Teaching Notes

You must become the flame on the candle. - Thich Nhat Hanh

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Final Post of Fall '09 Media Ethics

What is ethics? Why be ethical? How do you make ethical decisions? And now the real question: How has your view of these things changed over the semester and why? Respond by Monday, Dec. 15, at noon.

24 comments:

ChelseaC said...

What is ethics? In the dictionary it says that ethics is that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions. I think this is a very good definition of ethics. But then there is the question why be ethical? I think this is ridiculous. Why not be ethical? What is this world we're living in if people are not being ethical? If we didn't have our ethics and our morals there would be nothing good in this world.

I wouldn't say my views have necessarily changed over the semester because I pride myself on being a person with good morals and values but I will say that over the course of this semester i have opened my mind to just how many ethical situations can occur in the workplace. I didn't really understand how not opening your mouth about something you know is ethically wrong, compromises everything you stand for even if it is something small. I think that this class has not only better informed me about media ethics, it was taught me so much about the importance of ethics period. Thank you Professor Good for by far the most interesting class I've ever taken.

Julie said...

My personal definition of ethics would be allowing your actions to follow some form of moral code so that you can easily distinguish the difference between what is considered right and what is considered wrong according to this code.

I make ethical decisions by first thinking about myself and how this decision would effect me, even if the issue is regarding someone else. Although this may seem selfish, I feel it's human nature to look out for yourself first, the truly ethical part of any decision making is what comes after you think about yourself. Most of the moral codes we studied in this class had to do with the treatment of others. So after I come to a conclusion on how a problem would effect me I think about others involved and how the decision would also effect them, and I base my decision off of that.

I feel that my views have pretty much stayed the same since the beginning of the class, maybe a slight increase in my ethical values but I feel upon entering the class I already had pretty strong ethical/moral values as it was. My eyes were definitely opened to the amount of unethical acts there are in the field of journalism (as I wrote this i was thinking the class should be named Media UNEthics) and that within the media its extremely difficult to find any ethics at all. It seems as though it's every man for himself and reporters will do what they need to do to get a good story and make the money they desire.

After learning about extraordinary journalists I felt inspired and positive about the future of journalism. Learning about ethics in general has made me become more aware of my actions and how they can effect others, and it has also made me question what my future has in store for me and what I would do in an ethical dilemma

Joseph said...

Ethics is a structure system on how we as people and as individuals react in particular situations. I would not necessarily say that we are ethical 100% of the time but I feel in dire and important moments is where are true ethical personalities are shown. We make these decisions based upon many different factors. Our upbringing has a huge impact on how and what we think, however, these tendencies can change over time from outside influences, such as religion, friends, work and marriage.

I feel what has really changed about how I feel about ethics over the semester is my objectiveness. Before this class I thought what was ethical was being fair. Honestly, that type of thinking works when dealing with some type of business practice not with people. What has changed about me is that we as a society owe it to each to protect and uphold common human decency. We all share this planet together and we will never all agree on one thing. However, we can all agree on when children are risk we should protect them, when people are losing their jobs so a soulless corporation can save money we should protect those jobs. What makes up most of our ethical foundations has to do with those people who can’t protect themselves and as a human being we should respect every life as a miracle and be sadden when we lose one. Ethics and civilization are like a braid, to separate them will cause the braid to collapse and by doing so lose any form of structure and humanity behind.

Jess said...

Ethics are moral principles based on psychology and physiological values. It can also be noted that, “ethics are a reflective examination of what is good, bad, right, wrong, as well as the meanings and logic.” Ethics help you reach conclusions on what is right, and what is wrong, and we have learned this through our parents, religion, friends and practice.
It is important to be the best person you can be, and I believe that you can achieve that through ethics. Knowing what is right and wrong, then doing something about it, is our duty as human beings.
I use to make ethical decisions by thinking back to what I learned growing up, as well as my heart. Most of the time, my gut instinct is the right thing, the ethical thing. After taking this class, I have learned that being ethical means to sit, stop and think the situation through before making a decision. I have learned not to always just think of how things will affect me, but also to think of how a situation will affect others down the road.
Before this class, I always knew I had good moral standards and values. But, after taking this class, my eyes were open to the fact that there are so many unethical people in this world. They are rising to the top, and we need moral standards more than ever. I feel that I now have distinct role models and their ideals to reference if I am ever in a dilemma. What I am leaving this class with is to just think, question and have courage to stand up for what is right.

Nicole said...

Ethics is defined as "the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation." This definition is a lot more in depth than what I originally posted at the beginning of the semester. The reason why I like this definition is because I believe it completely summarizes what I am taking away from this class.

