Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ethical Philosphy

Now this is tough because when I read over the different philosophies and views of the philosophers, nothing jumps out at me that I can say "Oh thats what I believe." So I'm going to switch my major to philosophy and become a philosopher and your grandchildren can study my views many years from now. Well that is bogus, but maybe a good idea. So back to my views. From what I have studied (sorry but it really isn't a lot), I think I agree mainly with communitarian ethics with a side of virtue ethics. If that is confusing let me break it down. I think you have to find your ethics within yourself. However a huge fan of balance. While you do what you think is right according to your personal values, one must recognize the communities or one's surrounding's needs and give that reasonable thought and consideration in ethical decisions. But I am also a situationist. I do not think you can lay down laws for ethics and apply them to every situation. If that were the case then the laws wouldn't be ethics. By that I mean the beauty of ethics is they are not set in stone. They are completely personal and can change for different circumstances. If this seems confusing, I apologize. Feel free to ask questions.
As for other philosophies...I see the reasoning and points, their just not mine.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Mish-mash of sorts.

After discussing and reading about the great philosophers' theories on ethical decisions, I came to some interesting conclusions. First of all, I love not being a philosophy major. Second of all, I think there are good elements to Aristotle's, Kant's, and Mill's theories. I think my personal philosophy is a combination of virtue-based and utilitarian. I feel that our character as humans is what defines us and is integral to everything we do, but it is also important for us to recognize how we impact those around us with our decisions. I think it's very possible to implement different decision-making theories in our lives. In fact, I wonder if there really is anyone out there who strictly abides by one theory only... is it even possible?

Anyway, I think if I absolutely
had to adhere to one theory, it would be Aristotle's golden mean. I believe character and intent are important. Though I might look like a sucker to some, I like his idea of "virtue ethics"- that the combination of people and their acts are the basis of ethics. I think that in one way or another, a person's character plays a role in their decision-making, no matter how hard they try to be unbiased (that's us, fellow journalists!), so it's extremely important to develop good character by way of the golden mean. I think this can be a solid foundation of decision making, though that's not to say other models should be used as well.

Mill's utilitarian theory also has definite merit. Many decisions we must make in life will impact a great number of people, whether we like it or not. I feel it's imperative that humans consider the impact of their decisions on those with whom they share the planet with. Obviously, in most cases, it's impossible to comprehend the full extent of the impact our decisions will have, but I say, if we have some idea of the impact of a particular decision, we should implement this theory when possible. For example, if you have the choice of purchasing a Fair Trade chocolate bar versus a Hershey bar, purchasing the Fair Trade bar will have the greatest impact on the greatest number of people- in a small way, you are perpetuating a fair wage for people who harvest the cocoa beans, which means in the long run, more people will have a better quality of life. Purchasing the Hershey bar will benefit Big Hershey, and unless you give it to a homeless person, it will only benefit you (though I think it tastes horrible). I may be sounding trite here, but it's an example, nonetheless (Also, everything traces back to chocolate.)

I mostly disagree with Kant's categorical imperative theory. It's much to black and white to be logically implemented in one's day-to-day experiences. Though it might be a good idea to consider how the world would be if everyone made the same decision you did, it's also impossible to really comprehend that effect to the full extent. It is important to consider our actions alone, but I can't grasp the fact that Kan't didn't believe in moral character and seemed to not place much emphasis on consequences. He also believed in no exceptions to his theory, ie- all decisions should be duty-based. Frankly, I don't even think it's possible for one's decisions to be entirely duty-based.

In conclusion, no ground-breaking profound postulations here. Just some scattered thoughts shot from the hip on matter.

My own mix

In reading about ethical philosophies, I have determined mass confusion and cannot be strictly defined by any one philosophy. I am a mix of Aristotle, John Stuart Mill and Immanuel Kant.

To Aristotle – I believe intentions count for something. Whether they are motivated selfishly or for the good of others, intentions matter and can reveal a great deal about people. Aristotle said there are three keys to acting ethically. I agree with the first and the last – exercising good sense and acting in line with an unchanging and firm character. Acting intelligently obviously requires good sense but, more importantly, character defines you. It must be unwavering and good. Character and reputation out last just about everything. It is important to remember this.

I also agree with Mill. Consequences certainly define whether or not decisions are ethical. The end should always be considered but I don't think the ends always justify means. And I don't think any decision should be utility-based. Yes, it's hard to say and live this out, but decisions should not be selfishly made. Here is where I have slight disagreement with Mill. He believes it is OK to do harm if a larger group is benefited. This can't be said of all situations and such a blanket statement is dangerous.

With Kant, I absolutely believe in the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." I believe duty influences some but for me, I don't act morally simply because I feel a duty to do so. I abide by my morals because I believe they are fitting to my life and offer freedom from guilt, fear, selfishness and hypocrisy.


My values are primarily virtue based. I agree with Aristotle that individual acts and character count for something. The golden mean is a good philosophy to live by. Balance in one's life ususally promotes success and fulfillment. The book we're reading in class says a good way to think of Aristotle's framework is to pick a hero and model ones life after that person. However there are very few people worth modeling ones life after.
Kant's categorical imperative is much too rigid for me. There are exceptions to every rule and one has to make choices that don't always follow a formula. I don't think universal law is always simple, if it was we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Pluaralistic Theory

My philosophy on ethics follows closely the philosophy of William D. Ross whose book, The Right and the Good, outlined the duties found in the Pluralistic Theory of Value. I feel that duties help navigate me in deciding my ethics. I find the duties of fidelity to be essential. Promising someone something and following through validates who you are. I follow the quote, “A man is only as strong as his word.” I feel the duties of the beneficence are bound to the common good of humanity. Many in the world require more help than others. Boiled down, life and death precedes comfort and discomfort. The duties of gratitude are an indicator on how we treat others. It is based on the previous acts of someone. However, if we know a person solely on the current act it can be easy, yet hard to discern the level of gratitude you offer. But, our gratitude for a parent or spouse is deeper than that of a stranger who opens a door for us. At times the duties-based philosophy tends to be temperamental and conditional. Life in general is not black and white and my ethical philosophy has depended on the condition of events. The duties based philosophy tends to aid me in the conditional issues.

I guess I'm a Mutt......

I cant say that I am in full agreement with any of these philosophy's, they all sound pretty nice in different ways. i would say I am a little utalitarian, but not too intense, i do have feelings and ethics of my own and am going to do what is best for me as well as the society. Although i have seen John Q and do sympathize with his story, but i doubt that i would or would ever take it to that level. i think the opposite philosophy from Kant is pretty ridiculous, and doubt anybody could truly follow through with these beliefs and still keep a friend. along the same lines Epicourious' its all about you attitude is just about as ridiculous in the same sense as Kant. I think we would be fools to say none of us thought with these perspectives before though, i think it is human nature. So all in all i guess I am mixture of all these philosophys.

