The modern media - Avoiding pitfalls, advancing psychology

Sue Gardner (Ethics Committee), Pam Briggs and Camilla Herbert (Press Committee) seek your views on new challenges facing psychologists in the media.
THERE can be no doubt that in general the interaction between psychologists and the media has been beneficial to the discipline. But the celebrity article, PR company ‘surveys’, and TV programmes such as Big Brother, Survivor, Castaway, The Experiment are all relatively new media phenomena. All have used psychologists as expert commentators, active consultants, writers or simply as voices to add authority. Ethical or Code of Conduct issues arise with each new media development. Complaints come in to the Society’s office that a psychologist should not have said what they did, or that their comments ‘bring the discipline into disrepute’. Members phone seeking ethical advice from the Society about whether they should be involved in a programme because of worries about, for instance, whether ‘reality-TV’ participants have given or could give fully informed consent. Formal written guidance for Society members on such matters is either nonspecific (the general statements in the Code of Conduct), or brief (the media guidelines about discussing individuals). A small working group, combining the Ethics Committee and the Press Committee, has been formed to look at these issues with the aim of producing better guidance for all participants in the media process.

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