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ethical models -- Potter Box ()

A Resource-Rich Solution to Journalism's Woes (John H. McManus, reviewer)

journalism' tangled web -- business, ethics and professional practice. (ian richards, in meyers)

notes on potter box ()

Serving the Public and Serving the Market: A Conflict of Interest? (John McManus)

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ethical models -- Potter Box
           #3037   Created 11/27/2011   Updated 11/27/2011

do not quote. this information lifted whole (aggregated, plagiarized, copied, stolen, used, cited and ignored) from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potter_Box)

Definition / Facts

The definition stage of the Potter Box concerns the facts of the issue at hand. Here is where the analyst should set out all facts without making judgments or hiding any facts. both are shown below Example: Using a photograph of a car wreck to promote safe driving, making it visible to the target viewers.


At this stage the analyst should state and compare the merits of different values to acknowledge the influences on decision-making. By referring to the specific concerns of the individuals involved, it allows the analyst to identify differences in perspectives. We may judge something according to aesthetic values(harmonious, pleasing), professional values(innovative, prompt), logical values(consistent, competent), sociocultural values(thrift, hard work), and moral values(honesty, nonviolence).

Example (continued)- Will the shock value of the images encourage safe driving habits? Will the images stir up potentially disturbing memories for certain people?


Principles are ethical philosophies or modes of ethical reasoning that may be applicable to the situation. By considering the values stated above from several ethical philosophies, the decision-maker is better equipped to understand the situation.

The following are some of the ethical philosophies that may be utilized under this segment of Potter's Box:

Aristotle's Golden Mean. Aristotle's Golden Mean defines moral virtue as a middle state determined practical wisdom that emphasizes moderation and temperance.

Confucius' Golden Mean. Confucius' Golden Mean is more commonly known as the compromise principle and says moral virtue is the appropriate location between two extremes.

Kant's Categorical Imperative. Kant's Categorical Imperative dictates what we must never do, and those actions that have become universal law.

Mill's Principle of Utility. John Stuart Mill's Principle of Utility dictates that we must seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

Rawls' Veil of Ignorance. John Rawls' Veil of Ignorance asks us to place ourselves in the position of the people our decisions may influence.

Agape Principle. This principle, also known as the Judeo-Christian, 'Persons as Ends' principle, emphasizes love for our fellow humans and the golden rule.

These help link concrete options to overarching principles, getting us to think about our own basic values.


Loyalties concern who the decision-maker has allegiances or loyalties to. For example, in journalism, the first allegiance is always to the public. Other allegiances a journalist might have would be to his or her employer, industry organizations or co-workers. Are we more concerned about being true to our own values or about the effectiveness of the campaign? Is the "greater good" more important than the "golden mean"?

[edit]Understanding Values

To understand the Potter Box method, you must first understand types of Values categorized that influence Ethical behavior: Professional. Proximity, Firstness, Impact/ magnitude, Recency, Conflict, Human Interest, Entertainment, Novelty, Toughness, Thoroughness, Immediacy, Independence, No prior restraint, Publics right to know

Moral Values. Truth-telling, Humanness, Justice/fairness, Freedom, Independence, Stewardship, Honesty, Nonviolence, Commitment, Self-control

Aesthetic. Harmonious, Pleasing, Imaginative

Logical. Consistent, Competent, Knowledgeable

Socio-cultural. Thrift, Hard work, Energy, Restraint, Heterosexuality


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