My Personal Ethics

I can't say that I would side with one particular philosopher. As I look at the main points of each one, there are things I agree with and things I don't. I do believe I am more in between Aristotle and Mills.
Aristotle says that good intentions count for something and he looks for the ultimate happiness for each person. He also says that one needs to have an unchanging character, which I think is so important. It takes so long to build up a good reputation and it can be lost so easily. But, if you do as Aristotle says and live your life so you character is unchanging, then hopefully you won't ever have to lose your good name. If some hard decision comes up, having good intentions could save your reputation. Having a clear conscience and a good reputation can bring you ultimate happiness.
Mills says it is all about the consequences; the greatest good for the greatest number of people. I agree with this philosophy to an extent as well. When we were learning about Mills, I kept think of the passengers on the flight that was headed for the White House on 9/11. They were thinking not about themselves, but about what was best for so many other people. They sacrificed their lived to help so many others, which is following Mills thinking. There can be a lot of good done when you consider the consequences and act upon them. But, there is also dangers in this as well. If you focus too much on the outcome of the experience then you miss the learning that comes along the way.
I have a hard time agreeing with Kant. He says everyone should always act in what the way the university would. But, circumstances are different and there isn't always one right answer, and the right answer to one person wouldn't be to another. Each person is too different to have this philosophy work.
Each of these men had a different view on good character and ethics, but I feel that the philosophy taught by Aristotle and Mills is best applied today and to me. We all need to be looking out for those around us, but we can't forget ourselves. It is important to want to help others and to leave enough time to help ourselves find the ultimate happiness like Aristotle said.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Our society would not be where it is without breaking some rules ;)

My ethical philosophy primarily lies with Aristotle, which is virtue-based. I believe in being a good person, despite rules or restrictions. If I do something wrong I am guilt-ridden.

We are given rules either by religion, government or society and I believe life is more about living or having good character that causes us act morally. Developing good character, such as kindness or honesty, is more important than simply being honest because it is a “rule”. In an idyllic society, rules would not be necessary, but people would do good because they were simply a good person. Although decisions may not be “right” or “wrong”, especially for journalists we’ve learned, having good character should help us when we are faced with dilemmas.

When I researched different philosophies, I found that to act on virtue ethics means to act from particular motivations. And, I decided, I would be able to do math if I had the motivation to put time into it. My whole life revolves around what I am passionate about and if I have motivation for something, I do it well. If I make good decisions, I have the right motives. If we are good people, we should act with good intensions and therefore acting morally should come easily.

Of course, everyone may have their own ideas about what a moral person is, but I think being true to yourself is key to becoming happy, which is the ultimate human good according to Aristotle.

On Utilitarianism

In class on Tuesday, Nancy mentioned that many of us did not seem very receptive to John Stuart Mills' ethical concept of Utilitarianism even though Mills ideas are what many of the founding fathers drew upon when they established our democratic government system. You know, that whole idea of the majority rule, with the caveat that sometimes the voice of the minority is overlooked. I suppose it's understandable that, for many of us, the idea of "the greatest good for the greatest number" could be given such a negative connotation because, let's face it, some of the most horrific atrocities ever committed have been under the guise and justification of "for the greater good." I think that negative association of utilitarianism has permeated our culture to such a degree that many of our popular culture's most iconic and in some way, most complex, villains seem to be strong practitioners of this type of ethical philosophy (Something I would like to go into greater depth in other posts sometime, 'cause I'm a huge nerd). But the truth is, there are many schools of thought under the umbrella of Mills original, more broad, conception of the idea. Not only that but the idea of what constitutes "the greater good" and what "sacrifices" would be necessary to bring happiness to this majority are all pretty subjective ideas.

Epicureanism and Atomic Materialism, Say That 10 Times Fast

The ethical philosophy which I feel suits me best is the work of Epicurus and his development of Atomic Materialism. At face value and without further research this may seem like a selfish decision, but as I researched this philosophy deeper I found that many of its tenants fit myself well. Epicurus believed that the "good life" consisted of tranquility, freedom from pain, and the absence of fear. Personal pleasure is the ultimate happiness. Now I ask you, who doesn't want that? Who would like to live a life of personal strife, bodily pain, and anxiety?

The greatest part of this philosophical view is that the highest good in life is gained through knowledge, friendship, virtue, and temperance. Yet, Epicurus also believed in living and eating humbly, as well as having humble relationships. Simple pleasures meant steering clear of appetites, sex, and drinking. An area where Epicurus and myself can't seem to meet in the middle, I always end up drinking too much. But, socially, not many of these simple life ethics have survived, they were squashed by Adam Smith.

I also believe that true altruism does not exist. Epicurus is the father of ethical egoism, he believed above all that one should promote his own interests, for personal pleasure is the root of happiness. I don't buy the notion that people do things without expecting reciprocity, whether internally or externally. Go ahead a tell me that you volunteer to help another, but I know whether visibly or hidden deep within your head you really have alternative motives. You go to relief society for the free food or socialization, not because you want to go to the old folks home and read stories to someones deaf grandpa.

This world is a dog-eat-dog world and you have to watch out for number one, which may sound selfish but according to Epicurus this is where the greatest happiness lies. No one is going to care and watch out for your interests and well being as you yourself would do. And I really believe that we should all eat, drink, and be merry for tommorow we die and don't really know where the heaven or hell we are going.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Personal Ethical Philosophy and Case Studies

I have to admit, I have never considered how I act and think as a type of ethics, although I do try to rationally think through problems the best I can using what I know. I think the my ethical values are primarily duty-based, however, after doing the readings.

It is hard to give one answer why duty motivates me to action, I do not think it is the only thing, but is a main basis. Duty is doing something whole-heartedly I feel is required of me to support something/someone that is important to me. I live by the idea of doing everything whole-heartedly, or at least the best I can. I rarely can do anything half-heartedly and feel good about it. I suppose I feel I have cheated myself or others, and therefore did not do my duty, and this is failure in my mind. I guess I want intent to count, but it just doesn't seem good enough.

I think many people are motivated by personal duties, and I think it can be a good way to know how to act ethically. I would guess many people feel duty to their family, jobs, the environment and themselves because they care about those things. Since those are the things that are in our everyday lives and are what makeup life itself, then it seems good to do the best we can concerning those things. I think it can be hard to rationalize about impersonal situations and ideas, like a universal "ought," or stepping beyond cultural bounds. It is easier for me to make ethics personal, than to apply it to a bigger picture, because all I know is my little world.

I guess that would make Mr. Ross my main man. I really like in the Media Ethics book his description of the difference between right and good. Producing good should be our objective. However, it is easy to mix up right with good. "A right action is something undertaken by persons motivated by correct reasons and on careful reflection. Not all right actions, however, will be productive of the good." I think this is why I struggle with the right intentions idea, because someone may do a right action, but may not produce something good, and if something good isn't produced, then logic says something bad was.

So if I do my duty, I have produced something good. I think the list of seven duties are pretty close to what I try and live by: fidelity, reparation, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, and not injuring others. I agree also with Ross on the idea that all of these duties are equally important, and will produce the good. I struggle with Kant's idea that just not lying will produce a totally ethical or moral human. It just doesn't seem to be deep enough to produce a good, caring, progressive society.

I think too that Ross's theory takes something important into account that makes his idea more realistic. We live in reality, so an idea that's applicable is important I believe. His theory realizes that life is complicated, multi-faceted, and we aren't just motivated by one duty. It seems most times when I am confused on an ethical level, it is in a grey area, not something that's black and white, particularly as a journalist. I can do my duty and produce good, but I can always do it better as I learn, and produce more good.

I think a good illustration of this is in the case study we read in class. The reporter printed the mayor's accusations, and the opposing party's "no comment" response. I really don't think she did anything wrong. She did her duty, but I am sure she learned and will know how to do it even better next time, like a follow-up story, or some other solution.

Can't we all just be friends?

