can filmmakers finally establish norms for ethical behavior in US documentary production? Two kinds of efforts to establish stronger ethics norms in the United States have emerged since 2014: inside media companies and within independent documentary filmmaking organizations. Both of these efforts have engaged the field productively, although the evolving conversation toward norms setting has only begun and is threatened by a range of forces. This multifaceted, contradictory phenomenon illuminates the complex politics of changing ethical norms in US documentary film.

Ethics in documentary filmmaking in the United States has historically been more of a hallway conversation than a convention. Although documentary filmmakers in the United States have not established shared ethical expectations, some have worked within the journalistic standards and practices of broadcast organizations such as NBC, CBS, and PBS. Visual anthropologists and other academics also have established expectations (Gross et al.; MacDougall and Taylor; Winston), without...

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