Why be ethical? Well. There's a lot of reasons why. I think that if somebody honestly wants to do their best and achieve great things, being ethical definitely plays a role. There's so much chaos and disasters in our world today (I mean, shoes are getting thrown at President Bush...) and we need people who are going to stop for a second and remember what the ethically right thing to do is.

When it comes to making ethical decisions now, I use a lot of the things we learned in this class. I always make sure to think about who could potentially get hurt from what I'm about to say/do. I think about how I would feel if I was that person or persons. I now take more time considering all my options before just jumping to a conclusion.

My view has definitely changed over the course of this semester. I've always been a sympathetic person, so I usually always feel bad for someone when I see stories or pictures that maybe shouldn't have been released. I think I refused to believe that there are so many people who aren't afraid to be unethical to get further in life until this class. It really made me realize that the more ethical you are, the more heroic you can be.

katrina said...

Like most of those that already posted, I think ethics is a philosophy or code we use to make decisions in all areas of life.

I think one of the most important reasons to be ethical is the same as the idea that karma is based off of: everything comes back to us in the end, and we should be focusing on putting as much good as we can into the world. We as students especially need to strive to be ethical to combat the turn journalism (not to mention the broader culture of America) has taken in recent years, where the lure of personal fulfillment makes it so easy to take the easy way out, or we forget that the people we're writing about are just that: people.

I remember writing on the first blog that one of the ways I judged right and wrong was based off of my gut feelings, and I'll always stick by that. Sometimes you just know. But I've learned to stop and take a second if not to contemplate whether or not what I'm doing is right or wrong, but what makes it right or wrong, or why I'm doing it, or for whom. I've also learned that citing my gut may not always be substantial evidence enough to prove my actions are ethical in the workplace, so taking the time to logically think through everything would give me a stronger footing on which to stand. One last thing that's definitely changed is my attitude towards impulsivity. I used to kind of pride myself on being impulsive, because it's lead to some interesting and fun moments. But in the past 14 weeks I've also seen how it has lead some journalists into dangerous or embarrassing situations, and I have no desire to put myself there, especially in starting a job. In the end, I think I've just learned that taking more care--in what I say, write or think--can have a huge positive impact.

Stephanie said...

Ethics is how we determine what is good and what is bad by assessing our values, principles, and loyalties in our individual lives (also used in the potter box). People should be ethical because you would want someone to be ethical to you. "Treat others as you would like to be treated." No one likes being lied to or exploited, or used for someones personal reasons; therefor you shouldn't do those things to anyone else. If everyone treated other people the way they themselves would like to be treated, the world might be very different. I think my views as far as journalism goes have always been pretty ethical. The reason i am a journalism major is because i want to be able to relay the truth to people. I want to inform and educate them about all the corrupt and UNETHICAL things happening around them. As far as ethics in my life outside of journalism, I don't think 2 classes a week has had any real impact on changing my own personal ethics (which weren't bad to begin with). I think I started this class with a good Ethical values, and this class has done a lot to enforce the ethics I already lived my life by.

Brianna said...

Ethics is a guide to life that can personally reward selfless, virtuous behavior if it is constantly practiced.
Learning about ethics so thoroughly this semester has shown me how rare it is to witness and individual truly compare what is the Right and Wrong thing to do in a situation. It’s almost like there’s a turning point in human beings that, at a certain age, we forget everything morally important that was ever instilled in us as young kids. “Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t cheat”, we were told, and, hey, we didn’t. Or if we did, we felt very bad because we knew it was Wrong. When do we lose that chip? The sensor that tells us we should think about every participant, every aspect involved in a situation before we go ahead and act.
If you watch a young child being reprimanded, you almost wish adults were given a talkin’ to like that every once in a while. If two young kids are in a scuddle, and a teacher is making one apologize to the other, the teacher will say, “Now you’re going to apologize because what you did was Very mean. It’s not nice to act like that, and it’s okay that you feel bad. All you have to do is say sorry, and he can forgive you.” It was like ethics 101, ethical decision-making was decided for us and spoon fed to us, it was made so easy, and yet we take it for granted and don’t take those moral rules into our adult lives. Unfortunately, ethical behavior isn’t usually rewarded by way of prestige, money, or all the shiny things people “at the top” have. I wrote in the very beginning, I think ethics is something that is personally rewarding to an individual, almost on a spiritual level, if it is practiced.
People don’t make decisions based on what will be morally right, but rather, what is right for them in the situation. We think based on an extreme “Me” basis, “my needs”, “what will be best for me”- this semester we’ve learned about the kind of courage it takes to put selfishness, that “me me me” mindstate, to the side and do the right thing for someone else, or maybe for a higher cause that might be costly to you. This semester, I’ve learned how to recognize that this ugly, self-serving behavior has become the norm of our society; it is everywhere and almost inescapable. We will be challenged with ethical decision making dilemmas for the rest of our professional, and adult lives if we maturely choose to recognize them. Most importantly not shy away when we know there is a decision to be made, even if it’s the kind of action that is difficult to take.
I think people often hesitate to act properly or even think and stimulate their brains because they think somehow “I wont make a difference” or “it doesn’t make a difference.” But, what’s the point of coming out at the end of Anything if it hasn’t been a mental journey- something you learned from? Something that meant something to you? If you treat everything in life as just something you “ugh havvve” to do (“I havvve to go to class” “I haavvee to write this paper, ughh”) Then what feels rewarding? The more you treat things like obstacles, the more obstacles you have. This semester I’ve really analyzed an admittedly former attitude about school (probably how I treated high school) like it didn’t matter, and it was all monotonously working toward something, but, it all did matter. And I wish I treated every moment as a moment I was conscious in rather than a moment I had to be in by obligation. These are things I’ve reflected on this semester. Professor Good—Thank you for teaching us so many, many useful tools.