So, in the last class a disagreement ensued between the PR major and the print majors of the class as to the ethics of a certain case study we were doing. The PR guy was arguing that it wasn't really possible for the guy in the case study to give an articulate response in the amount of time given for him to do so. The print majors said that 'no comment' is what needs to be printed when that is all the response given and a deadline is in place. The ultimate consensus on the situation was that the journalist should have given the guy more time to respond by telling the reader that more of the story was coming.
I think the whole thing ended fairly peacefully, and that everyone felt pretty good with the end result thinking the bases were covered ethically. So, why doesn't this happen in real life? I think it could if people weren't so determined to prove themselves right, and others wrong. I think that if we really all worked together, like we say we will, so many problems would be resolved. Did the arguement take some time? Yeah, it wasn't two words and done. We had to crawl through the facts a bit, but in the long run, this would have saved a lot of time in real life situations.
Can PR and Journalism get along? I think so. It just isn't very common.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kyle Milne- The Ultimate Straggler

Well you may have pieced together that I'm vocal and don't have any issues speaking my mind. I was born in Logan, UT and have spent most of my life here. I got my Associates Degree from Snow College and spent a 6 months doing service in NYC. I'm majoring in PR with a minor in Sociology and hope to go into Event Planning when I graduate and maybe eventually come back to college life and work in Student Services.

It's hard to pinpoint values that are important to me because I feel like it's hard to prioritize great things. I would say truth is probably one of the most important things in my life because I feel it's the foundation of all lasting and concrete interactions. I think it's what all people strive for, and should be the aim for all journalists in their reporting. Sadly, most people don't realize that most news is truth in progress and take everything as fact. Perhaps even sadder is that most journalists don't realize that. Beyond truth I value friendship and family. At the end of the day the relationships you have are all you've really got.

I'm sorry to everyone that I'm so late with this, but I promise to be more timely in the future. Have fun all!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

To Print? Or Not to Print?

I want to introduce this blog post on the premise that journalism did not get the title of public and government watchdog by idly sitting by, politely asking for interviews and expecting a newsworthy story. Public enlightenment, as said by the SPJ Code of Ethics, did not come from journalism that was afraid to break a few rules. It was because journalists actively sought out corruption, asked the questions no one else would ask, pushed, probed, dug, researched, and published things hidden from the public eye that trust in the news arose. For it was three journalists inquiry from the Washington Post who exposed Jack Abramoff and his lobbying scandal through the use of investigative reporting. Many of governments wrong doings would go unnoticed if not for journalists pushing the envelope.

At that, what I found most disturbing about Meg Carter was her complete disregard for source/journalist confidentiality. It is upon this cornerstone that journalism is born. If sources do not trust journalists, they will no longer give privileged information to writers and story material will slowly fade away. What is most upsetting is that one journalist who violates this trust, potentially ruins rapport for journalists who follow. Take for example the police chief, your go-to-guy for the crime beat. If one journalists prints information given to him in confidence, potentially that police chief will no longer give inside information to reporters. Ruining a source for later journalists covering that jurisdiction. The sad thing, and something that I don't think many journalists consider, is the real harm they can cause sources that ask for something be kept off the record. Take for example Teresa Perrone, printing confidential information given to Mega ultimately cost a life. And it is my personal belief that no story, regardless of how groundbreaking, is worth a life.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What bothered me the most

Since this blog is supposed to be about what bothered me the most about Meg in the movie, I'll get straight to the point. I really didn't like that fact that Meg didn't bother to confirm the facts of what she was writing about. I have noticed that several people have pointed this out, but I concur. As a journalist, we have the responsibility to let the public know what is going on, but we need to make sure that it is really going on. I liked the fact that she didn't take into consideration her personal feelings for Mike, but she really needed to cover her back a little bit more. I understand that she basically got the blessing of the attorney and her editor, but that doesn't mean that skipping essentials like verifying is okay. So they printed the article with abscence of malice, but did they really do it in the public interest? Well, given that they didn't know what was true and what was not, I don't think so. Meg knew that the head of the task force has less than charitable reasons for leaving her alone in the room with the file in plain sight. If she really has a nose for news, she should have known that something dirty was playing. She followed the letter of the law and not the spirit of it, meaning that it meant nothing to her. That is basically the opposite of ethical.
Meg finally got it right close to the end of the film when she published the article about the attorney general (I think it's his title) being investigated for accepting bribes. While my gut reaction was for her to ignore the information and to be loyal to her new found love, I'm glad she chose the public and their right to know the facts.
Meg lacked the news value of confirmation in her reporting. She had no regard for the reputation of Mike Gallagher when she published the story. The police had little to no evidence that Gallagher was guilty but Meg published the story anyway.
The end was rewarding when she didn't sell out her cop friend. She finally seem to see the consequences of her actions and did her best to redeem herself.

Paul Newman was so dreamy.

....There, I said it. With all due respect to the late and great Mr. Newman, of course. This movie had it all- attractive leading actors, a glaring display of rampant violation of media ethics- what more could you want in a film? What I have to say about it is essentially probably the same as what everyone else has said, but you can hear me out if you wish. Where to begin?

Obviously, Megan blatantly disregarded many ethical dilemmas that cropped up during her experiences. But to me, it wasn't intentional. I'm guessing the character background for Megan is that she isn't educated in the ways of journalism. Most likely, someone like her in real life would have gotten her job because of her "nose for news," her looks, or if the hiring news agency was corrupt and couldn't see/didn't care that she lacked a complete sense of ethics. The paper she worked for actually appeared to be this way, since no one tried to stop her unsubstantiated stories. The editor could have stopped her and taught her a thing or two about ethics, but he didn't. Shame on him. (I forget, did he have a crush on her?) It seems that the only idea the newspaper and Megan had about good journalism was being able to sniff out a good story. (I think she also wanted to prove that she could handle meaty stories because she was a woman in the newsroom in the '80s.) I did admire Meg's passion, eye for news, dedication, and her persistence, however. I certainly wouldn't mind having those qualities as a potential journalist. But they do not comprise the core of a good journalist. A good journalist seeks (first and foremost) truth, is responsible, honest, and unbiased-- qualities which I think, are concomitant with ethics. Unfortunately, Meg had to learn this the hard way.

In the first place, she shouldn't have given into the setup provided by the D.A. That was wrong on two levels: first of all, it was classified information, second it was an unsubstantiated claim- mere speculation. Second of all, she (and the rest of the stupid paper) ran a one-sided story with one anonymous source. Sigh. And of course, to clear Gallagher, she ran the information that Ms. Perrone gave about her abortion. True, Meg never said it was "off the record," but she could have just as easily published the story with anonymous sources like she did with the first story! Oh, and of course, there's the getting "involved" with a source issue that screwed everything up even more. I'm sure Gallagher was hard to resist, but come on! But I'm sure we all knew it was coming. Also, she didn't even think twice about wearing a wire when she interviewed Gallagher. So many violations, so little time.

As far as "getting it right," I think, in the very end, Meg did, somewhat. Though she still wasn't fully educated on journalism ethics, she appeared to have a grasp of it at the end. At the trial, she protects the identity of the guy in the strike force (can't remember his name) who showed her the file with the photos of Gallagher. Also, at the very end, she verbalizes to Gallagher that she did her job badly. I think that shows that she has learned some sense of ethics, one way or another. And that's all I've got.

P.S. Wilford Brimley, the actor who played the attorney, is totally my third cousin. You are all jealous.

Love? Ethics? Journalism? What???

Before I start railing on Megan, I want to say that she is human, and therefore imperfect. Also, the touchy issue of falling in love with her source, Mike, is not acceptable, but understandable. Humans form bonds with other people, and I don't think it was wrong she liked him, just wrong she continued to do the story in that situation.

