Media Ethics


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Slides accompany a lecture on Mass Media.

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Media Ethics

  1. 1. Media Ethics: Truthfulness, Fairness, and Standards of Decency Resource Textbook: Ralph E. Hanson, Mass Communication: Living in a Media World Comic: Duty Calls, Aristotle and Mill
  2. 2. The Images of September 11, 2001 <ul><li>AP photographer Richard Drew ’s dilemma </li></ul><ul><li>Why take the pictures? </li></ul><ul><li>“ I photograph what happened, and, in turn, I record and document history, and this is what happened. This is history. “ – Richard Drew </li></ul>
  3. 3. Morals versus Ethics <ul><li>Morals An individual ’s code of behavior based on religious or philosophical principles. Morals define right and wrong in ways that may or may not be rational. </li></ul><ul><li>Ethics A rational way of deciding what is good for individuals or society. A way to chose between competing moral principles or when there is not a clear right or wrong answer. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Aristotle, 350 BC <ul><li>Golden Mean Moral virtue is appropriate location between two extremes. </li></ul><ul><li>Martinson says: Journalists take overly simplistic view of Golden Mean, assume it values compromise rather than finding virtue. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Immanuel Kant, 1780s <ul><li>Categorical imperative A moral obligation that we should act in a way in which we would be willing to have everyone else act. </li></ul><ul><li>Do not treat people as a means to reach an end. </li></ul><ul><li>Cannot justify behavior based on desirable outcomes. </li></ul>
  6. 6. John Stuart Mill <ul><li>Principle of Utility Ethical behavior arises from that which will provide the greatest good for the greatest number. </li></ul><ul><li>“ An act’s rightness is a desirable end.” </li></ul>
  7. 7. John Rawls, 1970 <ul><li>“ Veil of ignorance” Justice comes from making decisions that maximize liberty for all people and without considering which outcome will give us personally the biggest benefit. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Henry Luce, Social Responsibility Ethics 1947 <ul><li>The press has a responsibility to give voice to the public and to society. </li></ul><ul><li>The free press may not live up to its obligations to the public because of its need to serve its owners. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Sissela Bok ’s Model for Ethical Decision Making, 1970s <ul><li>Consult your conscience. </li></ul><ul><li>Seek alternatives. </li></ul><ul><li>Hold an imaginary ethical dialogue with all involved. </li></ul>
  10. 10. News: Truthfulness <ul><li>Is the speaker/writer attempting to deceive people? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the statement itself true or false? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the person trying to “make them believe what we ourselves do not believe”? </li></ul><ul><li>Are journalists providing “the truth about the fact”? </li></ul>
  11. 11. News: Truthfulness <ul><li>Deliberate deception Stephen Glass, Patricia Smith, Mike Barnicle </li></ul><ul><li>Why do news organizations not catch deception? </li></ul>
  12. 12. “ Conflict of Interest” <ul><li>conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other. </li></ul>
  13. 13. News: Corporate Conflict of Interest <ul><li>How do you report on organizations your parent company owns? </li></ul><ul><li>Disney, ABC and The Sock Puppet. </li></ul><ul><li>“ Synergy” but also conflict of interest. </li></ul>
  14. 14. News: Sensationalism <ul><li>Sensationalism News coverage that panders to audiences with lurid and highly emotional stories of crime, sex, violence, and celebrities. </li></ul><ul><li>Tabloid laundering When respectable media report on what tabloids are covering. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Digital Photo Editing <ul><li>How much is too much? </li></ul><ul><li>What is an acceptable level of photo manipulation? </li></ul><ul><li>Should viewers know to what degree a photo has been altered? </li></ul><ul><li>Does intentionally making changes in a photo change the viewer ’s response to the image? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Digital Photo Editing Standards, see pg 509
  17. 17. Enforcing Ethics <ul><li>“ Ombudsman” </li></ul><ul><li>– a representative of a publication’s readers who takes the point of view of those who purchase or consume the news; aka as a reader’s representative or audience advocate. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Truth in Advertising <ul><li>How important is it for advertising claims to be true? </li></ul><ul><li>Factual claims about drugs and food held to higher standard. </li></ul><ul><li>Claims of being “best” need to be documented. </li></ul><ul><li>“ The only claims we’d make ought to be suffiently humorous, exaggerated, and far-fetched that no one will take them seriously.” </li></ul>
  19. 19. “ Good Taste” and Calvin Klein <ul><li>”… convey the idea that glamour is an inner quality that can be found in regular people in the most ordinary setting; it is not something exclusive to movie stars and models.” – C. Klein </li></ul>
  20. 20. Advertising Media Control <ul><li>Advertisers may pull ads from publications/stations in response to critical or offensive stories. </li></ul><ul><li>Magazine editors warn advertisers about controversial articles. </li></ul><ul><li>Advertisers promote development of television programs they would like to advertise on. </li></ul>
  21. 21. Public Relations Society of America <ul><li>Advocacy </li></ul><ul><li>Honesty </li></ul><ul><li>Expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Independence </li></ul><ul><li>Loyalty </li></ul><ul><li>Fairness Page 518 </li></ul>
  22. 22. Citizens for a Free Kuwait <ul><li>Should Hill & Knowlton have investigated woman ’s claims before arranging her testimony? </li></ul><ul><li>Who should the PR agency have first loyalty to: the client or the public? </li></ul>