Thereal2008 said...

Ethics is an organized method on exactly how humans should respond to particular and individual circumstances and situations. It is ones moral principle found upon and based on ideas of psychology, beliefs and values. Ethics can be rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or its members of a specific profession. To sum it all up, ethics in so many words is the “right” way to act or the “right” thing to do.
The reason for being ethical can be said, as stated above it’s the morally and right thing to do, it makes you feel good about yourself in the end, or I can even go as far as saying, being ethical will make you go to heaven! (Lol) On a serious note, being ethical is a way to empower one’s self, help them become independent thinkers and analyze a situation before acting on it. This is why people should strive to be ethical, and this is solely why I am ethical. Living in a time that we live, one should look at our world and what/where un-ethical decision making has taken us, poor schools, bad economy, and unnecessary wars. So one should instead of asking why be ethical, he/she should ask, why not be ethical? The lyrics from a poem/song say “If we were made in His image then call us by our name...” God is said to be the most Ethical person there is, most philosophers (ethical ones) base their ethics/morals around religion or what is the moral/ good thing to do, therefore if we are all God’s children, why not think about and do what’s the good and right thing to do.
The way that I make ethical decision is by running through my little list of morals! I think about how is this going to affect me, will I feel good about myself in the end, is this going to come back and bite me in the ass in a long run, will I be rewarded, should I seek the advice of others, and if I take the time to go through these questions, then I automatically know, I am being ethical.
My views about being ethical I have to say have changed greatly, because I know that more goes into making ethical decisions such as courage, and results and I also know what hinders people from making ethical decisions. Before this class I can actually say that I may have refrained from making ethical decisions all the time because maybe I lacked the courage to do or stand up for something, or maybe because I just didn’t like what the outcome would be, but now, I know that this is something larger than just ME. And I also know that in a long run being an ethical person can make me an overall better person not just in my profession, but in my everyday life.

Gina Marinelli said...

Ethics are standard by which we determine what is right or wrong. Making an ethical decision is not always easy, mostly because the “right” thing to do may not always be as clear cut as we would like it to be. Before this course, I always felt that anything worth doing is worth doing right. I don’t see the point in doing something that you can not feel at peace with yourself afterward. Distinguishing between the right or ethical decision has to do with our instincts. Ethical models, such as the ones we spoke about in class, are helpful in making an ethical decision and I’m glad I’ve learned how to use them if and when I may ever need them. However, I think that in the majority of situations, I won’t instantaneously think of the Categorical Imperative or Potter Box, but what my best instincts know to be ethical. I don’t think this course has necessarily changed my own personal ethics but I do feel like I am more prepared to apply the ethics I have developed in my life and education to my profession. I must admit that I have chosen unethical choices in the past when dealing with school and other obligations. But as I’ve gotten older, I realize the significance of every decision I make. No matter the challenges or temptations that I may face in my career, I hope to never make a decision that may better my situation but not better my moral being.

Zuri said...

Before taking this course, If faced with the question, " What is ethics?" I would simply state that it has to do with choosing what is right and what is wrong. However, after taking this course I have come to learn that it is so much more than that. Yes, it involves right and wrong. But, it isn't that simple, cut and dry. I think that the definition that ChelseaC posted, "In the dictionary it says that ethics is that branch of philosophy dealing with values relating to human conduct, with respect to the rightness and wrongness of certain actions and to the goodness and badness of the motives and ends of such actions." is a very good basic way to define ethics.

Why be ethical? Well, for one its the right thing to do. The world that we live in is based on various morals and values. And that is what ethics are based off of, morals and values. We are taught growing up to do the right thing and being ethical are under that list of "right things." The things that we should and that people do everyday.