And, I do not think Megan can be blamed for Ms. Perrone's suicide. Ms. Perrone gave her the information, and while she didn't want it published, it was very relevant to the story, it was an alibi! We don't know exactly what Megan said in the paper, but if she just presented the facts, then there was no ethical dilemma. Journalists' job is to give the facts in an accurate and fair way, and sometimes people don't like the facts, but that doesn't make the news industry evil.

Now to the railing. There were many ethical issues, but I think the biggest is that Megan was not accurate, and she assumed. Journalists should never assume. Whether by preconceived ideas or whatever, Megan assumed what she thought were valid facts. For example, she assumed when she wrote the first story that Mike wouldn't respond or want to cooperate, and she did not get his side. That is so irresponsible for a journalist, its embarassing. She also assumed that everything in the file she stole was correct and valid. It seems she should have done better backgrounding, and checked other sources before publishing that first story. She also assumed that Ms. Perrone, at first meeting, was Mike's girlfriend.

As a personal moral, I think all the alcohol Megan consumed while on the job, finding the story was also irresponsible. It impairs judgement, and that is not a good thing for a journalist. Also, her continued 'meetings' with Mike were mixed between personal affairs and work, the story, and that is not right. She played him for the story, and vice versa, and that also impairs credibility and judgement.

I don't think Megan ever got it right. She always missed the mark because she let ethical dilemmas overrule her journalist's judgement.

Absence of Malice

I’ve seen “Absence of Malice” a few times before, mostly because my mom loves Paul Newman, but also because I really like it. Sally Field’s character, Meg, was outrageous and her ethics are the typical Hollywood movie’s description of a hardcore woman reporter. They have her play this part with little to no remorse or reflection on her journalistic ethics. She writes a story with little facts simply because she wants to get a good story. It seems that she only considers the ethics of her decisions if what she does will hurt someone. She is more concerned with being sued than with other people’s reputations and the truth. She’s very ambitious but not very ethical.

Megan's Ethics

The entire movie “Absence of Malice” dealt with ethical conflicts. One of the most conflicting moments was when the story was first published; Megan was told she was not supposed to look for the truth at all. However, the media have an obligation to the truth if they are supposed to be the “gatekeepers” of society. Megan found a dramatic story and published it with reckless disregard for the truth. The sad thing is I feel that many journalists behave this way. At some point a journalist must separate him or herself from a story to be objective and able to write. However, that does not mean disregard for the truth or publishing something about someone they do not want in the paper. The most disturbing part is that Teresa died for it. Megan never seemed to look at how her stories would affect someone else or how serious the issues were she was writing about. After her editor told her about the death, she asked “want me to do a story about it”? Megan was always working as a reporter- no matter who she was talking to. She even took a hidden recorder with her, which I believe is unethical if the person she was recording did not know about it. Megan protected her sources more than she protected who she was writing about. I think Megan realized what she did was wrong- but that doesn’t mean she ever got it right.

Absence of Malice

The move Absence of Malice that we watched in class on Tuesday was the definition of why I don't always like the media. The way that Meg made a story out of nothing was terrible. I could have understood if the story was just something not important like "Why people like Ice Cream." But when she wrote a story about a man (Mike) being accused of murder is just terrible. She did not have all of the facts. One of the parts that made me the most frustrated was when Meg met with the Lawyer about whether she should run the story or not. All that was important to them was if they could get into trouble. They did not care if all of the facts were right they just were concerned if they would be sued. I could go on about how ridiculous the movie was but I will save it for my paper.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Poor Meg

"Absence of Malice" was quite the journalistic movie. I was so amazed at how many rules Megan broke and that she didn't even seem to think twice about any of them. I couldn't believe she would stoop so low to look through a file that didn't belong to her, then stoop even lower and write a story about something she didn't know much about. Other issues in the movie bothered me, but this one made me upset the whole rest of the show. Megan could have avoided all her other mistakes if she would have just followed the FBI agent out and dropped the story until there was more information.
I feel there are a lot of reporters out there who would have done exactly what she did. They would have fallen right into the trap. This is why people think journalists are cunning, deceitful and just looking to ruin other people's lives. I felt bad for Mike and wanted him to get back at Megan, but I also felt bad for Megan. She should have known better and her editor should have known better than to publish a story with no basis of truth. This movie had me just waiting to see how far Megan would go before she realized what she had done and tried to make it right. But, by the time she did that, it was too late. A life had been lost and another one had been ruined. It can be so easy to fall into traps and this movie showed how fast a life can be ruined by a simple article in the newspaper.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Absence of Malice

I am writing the blog without reading the packet and then I’ll read it so I have more to add to my critique review paper. We watched the movie to make us think about our ethics and job as a journalist. However I want to start by saying that Meg (Sally Fields character) gets a lot of the blame and while the majority of the problem is her fault, there were poor ethical decisions made by all main characters. Meg’s unethical problems were unintentional. She was trying to do her job and be the good watchdog journalist and to get a good story. Elliot (the guy who left the file on his desk) is the character with the main ethical problems to me. He thought through his actions and knew what he was doing. Meg was unaware of the problems she was creating, so I feel a little bad for her. However it raises a good point. As a journalist, I will try harder to step back and look at my stories and think of how it impacts all parties involved. Just because we have a story to print does not mean it should be printed. We are considered gatekeepers of information.

Although I feel a little bad for Meg, she started the whole ordeal by trying to fabricate a story where there wasn’t one. When she was talking to Gallagher about the first story he said you write for someone with no face and no name but you believe them to be right over me, the person standing in front of you. I love that line. Journalists have to be careful who they trust. After all we are only as good as the sources where we get the story. Even though there are reasons for sources to need anonymity, always search for someone that will go on the record. Also second guess intentions of sources. If someone will go on the record for a story, why would another want to remain anonymous?

To me, Meg’s biggest fault was doing the story at all. As far as reporting the story, running the abortion part was absolutely unacceptable. I know you can’t blame Meg for the death. The editor said it’s not her fault, and it’s not because in the end, Teresa chose to kill herself. However if the article saying she had an abortion never ran then she would still be around.

I think Meg did what she could to make the story right. She realized there was a problem and tried to get to the bottom of the story and make it right for both parties.

Silly Sally

I think Meg Carter broke just about every rule in the book. I was conflicted throughout the movie as to just whose side I was on. In the end, I think I am most bothered by Meg's actions. First of all, her first article about Mike Gallagher was unfair. I would never publish a story so one sided. Some of the blame should be placed on her editor but any journalist knows better. I think they were in a hurry to break the news but accuracy is much more important than getting it first. I think it was Mike who pointed this out to her – he asked if she was interested in publishing the truth. If so, she should have spoken to him, too. Meg's article reminded me of the Greg Lamb piece we analyzed the first day of class. As we all agreed, such a story should never go to print.

There was something I did admire about Meg – her drive and commitment to news. Even after she reports Teresa's abortion and the editor tells Meg she committed suicide as a result, she asks him, "Do you want me to do the story?" What dedication.

