]. San Francisco, California: Forwardintime.com. www.forwardintime.com/store/p161/Reflections_On_Media_Ethics_%282011%29.html
Davis, P. (Director). (1974). Hearts and Minds [Documentary]. Warner Brothers.
Flaherty, R. J. (Director). (1922). Nanook of the North: A Story of Life and Love in the Actual Arctic [Documentary]. United States: Reel Media International. https://archive.org/details/nanookOfTheNorth1922
Flaherty, R. J. (Director). (1934). Man of Aran [Documentary]. United States: Park Circus. https://archive.org/details/manOfAran1934
Gardner, R. & Ostor, A. (Directors). (1986). Forest of Bliss [Documentary]. United States: Film Forum Distributors. www.der.org/films/forest-of-bliss.html
Gilbert, C. (Director). (1973). An American Family [Documentary]. Public Broadcasting Service. www.thirteen.org/american-family/
Gold, T., Gordon, D., & Lewis, E. (Directors). (1980). Signed, sealed and delivered: Labor struggle in the post office [Documentary]. United States: AndersonGold Films, Inc. www.andersongoldfilms.com/films/documentaries/ssd.htm
Gold, T. (Director). (1982). Looking for love: Teenage mothers [Documentary]. United States, AndersonGold Films, Inc. www.andersongoldfilms.com/films/documentaries/lfl.htm
Gold, T. (Director). (1992). Juggling gender: Politics, sex and identity [Documentary]. United States: AndersonGold Films, Inc. www.andersongoldfilms.com/films/documentaries/jg.htm
Guggenheim, D. (Director) and Gore, A. (Writer). (2006). An inconvenient truth [Documentary]. United States: Paramount Classics. www.takepart.com/an-inconvenient-truth/film
Hamada, S. & Sinkler, S. (Directors). (1988). Inside Life Outside [Documentary]. Scott Sinkler.
Hampton, H. (Executive Producer). (1987–1990). Eyes on the prize [Documentary]. Public Broadcasting System.
Hetherington, T. & Junger, S. (Directors). (2010). Restrepo (Documentary). Outpost Films. http://restrepothemovie.com/
Jarecki, A. (Director). (2003). Capturing the Friedmans [Documentary]. United States: HBO/Magnolia Pictures.
Jarecki, A. (Director). (2015). The Jinx: The life and deaths of Robert Durst [Documentary]. United States: HBO. www.hbo.com/the-jinx-the-life-and-deaths-of-robert-durst
Lanzmann, C. (Director). (1985). Shoah [Documentary]. France: Why Not Productions.
Lee, G. (Director). (2005). The Grace Lee Project [Documentary]. Women Make Movies. http://gracelee.net/GraceLee.m4v. The clip referenced in the chapter is from 12:15 to 14:34.
Lerner, M. (Director). (1979). From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China [Documentary]. United States: Docurama.
Livingston, J. (Director). (1990). Paris is Burning [Documentary]. United States: Miramax. https://www.jennielivingston.com/paris-is-burning
Macrae, C. (Director). (2013). No Fire Zone: In the Killing Fields of Sri Lanka [Documentary]. Israel: Cinephil. http://nofirezone.org/watch
Maxwell, Z. (Director). (2012). Yuck: A 4th Grader’s Short Documentary About School Lunch [Documentary]. Maxwell Project. https://vimeo.com/43793321
Maysles, A., Maysles D., & Zwerin, C. (Directors). (1969). Salesman [Documentary]. United States: Maysles Films.
Maysles, A., Maysles, D., Hovde, E., Meyer, M., & Froemke, S. (Directors). (1976). Grey gardens [Documentary]. United States: Maysles Films.
Mehta, J. (Producer) & Elayat, Y. (Producer). (2011). 18 days in Egypt [Documentary]. Available at http://beta.18daysinegypt.com/
Morris, E. (Director). (2003). Fog of war: Eleven lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara [Documentary]. Sony Classics, U.S.A.
Ophüls, M. (Director). (1969). The Sorrow and the Pity [Documentary]. Oscilloscope Pictures.
Pavlosky, D. & Gold, T. (Directors). (2014). Puzzles: When hate came to town [Documentary]. United States: New Day Films and AndersonGoldfilms, Inc. www.andersongoldfilms.com/films/documentaries/puzzles.htm
Poitras, L. (Director). (2014). Citizenfour [Documentary]. Praxis Films. https://citizenfourfilm.com/
Richen, Y. (Director). (2013). The New Black [Documentary]. United States: Promised Land Film Distribution. www.newblackfilm.com/
Riggs, M. (Director).(1994). Black is… Black Ain’t [Documentary]. Newsreel.
Silverstein, A. & Rector, T. (Directors). (2008). March Point [Documentary]. Long House Media/Independent Lens. http://itvs.org/films/march-point
Soechtig, S. (Director). (2014). Fed Up [Documentary]. RADiUS-TWC.
Stoney, G. C. (Director). (1978). How the Myth Was Made: A Study of Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran [Documentary]. United States: Park Circus.
Udwin, L. (Director). (2015). India’s daughter [Documentary]. BBC Storyville. Distributed by Berta Films. http://indiasdaughter.com/home/
Westrate, E. (Director). (2004). A Family Undertaking [Documentary]. Fanlight Productions.
Young, R. (Director). (2006). The blood of Yingzhou district [Documentary]. Smiley Film Sales.