"How do you make ethical decision?" You asked us this question at the beginning of the semester and I responded that I think back on what I was taught growing up. I also said that I refer back to past experiences to help make decisions. Now, after this course, it is much more than that. Making ethical decisions now, I think a little more than what I was taught or experienced. I try to evaluate things such as intentions and the effects my decisions will have and if that will affect the decision being made. It's much more that just thinking that something or feeling like I know something is right and not evaluating other factors.

At the beginning of this semester this was not one of my favorite courses. I think I was very resistant to the things that were being taught and said in class. It was not necessarily one of my more enjoyable classes. However, after time and more thought about what was being said I started to appreciate the course and the material more. This course has taught me to consider things that I don't think I would have if I had not been exposed to some of the things I was exposed to during this course. For example, contemplating if my decision will benefit the greater good, or whether or not to publish a certain picture and the affects it might have, or even speaking up to a superior about the way they are doing their job.I think once I stopped being so resistant and open my mind to what was being said and realized that these are situations that I could be faced with one day and that I might even make the same decision that is being said to be wrong or unethical. I started to open my mind up and understand what was going on.As much as I may be reluctant to say it but, "Thank you." After taking this course I have been exposed to think in a different way and consider things I would not have without taking this course.

Jesse Ordansky said...

Ethics are rules and standards that we base our decisions upon. Ethics are different from person to person and are influenced by factors such as culture and upbringing. Ethics are also a way of assessing the actions of others. I believe that it is important to analyze the ethical/unethical decisions of superiors like law enforcement and government officials.

Ethics are important because actions influence others. Poor ethical decisions can have negative effects on your friends, family, business, co-workers, etc... Making a bad ethical decision, or just failing to confront a situation in need of an ethical moderator also has a tendency to couple with a sour disappointed taste.

Ethical decisions can be made a few different ways. Sometimes a simple gut instinct telling you that something is wrong is enough. Decisions are sometimes as simple as: if it feels bad, don't do it. Other situations imply a certain amount of analysis. Technical solutions, like the use of an ethical decision-making model, may be necessary.

In all honesty, I have learned everything I know about ethics this semester. I knew nothing of ethics besides my own moral code and why I follow it. I had literally taken half of an ethics class before this. I learned about some Aristotelian ideas... but nothing that stuck with me.

As a chronic over-analyzer of situations, I have learned that sometimes that uncomfortable gut feeling is enough to know that something is not right. I also now understand the logic behind ethical decisions. Although the gut feeling suffices sometimes, a basis for thinking through tough situations is also necessary.

Previously, I never knew whether to trust my gut, or to think through situations. This semester, I have learned when to trust a first instinct and when to trust a decision-making process.

JoshWhite said...

Ethics is a principle of goodness. To be ethical means to be good; to do right as opposed to wrong. Beyond using this broad definition, it is difficult to say what ethics is. This is why we have all spent the entire class discussing the idea of ethics.

When we are young, we are told that things are either good or they are bad. Through life experiences, we grow to learn that things are much more complicated. There are endless questions and situations that challenge the original Kantian idea that things are universally either right or wrong, with no gray areas.

I make ethical decisions by asking myself "is this right?" I think about as many factors in the situation as I can and then try to answer the question. If my answer is yes, then I proceed. If not, I usually will ask myself why it is wrong and decide the next appropriate action. There are problems with this process, however. First of all, I may not always reach an answer, in which case, I'll usually try to consult the advice of people I recognize as ethical. Even then, the answer to the question may be wrong, leading to an unethical act. Secondly, I won't always raise this question to myself. The most common reason for this is that my brain did not recognize the decision as one of ethical importance. Lastly, to be honest, when the answer to the question is negative, I've noticed that sometimes I will try to find ways around the 'no' answer. I feel as if inside, I might try to twist and bend the circumstances in order for ethics of the situation to be cleared so that I may do as I want. I think this in itself is unethical. Now that I realize this, I hope I will notice it in the future and avoid acting in such a way.

With that being said, I think my view of ethics has changed over the course of the semester in two ways. First, I see the world in more shades of gray than I did before. Second, I ask myself the ethical question ("is this right?") more often now that I have a better understand of the importance of right vs. wrong and therefore, the importance this such decisions. I also think to ask the question more now because I am more aware of ethical dilemmas than I previously was.

Finally, I would like to mention that some time, you do not always get the right answers. I think it is possible to be a good person and still be unethical as long as your intention is to be ethical. With all of these different situations where the ethics are questionable, it is impossible to always come to the righteous conclusion. It is important to always try your best, despite the past incorrect decisions.

Nick Guzman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nick Guzman said...