Something else that really aggravated me was Meg and Mike's relationship. Meg was quite forward, which I thought was fine, as long as she was doing so to get the story, but then she shows up at his work, his boat, drives by his house ... Every time she showed up I wanted to scream. Not only is he a source and the subject of her articles but he attacks her. Really? She is going to keep going to this guy? Sure, Paul Newman is beautiful but there should be some boundaries as a reporter and as a woman. But I'll save that for my paper.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Malice"-scious Thoughts

"Absence of Malice?" More like absence of any ethical standard or thought process whatsoever! I mean, come on Sally Fields! You once played a nun for crying out loud! Oh, sure, it was a nun that could fly and had a big hat (I'm not making this up), but it was a nun none the less! Ok, stupid jokes aside, "Absence of Malice" is a film that deftly explores that tricky line between what constitutes an accurate story or what is merely an accumulation of facts without the necessary context, among other things. The parallels between the news story that opened the film and the Herald Journal story that we examined in class a few weeks ago are pretty glaring. Both fail to be "accurate" and more or less provide a "truth" from merely one side of a complicated story and subject. The film also clearly addresses the dangers of bias or attachment to a story and subject, something that can be difficult to avoid but is clearly pretty necessary. I definitely disagreed with my on-screen namesake at several points during the film and kinda wondered how a newspaper editor would allow his reporter to keep doing stories about a subject she was obviously getting far too attached to. And then there's the matter of being respectful to the wishes of sources vs. providing a thorough and accurate account of what happened, but I guess I should probably save some stuff for our movie critiques...

Absence of Malice

I saw that Meg ultimately felt guilty and responsible for the issues that came to pass. She had the feeling of error, but I am not sure she corrected the ethical issues she practiced. The most problematic ethical issues she faced were allowing certain feelings to control her actions. Meg was unethical in her treatment of Teresa Perrone. Meg was given private information on an event, which obviously devastated Ms. Perrone, and let the information be printed. Meg objected to her editor's advice to print the story as was, but gave in far too easily. By printing the story Meg caused harm and discomfort to Ms. Perrone and eventually led to Teresa’s suicide. After the matter Meg became distraught, but again allowed her emotions to dictate her actions. Meg was hungry for the truth at all cost. I believe Meg was wrong for sharing all the information about Ms. Perrone. The article could have been tasteful and respectful.

Ashley Zarate

I’m Ashley and I’m quite dull. I forgot which year I am in school many semesters ago, but figuring that out is on my to-do list for this month. I am a print journalism major with a minor in film and production. I live a relatively balanced life with the best dog ever, Bologna Corleone, who often substitutes as the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. I thoroughly enjoy hiking, mostly just being in nature. I hate to toot my own horn but I’m a great cook and I have amazing taste in movies and music. I also spend a lot of my time reading all kinds of literature from Paolo Nerudo to Richard Dawkins.

I tend to lose my moral compass daily, but somehow always hold on to a few personal ethics. I try to be kind yet logical on a daily basis and that seems to be doing the trick.

I don’t believe journalists need a huge list of morals to be good journalists. All we really need to do is tell the story as it happens. Accuracy and timeliness seem to be the only morals we NEED. Surely, all the other mainstream morals (honesty, respect, integrity, loyalty, etc) fit into being accurate with the story. I think we sometimes confuse the truth with the truth as we see it. It’s a small difference but it’s also the difference between non-fiction and creative non-fiction.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Look, folks, we've got a straggler!

Hi, everyone. I'm Kelly, and as you can see, this posting is a day late, due to my commonly manifested forgetfulness. And that's me, in a nutshell- I am forgetful. That's all you really need to know. (Also, I'm a print journalism major who's minoring in art.) I remember useless things, like what I was wearing the day I gave my cat her first bath or something mundane like that, but deadlines- well, they're more of a challenge. Forgive me (Ms. Nancy, I'm talking to you). If I'm counting on being a journalist, I might want to work on this. But I ramble. Now on to the reason I'm here- brownies. I mean, media ethics.

When I consider personal values, the first thing I always think of is loyalty. I don't really know why, other than that I've always tried to be loyal to friends and family, no matter what. I'm not saying I've been perfect at it, but I've tried. But in the world of media, loyalty inevitably does not mix. To be an unbiased, objective reporter, one cannot be too loyal to one school of thought, organized group, or person, or at least keep their personal beliefs inside and out of the news. As much as I value loyalty in my personal relationships, the news is news, and should not be slanted by a journalist's loyalty to particular parties. Ideally, anyway. I feel that if you've signed on to be an unbiased relayer of information to a group of people, loyalties cannot stand in the way. If they do, the result is slanted news stations. Fox leans to the right, CNN leans left. It's a tough conflict I face as a potential journalist, needless to say.

I also strongly value kindness. A little bit goes a long way, and it seems to to be valued by the media as well. As a reporter, one needs to be able to develop a good rapport with interviewees for obvious reasons. Without this, reporters can miss out on crucial details because they have not connected with the subject on a personal level. I've personally found that interviewees appreciate kindness, and it doesn't take a big effort to be kind. In turn, they will receive you warmly. On the other hand, kindness can conflict with the media. Inevitably, unflattering stories get published about people, people get angry, etc. Though journalists can try their best to be kind, they will find that they cannot please everyone all the time. And poor editors- no matter what they do, there's always someone who is offended. A resolution to this is simply coming to terms with it- being prepared for people who are unhappy and learning to act professional and not take things personally. That is something that I, being a people-pleaser, will have to come to terms with if I really want to be in the journalism profession.

Anyway, I hope this all makes sense. Thank you for reading. There are many more things I value, but this is already really lengthy. I'm also a big fan of integrity and honesty- I really could go on about them, but I'll spare everyone. Now, to go eat brownies...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Jessica Collett

My name is Jessica Collett. I am a junior majoring in journalism, emphasis in public relations, and a minor in women and gender studies. I value my relationships with people and I am extremely loyal! I protect whatever is close to me and get attached to things or people easyily. If I went to a pet store and saw a puppy I instantly connect with, no matter what other puppy I saw I’d always want the first one. (I hope that is a good example). I get obsessed and overwhelmed about what I am passionate about. With my minor in gender studies, I hope to better the understanding of others with stereotypes and unfair circumstances. Because I am focusing on public relations, I will be the one bugging the media –not the media bugging me ☺. I am very fair person so it will be hard to be put in ethical dilemmas, but I hope I will be able to act according to my values. I believe the media have such a power to make a difference and do good, I just wish they did more often.

Jordan Oldham

My name is Jordan Oldham, I am a Horticulture major with an emphasis in Turfgrass Management and a minor in Business. I am currently working with a Landscaping company in Ogden and spend many a late night behind the wheel of a plow truck roaming the streets of Ogden and Layton. I commute to Logan on Tuesdays and Thursdays for classes and to run a little retail business that I just started here in Logan. This summer I will be moving to Big Sky Montana to do a Internship at a golf course. When I graduate from Utah State I am plan to become a Golf Course manager. You may wonder what a guy like me is doing in a upper division journalism class. Well I wonder the same thing sometimes. The reason that I am taking this class is to fulfill a DSS requirement and this sounded like it would be a good class to take.
I have no experience with journalism or the media other than watching the news or reading the newspaper. I think that this class will really open my eyes to what the media does. I think that it will be a good experience for me to learn and broaden my horizons. Well that is a little about myself and I hope that over the course of this class I will be able to learn a lot. See you on Tuesday!