Many professional groups adopt a code of ethics that prescribe and prohibit certain behaviors in the conduct of their professional practice. These codes also serve as a public commitment to ethical practice by these professions. For news media professionals—journalists, editors, photographers—these codes are especially significant since the independence and integrity of journalism is seen as essential for a healthy democracy.
- Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics
- The New York Times’ page on Standards and Ethics includes guidelines for print and digital journalists and editors
- Radio and Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Code of Ethics
- National Public Radio (NPR) Ethics Handbook
- Online News Association (ONA) statement of Mission and Values
- The ONA also has a tool to “Build Your Own Ethics Code” (registration required)
- American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) has a collection of ethics codes from various newspapers
- ASNE also has guidelines for best practices for social media
- Associated Press Media Editors (APME) Statement of Ethical Principles
- National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Code of Ethics
- British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Editorial Guidelines
- Press Council of India (PCI) Principles and Ethics
- International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) Declaration of Principles
- EthicNet is a bit dated, but it does provide a collection of ethics codes from about three dozen countries
DocumentaryThere is no professional organization representing documentary filmmakers, but ethics is a core concern for all documentary practice. In addition to books and articles on this topic, here are two resources that focus on the ethical issues relevant for documentary filmmakers.
- American Anthropological Association (AAA) Statement on Ethics
- Aufderheide, P., Jaszi, P., & Chandra, M. (2009). Honest truths: Documentary filmmakers on ethical challenges in their work. Center for Social Media. Washington, D.C.
- The Writers Guild of America (WGA) does not have an ethics code, but it does have a handbook on the creative rights of writers
- The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has a similar handbook on creative rights
- New York University. (2007). NYU Journalism handbook for students: Ethics, law & good practice. New, York, NY
- College Art Association. (2015, February). Code for best practices in fair use for the visual arts
Research on Media Ethics
The Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSI) at American University (Washington D.C.)
CMSI focuses on independent and public media. Their reports, case studies, and events cover a range of issues relating to documentary filmmaking, diversity, and social engagement.
The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison
The Center has useful overviews of global media ethics, digital ethics, and different traditions of thought on journalism ethics.
The Poynter Institute is a highly respected teaching and research institute that offers seminars for journalists on a variety of topics. Their website has incisive and analysis commentary essays on current issues in journalism. They offer a number of online courses, many of which are free, including this one on “The New Ethics of Journalism: A Guide for the 21st Century.”
The Journalism and Media section of the Pew Research Center
Pew has excellent and frequently updated data on media use. Their reports, especially the annual “State of the News Media” report, provide insight and context for a rapidly changing media landscape.
Reports on Digital Media and Learning by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Available online at MIT Press, this series of reports includes work on digital media ethics civic life, and participatory culture.
Global Media Literacy at the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change
The Salzburg Academy has an excellent curriculum on global media literacy that includes numerous case studies and exercises on ethics, free expression, open data etc. It is an initiative of the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda at the University of Maryland’s Phillip Merrill College of Journalism.
The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University
The Center has articles, cases studies, and curricula on journalism, privacy, the internet, leadership etc. Its “Framework for Ethical Decision Making” is a concise and helpful introduction to the broader topic of acting ethically.
An independent organization that monitors and assesses the level of freedom to participate in democratic action across the world, their reports include data and analysis of press and internet freedom and cover issues such as censorship and the safety of journalists.
The IDA has a number of useful resources for filmmakers including funding. It also publishes Documentary Magazine which regularly features thought-provoking essays and interviews on media ethics.
The Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund has useful samples for location and personal releases as well as for budgets and other production-related topics.
Funding and Distribution Sources
These vary widely depending on the nature of your project (fiction, documentary, online, journalism etc.) and your location. Often the best place to start is a national or local government office dedicated to supporting media production. The websites listed below each have a list of resources.
- Public Broadcasting System (PBS) has an excellent and comprehensive list of funding and distribution resources for traditional and new media/web documentary.
- BRITDOC is a non-profit organization that also has an excellent and comprehensive list of funding and distribution resources for documentary makers and journalists.
- The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) offers a guide to resources within the U.K. for fiction and documentary production.
One of the best ways of learning how to write a proposal for funding is to read as many successful proposals as you can.
Here is the proposal to the CPB (Corporation for Public Broadcasting) Program Fund for Christin Choy and Renee Tajima’s Academy Award-nominated 1987 documentary Who Killed Vincent Chin?
Copyright and alternative forms such as a creative commons license allow you as a media creator to set the conditions under which others can view, share, copy, or profit from your intellectual property.
Establishing copyright can be more or less complicated depending on the complexity of the work (e.g. if you have licensed someone else’s intellectual property such as music or photographs in your own work or if yours is a collaborative project).
Here are some resources to help you on your way.
- Copyright: You can register copyright in the U.S.A. This site also has FAQs about copyright.
- Creative Commons license: If you decide you want to make your work available under more flexible conditions, you can use a Creative Commons license
- Information about the licenses
- Learn how to mark your own work or to acknowledge attribution for works that you have used
- Fair Use provisions allow you to use copyrighted material without needing permission under very specific conditions (e.g. certain educational uses, critique, or parody).
- Click here to learn more about Fair Use
- Fair Use Checklist by Kenneth D. Crews (formerly of Columbia University) and Dwayne K. Buttler (University of Louisville). You can download and modify this form—as long as you provide attribution—because it is available under a Creative Commons Attribution License.
- Clearances: The process for getting clearance for using copyrighted material in your own work varies.
- When it comes to using music, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) is a good place to start.
- The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) provides a good brief overview of the considerations to keep in mind if you write your own licensing agreement.