Even after a semester of moral bombardment and belittlement, the question of what is ethics is still a difficult question to answer. I believe this is because ethics is something personal; the question should really be what is ethics to you? To me, ethics is a personal moral code which guides my actions. Now, I wouldn’t dare say that by having a moral code this makes me an ethical person, sticking to this moral code would make me an ethical person. I believe ethics is subjective; something which is immoral or unethical to someone is perfectly within the ethical range of someone else, this makes the question of ‘what is ethics?” that much more difficult to answer.
This is what I took from this class: knowing the difference between right and wrong is half of the moral equation, having the courage to act on this knowledge is the other. That ethics is something personal, and although everyone can agree on certain things being patently unethical or ethical, there are always disagreements and differences, just as their are different moral codes. Someone who acted on through the pluralistic values principal, and someone who acted on the utilitarian principal both acted, by definition, ethically, although their ethical codes might have brought them to different conclusions.
This being said, I think the most important thing I will take from this class is not a super-tuned moral compass which will always lead me in the right direction. But an ethical map which will remind me when and where I went off coarse. For someone to say they always act morally or ethically would be a lie, and unethical. I am saying I will undoubtedly act unethically again, however, what I am taking from this class is the knowledge to learn from those instances, rather than get stuck in them.

cfinn129 said...

What is ethics? I guess it depend how you relate to the word, or how you view it. Is it a lifestyle? Is being ethical a value, an attribute, a norm? It is hard to say, but yesterday it just so happens that I was reading a scholarly journal and it defined ethics as "what ought to be" not what is. To me "what ought to be" is what should happen or what is right or fair in a particular situation.

My personal view is that ethics, is doing what is right, it is making the right decision with the right amount of judgement and knowledge. To make an ethical decision one has to look at all the factors of the situation they are in. I believe that someone should be ethical because it is what they believe. For me being ethical is the right thing to do. I don't know why but I tend to relate being ethical with my moral values. I find that I have very high morals, and I think it has a lot to do with how I was raised. I like to think that I am an ethical person that comes from good people and was raised right. That is why it is important for me to be ethical, because if I am not ethical, then who around me is going to be? What example would I be setting for myself my friends, or my family if I act in an unethical way?

So for the real question, I think all and all this semester has not really changed my views at all, well I guess a little bit. I mean it was an amazing class, but I knew from the first day that I was going to identify a lot with the topics covered in the class. I think that every major should have an ethics class, because it just makes students think about things before they take action. I don't want to say that my views have not changed at all since taking the course, but I can say that I realized something the day we talked about teen pregnancy. That day was an eye opener for me, because I realized that I differ a lot from many of the other students in the course. I believe that this class gave me insight into things that I would have never been exposed to being org. comm. major. I am grateful I took the course, and do believe that it has made a more educated and well rounded person and I truly mean that.

Laurent said...

Ethics is about making rational choices between what is good and bad. Like Jesse mentioned, ethics can vary from person to person because of cultural upbringing, family values, etc. What one person considers right might differ for another person because of their upbringing. Breaking situations down and walking through them slowly is necessary to understanding all viewpoints of parties involved and reaching a satisfying answer.

Being ethical is important because we want to have fair outcomes. In a world of journalism, you are just one person, a journalist, but your decisions have an impact beyond the newsroom. Being ethical means being sympathetic to any situation you encounter. Are you open minded to see where another person is coming from? What would you do in a situation?

I make ethical decisions based on the greatest good for the greatest number of people. I think about what I would do and focus on how others would be affected.

My view of ethics has changed for the better over the course of the semester. In the beginning, I would always base decisions off of my gut reactions. I couldn’t really explain my reasoning for making a decision. I felt it was right and there was no explanation. My upbringing taught me to follow Aristotle’s Golden Rule “Do unto others”, but I never analyzed the decisions I made. Understanding the principles of philosophers and applying my thought process to decision making modules helps to see the larger picture. Though, the modules don’t always have a logical answer, it is better than following no steps to reach a good conclusion.

Kilani L. said...

Ethics is generally defined in the dictionary as "the discipline dealing with what is right and wrong and good in bad with moral duty and obligation". Ethics is how we each decide to handle the different situations and people that we encounter throughout our lives. It is more than just the dictionary definition, it is a standard that we set for ourselves and the way that we decide to live our lives.

There is a need to be ethical because without ethics this world would be in a constant state of upheaval as we each tried to make it through the day. Granted there are already many societal and global issues that need to be fixed, if no one was ethical there would be more violence, pain, suffering and sadness then we could fathom.

Making an ethical decision goes far beyond what is the right thing to do and what is the wrong thing to do. When we each try to go about making an ethical decision we need to consider, who the decision will affect, the alternatives to the decision (both the good and bad ones) and if this is the best way to go about the situation.

During the course of this semester i went from thinking that ethics was just a "what's good, what's bad" philosophy, but I've come to see that it is more than that. There are things that i think i need to work on as an individual to become a more ethical person. I realized that so much of what we do is based on selfishness and our own individual needs. It is in human nature to care about oneself, but since we're all cohabiting in the same world, imagine what it would be like if we each stopped to think about the people around us more often. I think the class has given me more insight into how ethics are entailed in virtually everything we do.