Alice Bailey

My name is Alice Bailey and I am a senior majoring in print journalism with a minor in philosophy. When I started my education at USU my major was mechanical engineering. I worked myself into a position where I thought I was going to get married, so decided that I wanted to finish degree sooner that I was going to be able to do in engineering. I looked at my options and journalism looked like my best choice.
I threw myself into my major head first, praying that I would like it, and I did. I've tracked my media consumption before and realized how much of it I consume. I spend most of my waking hours consuming some sort of media and I think it is great. I figure if I am not listening to something, reading something, watching something, in class (second hand media), then what am I doing? It's everywhere, so lets use it to do some good.
I think that life is too short to live it wrong, so I have taken some time over my years to look at what it is I believe is good, and what isn't. I think that treating people with respect is extremely important. I don't think anyone wants to have eyes rolled at them. I think that in most cases, they don't deserve it either. We usually think we are better than someone else, but that doesn't make it true. I also think that it standing up for what you believe in is something everyone should be willing to do. I don't believe contention is a good thing, but the chance that someone feels as you do is pretty good, and they are waiting to hear their thoughts spoken with someone else's voice. Strength in numbers sort of thing. I have learned over the years that individuality is essential in this life. Don't be afraid of who you are or what your past has been. These things shape you, and I hope make you a better person. Let people know. You are you for a reason. I had a friend teach me that.

I'm Katie, and I'm a Klutz

So, ever the scholastic, trying to get my homework done in time, I ventured outside to get my backpack so I could do my blogging. No joke, I didn't slip on the ice or trip on a crack in the sidewalk, I fell INSIDE my car, while seated, between the back seat and the front seat, and hurt my knee. I even surprise myself. This type of behavior is not irregular, nor is it infrequent. I am just glad I have good insurance.

Besides being clumsy, I am a senior graduating this May with a dual major in Sociology and Journalism and Communications. I live in and commute two days a week to Logan from Ogden. I moved back to the home town after getting married this July. I have two cats, Chloe and Oliver. Chloe is the latest addition to my brood, my husband gave the okay for another cat after Christmas this year. I enjoy summer time with all of its activities. From hiking and gardening to boating and swimming, I love all of the summertime fun. I am also an avid reader of all genres. I once tried starting a book club but it quickly turned into a "no book, book club," where my girlfriends and I did more drinking than reading.

Adding to the list of values we established in class, I would have to say my most important values are determination, humanity, education, independence, and family. These values are the most important and closest to my heart. I feel that though many of these values may overlap in a long list of media values, many of my personal values may not rank as high with what the media may value. In looking at the New York Times corporate website,, the corporate values of diversity, inclusion, innovation, technology, and social responsibility were emphasized. Many of these values are similar to my personal values. For example the Times value of social responsibility aligns well with my value of humanity. And determination closely resembles innovation. But as humans frequently do, I feel the Times and other media outlets at many times fail to live up to their values. There is frequently a gap between stated values and reality.

Yet hope is not lost, I feel a great awakening occurring in the era of the citizen journalist. This revolution is leading to the opening of the marketplace of ideas. I am a firm believer in the theory that as more and more ideas are present, truth will ultimately prevail. Further, I am excited to see the diversity of involvment in the press and democracy. No longer is good public reporting left to stuffy academics and reporters on the beat, Joe and Jane the Plumber have as many opportunities and avenues to publish as any well known writer. Finally, I hope that along with truth comes accountability for media outlets who fail to live up to their values and social purpose. Knowledge is power, right?

Lying but not Lying

So I have a question about the whole Kantian ethics. I have studied it before, but I have never resolved this question. Anyone with any input to ease my troubled mind is welcome.

Kant emphasizes duty, not lying and keeping promises. But what about this scenario:
While I can't remember the name of the movie, it stars Shirley Temple during the civil war. She lives in the South, and her father is a spy for the Confederates. One day he tells his daughter, Shirley, to promise him she would never tell a Yankee if one came looking for him where he is. Of course a little kid would promise their dad they wouldn't tell. Not far in the future, the father comes racing home from a spy mission to hide in his home. The Yankees knock on the door and Shirley answers. They ask where her father is, and she says she doesn't know. So, Shirley kept her promise to her dad, and was honest by keeping it, to her father. But she lied to the Yankees. But if she had not lied to the Yankees, she would have broken her promise and essentially have lied to her father. So, my thinking is, either its a lose-lose situation, or there is a 'higher' and 'nobler' truth of the two options. I think that ratting out her dad would be treason, which is defined in the dictionary as "the betrayal of a trust or confidence." I think that by not honoring someone's trust of you is basically a lie. But anybody's interpretation is welcome.....what would Kant say I wonder.....?

Storee Powell

Hello Media Ethics class. My name is Storee Powell, and I am a junior and print journalist major at USU. I am from Shelley, Idaho, and I am an old married woman, and it is fun to be an old married person. I like to hike, play the piano, eat chocolate, and hang out with my family, and I strongly dislike numbers. I love news and newspapers and magazines and cereal boxes....anything with words I can analyze. My love of words I think comes from my mom. She always took me to library as a kid and read books to me. I think I would flunk life if I couldn't read because I need words to understand things. I feel that if more people would read, especially newspapers, they might have a better grip on the world, and particularly ethics issues.

I am taking this class because I as a human and a journalist have to encounter ethical issues everyday. I have my own approach, but I think that it never hurts to brush up on dead white philosphers. I love philosophy. There have been times in life where I felt I was at an ethical stalemate. I was stuck and just didn't know what to do because the issues was so complicated. So I hope I get a better understanding from this class.

The values in my life are feirce loyalty to people who are close to me, personal accountability, sincerety, dedication, and I try to be non-judgemental, but I am human. I think that if everyone were personally accountable, there would be fewer ethical breaches. Being personally accountable forces you to be honest with yourself, which is hard sometimes. But by doing this you are honest with others, and usually make better decisions. Sincerety is important to me because I am a realist. And if you don't mean what you say or do, you are not dealing with reality, and you cheat yourself and others. I believe in approaching situations and people as non-judgemental as possible, not comprimising other values, but trying to give people the benefit of the doubt because let's face it...sometimes life gets messy and no is perfect.

I think the underlying values of media fit with my personal values. Journalists have to be personally accountable because they make lots of decisions that are tough, and to get better, they have to be honest with themselves. Also, loyalty to the public is important to a journalist. Sincerety and non-judgemental are important things during interviewing people. People know when you are lying or judging them, and this won't make for a good story. The news world is tough, so if a person isn't dedicated, they won't make it.

My heroes range from Johnny Depp to my parents. I like that Johnny Depp, if you know his personal story, is very true to himself, and doesn't let media nor others affect his decisions. Also, my parents are inspiring people. They essentially were raised in a hell that most people cannot imagine, and yet they grew up to be happy, smart and kind people. My dad has a strong work ethic and my mom is very intelligent, and they made me, at times to my dislike, acquire these traits. And they have served me well.

Sorry if this is too long. But my name is Storee and I like to tell stories, no pun intended.

