Stand up for what you believe

3 Dec

In an attempt to prepare for the fast-approaching real world, I had the opportunity to talk to West Virginia University Extension Service Writer and Editor Brittany Dick about what I should be prepared for in a future journalistic job.  She spouted off basic advice: meet deadlines, always fact-check, try to maintain a good work-life balance, and so on.  It was when she shared a personal, ethical dilemma with me that I realized I really needed to be prepared for: the possibility of compromising my beliefs.

In her first job out of college, Dick worked as a writer for a firm she would like to keep private in order to protect the identity of the supervisor, who she claims is a “really, really great guy.”

Her supervisor owned another business on the side that offered products and services to customers of the general public. She was tasked with writing content for graphics and social media posts advertising a discount offered to servicemen and women on the anniversary of Sept. 11.

“I personally believe that these kind of sales are exploitation of a national tragedy,” she said. “I felt like it was unethical to take advantage of the anniversary of 9/11 to sell products and services.”

Because the discount was offered to only servicemen and women, and because her job depended on it, Dick went through with it. She has since changed jobs but still wonders whether or not she made the right decision.

It’s because of experiences like Dick’s that I wonder what kind of employers I will end up working for and what they could ask me to do.  Most young journalists feel inferior to hierarchal power when they’re on the bottom of the totem pole, trying to impress the boss, while also trying to pay the bills.  It’s a tough place to be.

I don’t know if I would be able to tell someone above me, whose opinion mattered to me, that I wasn’t comfortable advertising his exploitation.  I would probably do what Dick did and just write what he asked in order to keep my job.

However, it would be my name on the work at the end of the day and I don’t know if I would be proud of that work.

Journalists face ethical dilemmas every day.  That’s why I think it’s important to know your ethical code before going into any job.  You need to know what you’re okay with writing and what crosses the line to decide what matters most: a job, or your beliefs.

Just as the servicemen and women stand up and fight for our country, we should remember to stand up and fight for ourselves.


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