Alyssa D'Angelo said...

Ethics deals with values, morals, and right and wrong decision making. Ethics comes into play in every aspect of life. We are constantly faced with 'ethical decisions' and there are many factors that come into effect when we decide what the ethical thing to do is. As far as the question, Why be ethical? goes; you should be ethical so you can sleep at night. If you are not striving to be a good person, in every sense of the word, then what are you doing with your life? You should be ethical in everything you do, because that is the only way you can be truly successful. What I mean by this is, if you get to the top of your company by lying cheating and stealing then you really are not successful. If you get to the top of your company by working your ass off and taking the long route instead of the easier shortcut, then that is true success. You should be able to do your job, or whatever it is you do, ethically, because thats the only way you will really have ever done your best.

Now for the real question: I don't know that my views about ethics have changed, that is, I dont think I am a more ethical person because of this class. This is only because I was ethical before the class. I can say however, before this class I was also very stubborn, and while i might still be stubborn, I have definitely learned to be more open minded and accepting of other ideas even if when first presented with them, I did not agree. Mostly because of the teen pregnancy blog, and discussions there after, I realized I should not make snap decisions. I did not realize at first what was expected in the response. I now know that when you are faced with an ethical question you need to dig a little deeper than what's on the surface. I think most of the issues we deal with in everyday life have to do with ethics and if you dismiss them as something that is not an ethical dilemma then you are not acting as an ethical person. Even though my values and beliefs may not have changed, I am definitely more aware of the ethical decisions I have faced, or will have to face in the future, and I am definitely more educated as to how to I should face them.

ZK said...

To me, ethics is the basic system of principles and morals, which dictates our behaviors and decisions throughout our lives. In the most basic sense, ethics is determining right from wrong in every day life situations.

Why be ethical? Before this class, my simple understanding to this question was to live a righteous and honest life. As a society we try to live by standard rules of thumb; Don't lie, don't steal, etc.
I always thought that if you do good (for the most part) by being a good student, an honest person, and an active member of your society, you were ethical.

But after taking this class, I realized I was wrong. Being ethical is much harder than I thought. There is so much more to being truly ethical than meets the eye.
After studying topics such as the Categorical Imperative, Moral Courage, Deception, The Golden Mean Rule, and others, I've learned that ethics is not simply following a set of rules, but having state of mind that encourages you to think differently.

My ethical decision-making before I took this class was based on the values and principles I was raised on. My parents, my peers, and my environment influenced my decisions for the most part.

How has my view changed of these things since then? Well, for one thing, I'm definitely more aware of my surroundings, and those individuals in my circle of intimacy. I've realized that the media and even those I trust have in some way or another made my decisions for me, without me knowing it at the time.

A little side note: Since the beginning of the semester, I've been writing down quotes that Professor Good has said himself in class. My favorite quote from the semester is when he said, "Truth is not an entity. It's a process. Things are always influx."

I agree with this quote and I feel that Ethics is being truthful. Sometimes the truth is ugly, and sometimes its beautiful, but one thing that it always is is ever changing.

Anonymous said...

Ethics are moral codes or philosphies we rely on that can help you differentiate between right and wrong when making decisions. I think these codes are a mixture of your experiences, your family, religion, and classes like this one. The most important reason to be ethical is because your decisions and your actions usually affect so many people. If we all stopped to think about "the greatest good for the greatest number," we would live in a healthier, less competitive world where people actually view each other as human beings. As most already mentioned, I think another reason to be ethical is because you would want others to be ethical when making decisions that affect you. If we constantly reminded ourselves of how horrible it feels to be a mean to someone's end, we would definitely be aware of how often we use others.

Over the semester the biggest change that I have seen in the way I view ethics is that I don't think of an ethical decision making process as a gut feeling or something that I can tell my parents about. I realized that sometimes decisions take time and when you don't take the time out you might not realize who your decision is affecting and how. Prior to this class, I think most of my decisions were made based on what felt right to me, or what I would get the most benefit from. Selfishness has little to do with ethics and I never thought of my decisions this way. This class has taught me that even in the workplace where you may be under time constraints you should still find a way to consider your options and not just go by the pressures of the newsroom. I am not sure if this is a positive or negative, but I am definitely more conscious of the endless possibilities of ethical decisions I will face as a journalist. Learning about journalists who had courage to bend the rules and do what they thought was ethical was definitely really inspiring. I realize that ethics and courage go hand in hand, more than ethics and the gut feeling that your decision is right.

emma said...