Lamb Story Fixes Ideas

In my opinion as a journalist, there are at least three things that are possible solutions to fixing the “Why Did the Police Kill My Daddy” story by Matthew Jensen.
First, I think that there should have been more context about the actual happening. Assuming that everyone reading the story had been following it earlier was a mistake. Without the context of why Mr. Lamb was caught in his own backyard with the SWAT team cornering him leaves readers very confused and questioning. A story shouldn’t leave readers with questions about the facts. Details such as these also help a reader draw their own conclusions about ethics matters. While it might seem repetitive to the writer of the story, a recount of the story with the essential facts would have really increased the quality of the story.
Second, I know that Mr. Jensen should have had more than one source. He could have consulted the actual Medical Examiner to dispel any myths about where and how many times the victim was shot. He could have consulted the police for their opinion on their actions as well as for the actual investigative report. Also, other family members and friends, though a sensitive time, could have been consulted to increase the reader’s understanding and the writer’s credibility of a tender issue. By only using the father of the victim, the writer, the paper, the story and source all lose credibility. By using the other sources throughout the story, the writer could have done a comparison of fact vs. opinion to paint a more accurate picture and reveal if there were any ethics issues in the actions taken. I think the reader is confused after the story about if the actions of the SWAT team were valid or not because of how the father describes it and the lack of police sources in the story.
Third, I think that by doing the two things above, the writer could have chosen a more definite angle. It seems this is what he was lacking. He should have decided if there were ethical decisions at hand, and made the story about that. If he felt they were not ethical questions so much, he could still include all the information pertaining to this so there weren’t questions by readers, but make it more about a feature-memorial type piece about Mr. Greg Lamb. This is where the website would come in because the website is mostly a memorial, rather than a poke at the police it seems. He could have interviewed more family and friends and got personal stories, good memories and quotes about Mr. Lamb. Doing this will not leave the reader so dang confused. As for the title, well he should have either explained the quote more in the story or left it out. But what do I know? I am just a college wannabe.

Mack Perry pt. 2

Sorry, I posted that first part without realizing that I didn't really mention my personal values. I suppose all of the values I hold dear all really stem from the golden rule---there's something profound about the universality of simply wanting to be treated with the same level of kindness and respect that one feel's they should impart to others. And I guess that seems kind of simplistic, but everything else kinda falls in place for me when you apply that simple ideology to every day life.

Mack Perry

My name is Mack Perry and I'm majoring in Public Relations and I will also be graduating with a minor in History. I'm from Idaho Falls and I'm a Senior that will hopefully be graduating in the summer. I decided to take Mass Media Ethics for a couple of reasons. I guess the first reason would be that the type of stories I usually tend to write, the stories that I submitted to the Statesman or to the Hard News Cafe for my Opinion Writing class, always tended to be entertainment stories or reviews---in other words, stories that usually allowed me to avoid ethical dilemmas or any type of controversy altogether. It's not that I didn't care about other things going on in the world outside the realm of television or film....I just didn't want to run the risk of offending anyone. So, obviously, a class that addresses the types of issues that journalists are routinely confronted with is something that I think would be worthwhile for any aspiring journalist. Another reason I took the class is simply because I love addressing the topic of ethics and the complexities of moral and ethical conundrums. Some of my favorite pieces of entertainment expose the multitude of differing opinions about a number of issues with out giving a simplistic right or wrong answer and allowing the reader/viewer to formulate their own opinions based on the information presented to them.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Arie Kirk

My name is Arie. I am a print journalism major graduating in May. I have no idea what I am going to do once I leave USU. I hope to eventually work at a major daily but the market is bleak and because of that, I'm not too thrilled to be graduating. I will also be sad to leave The Statesman, which has been my life for four years. I took this class, in part, because of my job at the paper. I face ethical decisions every day. What I learn in this class will help me at work now and later in life. I also took it simply because I am interested. Ethics are so complex and it helps to see other points of view.

Personal values I have – honesty, a strong work ethic, kindness, sincerity. Those are the big ones. There could be a clash with kindness. Sure, you've got to be good to your sources but sometimes, they aren't going to think your questions or what you're printing is polite. But that's a sacrifice you've got to make. Those other values I listed are essential to success in any field and certainly are crucial to a reporter.

Sean Setzer

My name is Sean Setzer, I am a senior Physical Education major from Portland, Oregon. I came here from a junior college in San Diego, California to play football for our own Utah State Aggies. I am now finished with football and am looking to finish my classes this semester and graduate in May.

I joined the class because I needed it to graduate, and also because it sounded interesting. i enjoy ethics classes cause there is no right or wrong answer, which i like because i enjoy looking at different perspectives on issues and especially on media issues.

I am a huge fan of all forms of media. Although i think that at times the media can be quite insensitive and absolutely rediculous, i believe that everyone is entitled their opinion and i love to listen and read all types of different perspectives.

Adam Pollock

Adam Pollock

My name is Adam. I am a PR major and Portuguese minor. I will graduate in May. I plan on attending law school this fall. I grew up in Thousand Oaks, CA near Los Angeles and Santa Babara. I loved hanging out in both place to expose myself to more culture. I hope to work in international law with non-profit organizations. I took the class to learn more about ethics, to improve my personal and professional ethics, and study cases that deal with ethical issues. My number one Value is accuracy. I feel it necessary to be accurate with facts and information or else we follow false ideas. Honesty and integrity would be my next important values. It is crucial to be honest and real to yourself and audience.

I enjoy foreign media. I am an avid reader of the BBC's website. I wish to see more international news on the headlines of local and national news outlets. I feel it to be extremely important to be informed on foreign issues. I love the media. I enjoy reading and consuming information, whether its useless or not. Thats about it.

Diane Denning

My name is Diane. I am a senior majoring in print journalism, with a minor in English. I will graduate in May and I am so excited to be done. I was married in May of 2008 and we are living in Logan until my husband and I both finish our education.
I have many different values in my life and I am not sure I can say that one in particular is more important than the rest of them. To me, each value works together to create a person with a good character. Some of my values include: honesty, integrity, hard work ethic, charity, dependability and the ability to laugh at yourself when you mess up. I don't know if the last one is really a value, but it sure makes mistakes easier to overcome.
There are many people in my life who have each one of these values, but the two people who stand out in my mind are my parents. My dad taught each one of his eight children the value of hard work and to be honest with yourself and others. My mom helped each of us see the effects of charity and being able to laugh in difficult situations. Together they helped me learn the importance of having a good character and they are two of my heroes.
I think the media share the same values as most of us do, but it is sometimes hard to decide whether to print a story that could help many people and still hurt someone. I feel that this is where most media gets its bad name. The public doesn't understand what journalists do which seems to be the biggest problem. Hopefully one day we will all be on the same page.


I am Aubreyann Hansen. I am a print-journalism major and multi-media minor from he Instructional Technology department. I plan to graduate this May.
Values in my life.... Number one is honesty. My other values are in no particular order. But they are loyalty, respect, work ethic, not being ethnocentric or being open minded, caring, and fairness.
These values fit into my major because I believe journalists should be honest with the public. As a journalist I must know where my loyalty belongs (to the people) and respect myself as well as coworkers and audience. I need to be fair to all parties involved and be open to their opinions and beliefs.
Some people would look at this and say that is not what media do and media are none of these things. And I see where they are coming from but just because media are going downhill and looked down upon doesn't mean there aren't good journalists out there. I just have to do my part to positively contribute.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Into the pot, already boiling...

Hi! Welcome to the Internet cafe for JCOM 4010, Media Ethics, at Utah State University. Here's where students, faculty and friends will discuss, arm-wrestle, argue, debate, expound passionately and otherwise think out loud as we work our way through thorny but interesting journalism issues.

Students in the class are all authors on this blog. They are Amy Jensen, Kelly Greenwood, Diane S. Denning, Storee Powell, Arie Kirk, Mack Perry, Katie Williams, Katie Smedley, Jordan Oldham, Alice Bailey, Adam Pollock, Aubreyann Hansen, Ashley Zarate, Sean Setzer, Jessica Collett and Kyle Milne. With majors from journalism to horticulture, they have backgrounds as diverse as the media they'll be studying.

Comments, challenges, questions and remarks from readers are invited. Got light? Shine it here.