I believe ethics to be a way of living that promotes decisions made with the intention to bring good to everyone. Ethics is probably one of the most difficult ideas to explain. I believe ethics to be very situational, but only the exact decision is situational. The decision itself should never be made purely for self benefit if it will harm another. Ethics is having the courage to act with the intent of creating good. To be ethical, people should never use others as means to their ends. I think that you have to be ethical in every act, regardless of if the end itself is ethical.

To be ethical is the only way I think someone can truly live as they are supposed to. I don't think that a live is worth living if someone is only concerned about their own well-being and doesn't have empathy for those around them. Making ethical decisions is truly a dire and often difficult task. There are times that neither decision has a perfect outcome. The decision that has to be made is the decision that is most beneficial to your well-being and everyone/thing involved in the situation. Of course this is vague, but a person must act in the way that causes the least amount of harm and creates the most amount of good.

My views of these things has definitely changed. Some of the cases we discussed in class initially seemed trivial to me. I thought that they lacked importance. For example, news anchors wearing a flag pin seemed like it was not an issue at all. I didn't see where there was a controversy. Situations like these, however small they may seem, are a legitimate ethical issue. I understand that decisions such as these really have to be debated. The outcome of a decision really has to be considered. I also never thought about not being courageous for my ideas as unethical. I truly understand and believe that I have to stand up for what I really think is ethical.

Doron Tyler Antrim said...

I think it's impossible to nail down a simple definition of ethics.

In this class, we've looked at how theorists, scholars and cultural commentators have tried to define ethics, either with a set of principles or with a blunt interpretation. So, I think its appropriate to say that ethics is all of these things.

For instance, who's to say that Kant's two formulations of the categorical imperative are what should defines ethics as opposed to Hemingway's extremely simple definition of ethics as "what serves real people."

We should be ethical because it is a noble quality. I think we all feel is some way that if we act in a right and just manner toward others we will be repaid, either is this life or the next.

I make ethical decisions by first slowing down and asking myself what the consequences of my actions could be. I understand that sometimes it's hard to know what the consequences could be, but I think its essential that you at least contemplate what they might be. I also would say that I try and act with sensitivity toward others, and try to put myself in other people's shoes. I think the most important think is to slow down your decision making process, and truly reflect on what your options are. Only then can you justify your action, whatever they are.

My views have changed over the semester because in the beginning I thought there was no logic involved in ethics, and that people made decisions about ethics just by using their gut. Now I know that there more mechanics involved in making ethical decision making.

tthomp said...

Ethics seemed simple at the start of the semester. I was trying make the best decision possible in a situation that makes you pause and think. In those causes we mostly used our gut instinct, the values we were raised on. All the while we thought to ourselves, I am a stable sane person with some form of kill with reasoning. In this way though, what was ethical would vary person to person.

That was before this class, and before we forced into thinking more thoroughly. Now ethics is a process where we analyze, evaluate, and try to find a proceeding principle. We think of what the process and the conclusion of it means. It became especially true as we stepped outside of ourselves to think as journalist, as photographers of what our work means to others. I learned that while we are trying to persuade people to see the outside world, we also have think of how we impact them.

It also means thinking about how we write a story. The point of views we included and ones we leave out because of time restrains or a lack of resources. That thought process continues to what we do here in college. The timeliness of our work (which I guess I'm not being ethical by handing this in late) our attentiveness in class, and how we conduct ourselves.

This class has taught me to expand my view of ethics, and the thought process behind. Now ethics is less about the force of a difficult situation, but every situation. As we have learned out actions effect others, whether we know it or not; why not try and make an informed and ethical decision for the best out come? Now we know how.

Thank you Prof Good, aka Ethics Guru, for a great semester of discussion and deep thought.

Is Media Ethics Education DOA?

It sounds like a joke Jay Leno would tell during his opening monologue on The Tonight Show. Hear about the graduate students at the prestigious journalism school? They got caught cheating on an ethics exam. Ha ha ha. Except that’s actually what happened at Columbia University in late 2006.

Students had been given 48 hours to sign onto a Columbia Web site to take the final exam in a required course called “Critical Issues in Journalism.” They then had 90 minutes to answer two essay questions.

The students were warned to not discuss the questions with each other, but apparently they did. As the headline over a story reporting the scandal put it, “Ivy J-Schoolers Fail Ethics, Ace Irony.”

No one admitted cheating despite pressure from the school’s administrators and pleas from classmates, who feared the scandal would damage the market value of their degrees. Meanwhile, the teacher of the course, New York Times columnist Samuel G. Freedman, refused to comment. But if the disgruntled posts on RateMyProfessors.com are any indication, his students hadn’t exactly been soaking up knowledge. “Maybe he could e-mail his ‘speeches’ to the students instead of making everyone suffer through the most wasted class in j-school. . . ,” one read.

There’s an old cowboy saying that goes, “When your horse dies, get off.” Journalism ethics education is a dead horse. Or else those aren’t vultures circling in the sky.