Syllabus and schedule

JCOM. 4010 --Media Ethics
Spring 2009
AnSci 303, Tuesdays 5:30 - 8 p.m.

Professor Nancy Williams
Office: AnSci 306
Office hours: MWF 10:30-noon; also by appointment
Phone: 797-3299

About this class: JCOM 4010 is an upper division journalism class focused on both skills and theory, and a DSS (Depth, Social Science) class for the university. Students who enroll are expected to write and think critically, at the level expected of seniors in college. Our discussions and readings should challenge you to find theories, reasons and logical arguments that support your most deeply held beliefs, help you organize and express those thoughts persuasively, and help you learn the language of moral reasoning. You might change your mind here -- and you may help change the minds of others.

Patterson and Wilkins, Media Ethics: Issues & Cases, 6th edition (McGraw-Hill)

I expect you to keep up on current news stories with ethical dimensions by reading a major daily Utah newspaper. The Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, and Logan Herald Journal are available at the Merrill-Cazier Library and Taggart Student Center; the Trib and the News are available in full text online. The New York Times is also available free online, although you’ll need to register at the site,

If you don’t have a Blogger account, you’ll need to register at

ASSIGNMENTS & GRADING: Expect to be thinking, writing, and defending your arguments on the class blog, presenting & discussing orally in class, and applying theories of ethical thought to the daily news coverage you find in the media.

Blog participation – 100 points (5 points possible for each post you make that raises a substantive question or responds substantively to a question raised by someone else. (Print out the 20 posts you want to have considered for this part of your grade and put them in your portfolio at the end of the semester.)
Group project ~OR~ independent research paper – 100 points
Midterm exam - 100 points
Class participation (includes attendance and discussion participation) – 100 points
Film commentaries (SIX films, 25 points each) – 150 points
Final portfolio and self-evaluation paper – 100 points

Final class grades are based on your percentage of the 500 possible points. 94-100 percent is an A, 90-93 percent an A-, 87- 89 is a B+, 84-86 a B, 80-83 a B-, 77-79 a C+, 74-76 a C, 70-73 a C-, 64-69 a D, 63 and below an F.
Late assignments will incur grade penalties of 5 percent per day. Written assignments are due at the beginning of class on the due date.

SCHEDULE (I reserve the right to make changes if needed in order to reflect current news controversies.)

You must have completed the required readings before class on the date noted so you're prepared to discuss them. When there are current stories about media ethics in the news, I expect you to be familiar with them, particularly with any discussions and links that have been posted on the class blog. Always bring your book to class, as we’ll be using the cases in it for small group work.

Jan. 6 Welcome & introduction to class expectations. Archeological digs: lists & trees.

Jan. 13 Values: Identifying personal and professional ethics
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapters 1-2.
Discussion: Values: Professional vs. personal. Introduction to ethical decision making & models.
Blog post: (by Jan. 16): Introduce yourself. What are the values that count in your life?. How do they fit (or not) with what you believe the media value? If there’s a clash, is it resolvable if you’re looking at a future in a media profession?

Jan. 20 Ethical Decision-making
Film: “Absence of Malice” (1981, Sally Field and Paul Newman)
Blog: (by Jan. 23) This film contains a laundry list of ethics problems. Did Megan ever get it right? Discuss the problem(s) you found most problematic.

Jan. 27 Foundations of Ethical Thought: Virtue, Duty and Consequences and Justice theories
Reading: Using the text only as a starting point, go online and/or to the library and research on Aristotle, Mill, Kant and Rawls. Bring your notes to class.
Discussion: “Absence of Malice” and case studies, chapter 2
Blog: (By Jan. 30) Starting points: Write about your own ethical philosophy. Would you call your ethical values primarily virtued-based, utilitarian, duty-based, care-based, or communitarian – and why?
Film Commentary, Absence of Malice, due today,

Feb. 3 Loyalties: How do you choose between competing allegiances?
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, Chapter 4
Film: “Good Night and Good Luck” (Edward R. Murrow & the McCarthy era)
Blog: (by Feb. 6): Starting points: Is objectivity an appropriate standard for journalism? Would you allow a friend to be maligned (as Murrow does when his colleague Hollenbeck is tarred by McCarthy – to achive a greater moral goal? To whom do journalists owe loyalty? Where does loyalty rank on your scale of professional values?

Feb. 10 Information Ethics & the Search for Truth
Reading: Review Patterson & Wilkins, chapter 2; Google for background on Jason Blair and Stephen Glass cases.
Discussion: Truth & case studies from chaps. 2 and 4
Film Commentary, Good Night and Good Luck, due today
Blog: (By Feb. 13) Comment on any current local, state or national journalism ethics issue.

Feb. 17 Media and Deception
Film: “Shattered Glass” (2003)
Blog: (by Feb. 20) Starting points: Is deception by the news media ever justified? What about undercover reporting? What is the price for deception in the service of a good cause?

Feb. 24 Persuasion Ethics: What’s fair in advertising and public relations
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapters 3 and 5
Film commentary, Shattered Glass due today
Film: “Wag the Dog”
Blog: (by Feb. 27) Do a Top 10 list of your ethics. Which of your ethics might be for sale? At what price?.

March 3 Media Economics: Should profit drive journalism?
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapter 8
Discussion: :readings, Shattered Glass, Wag the Dog, Cases from chapter 8
Film Commentary, Wag the Dog, due today
Blog: (by March 7) Starting points: Why is the relationship between journalism and public relations both symbiotic and strained? Or, using Case VIII-A (advertising in Ms. Magazine), discuss your thoughts about any of the macro issues listed at the end of it.

March 10 NO CLASS -- spring break

March 17 MIDTERM exam
Blog: (by March 20) Starting points: Can journalism be saved? How would you do it?

March 24 Media and Social Justice
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapter 7
Blog: (by March 27) Starting points: How important is empathy as a journalistic value? What do you think of the US media coverage of slaughter on foreign shores (e.g., Sarajevo, Rwanda)? What kind of grade would you give Western media for their coverage of international conflicts?

March 31 Privacy in the Global Village
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapter 6
Film: “The Year of Living Dangerously”
Blog: (by April 3) Starting points: Utah keeps a database of convicted sex offenders on the Internet at Do you see any potential ethical problems here?

April 7 Ethics in New Media
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapter 9
Film commentary, The Year of Living Dangerously, due today.
Discussion: readings, The Year of Living Dangerously, Cases, chapters 6 & 9
Blog: (by April 10) Starting points: Conflict is usually listed as a traditional news value. How can media adhere to that value without sacrificing the ethical news values of accuracy, tenacity and equity? Objectivity: Is it an anachronism in an era of 24/7 news coverage and blog commentaries?

April 14 Empathy for human suffering
Reading: Patterson & Wilkins, chapters 10 & 11
Film: “Welcome to Sarajevo”
Blog: ( by April 17) Starting points: Is it more important for journalists to be objective or empathetic? What are the ethical implications for journalism and democracy as media ownership becomes concentrated in fewer, wealthier corporations? Should the media be concerned about social justice? Do people who can’t do anything to alleviate human suffering have a right to look at images of it?

April 21 Moral adulthood: Into the great wide open
Film commentary: Welcome to Sarajevo,, due today
Group project presentations
Blog:(by April 24) “An important part of moral development is the recognition that motive, not consequence, is the critical factor in deciding whether an act is ethical.” What does that sentence mean to you?

April 28 by 4 p.m.: Final paper and portfolio due. You may turn these in at the JCOM office, AnSci 310.