A Question for Socrates


The question of how ethics is learned, or even if it can be, is as old as Western philosophy. In Plato’s dialog Meno the title character asks, “Can you tell me, Socrates, whether virtue is acquired by teaching or by practice; or if neither by teaching nor practice, then whether it comes to man by nature, or in what other way?” Of course, Socrates, being Socrates, resists giving a definite answer. But we can’t. The sad fact is, students had better get an effective ethics education now or they may never.


Last summer I conducted an ethics workshop for some reporters and editors at the Poughkeepsie Journal, a small daily in upstate
New York owned by Gannett Co., Inc. The woman in charge of organizing the workshop had supplied us with several case studies to examine. I remember one dealt with a classic conflict of interest, a copy editor who moonlighted at a local radio station.

But what I remember most is the air of defeat that clung to the staff as we sat on hard plastic chairs in the break room discussing the cases. I could hear in their voices the bitterness and cynicism of employees forced to follow corporate policies they despised. Recently, for example, the paper had started running display ads on the front page and section fronts, a much more grievous ethical lapse, their mumbled asides suggested, than anything the case studies might have to offer.

I don’t want my students to ever wear the gray, defeated expression I saw that day on the faces at the Journal. But given the downward direction in which the media are moving, and fast, how in the world can I prevent it from happening?

Teaching Media Ethics by Telling Stories

A friend of mine who teaches at a big Midwestern university recounts in class the events of her first week as a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. She was sent to Duluth to cover Democratic presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey on the campaign trail. When they were introduced, Humphrey vigorously shook her hand. “Oh yes, Susan,” he said, “I read your stuff all the time.” He couldn’t have read her stuff, though; she hadn’t written anything yet. “Just a few words,” she explains to her students, “but words that taught this fledging reporter a great lesson about pols and the little lies they tell.”

I usually find occasion during the semester to quote I. F. Stone’s dictum, “Every government is run by liars and thieves, and nothing they say should be believed,” to make the same point. But Susan’s story makes the point better. That’s because it has existential force. Her story vividly captures in a way a secondhand quote can’t the realities of a reporter’s life.

Some might think telling “war stories” is a waste of precious class time. I’ve a colleague who didn’t want to fall into the “trap” of regaling students with stories ad nauseam (“which, let’s face it, is easier than teaching or grading,” he said). So one semester he kept track. When he toted it all up at the end, he was surprised that he’d used less than an hour - out of 45 – talking about his newspaper experiences. And yet, he admitted, it was his stories that students seemed to remember most.

“Stories teach us how to live,” Daniel Taylor said in his essay, “The Ethical Implications of Storytelling.” What he meant was that stories preserve our experience for contemplation and evaluation. Although not all stories carry a heavy message, there’s an entire category of stories, so-called “exemplary tales,” that are told to convey a moral.

Our war stories are potentially just such tales. They can provide evidence, in ethicist John Barton’s words, of “how real human beings live through various crises and trials and remain human.” My colleague who kept tabs on his storytelling has described his stories as cautionary. Most, he said, deal with “screwups I learned from.”

But sometimes the storyteller and the audience can’t agree on what exactly the moral of a story is.

When Susan was a cub reporter on the Tribune, she interviewed the Beatles, who were on their second tour of the States. She got into their hotel room by dressing up as a waitress in an ugly, mustard-colored uniform and accompanying an actual room service waiter upstairs. Ringo took one look at her little plastic name tag – it read “Donna Brown” – and snorted, “What kind of name is that?” The waiter nudged her in the side. “Tell them what you real name is,” he urged. She did, as well as her reason for being there. Rather than throw her out, the Beatles politely answered her questions. They even let her phone for a photographer. The next day her story ran on the front page, with a photo of John sitting at a table and looking up at her and laughing as she poured coffee in his cup. She still has a glossy print of that photo somewhere.

Many of Susan’s students think she’s nuts for not having the photo hanging up in her office. They also think she’s nuts for saying she’d never participate in the same kind of stunt today. To her celebrity-struck students, disguising herself as a hotel waitress to get an interview with the Beatles seems soooo cool. They lose all sight of the fact that it wasn’t a story of vital public interest that demanded undercover methods.

Susan intends one lesson when she talks about her hard day’s night, but her students, living in a paparazzi-saturated culture, draw another. “It may be a lost cause,” she remarked to me.

Or maybe not. Negotiations over what the point of a story is can be part of the point of the story. In the process of negotiating, we test different interpretations, try out different themes. This is helpful. This is educational. Lawrence Kohlberg, the Harvard psychologist famous for his research on the stages of moral development, contended that “the teaching of virtue is the asking of questions. . . not the giving of answers.” Stories don’t necessarily have to yield clear moral rules to be of value. It’s enough sometimes if they just give us something to think about.