Teaching Notes

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

And the Oscar Goes to. . .

By 6 p.m. Sunday, March 29, please do the following:

1) Visit the class projects by groups from previous semesters

2) Decide which one you'd award a Socrates -- our version of the Oscar -- for "Best Video on an Ethics Case"

3) Explain why, being sure to consider (a) the organization of the presentation; (b)the appropriateness of the decision-making model applied to the case; (c) the clarity and completeness with which the model was applied to the case; and(d) the artistic merit of the overall presentation.

You will be showing the class rough cuts of your own projects on April 28.


Deidre Drewes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deidre Drewes said...

On another note of ethics, there should be a book written called "Ethics Class Goes to the Small Screen." This morning, during my daily ritual of getting ready and watching Saved By The Bell reruns, I was alarmed to hear a familiar name on TV: Immanuel Kant. The episode of this syndicated sitcom was one of ethical importance. The lovable group of students had an Ethics professor they all disliked. The professor accidentally dropped the questions for the midterm on the ground, and the star character Zack Morris debated whether to give it to his friends or charge them for it. At first, everyone wants the answers to the midterm. Then, eventually, they all do the right thing and study for their exam.

Moral of the story? Cable really isn't that bad for you when you learn about ethics and Immanuel Kant from sitcoms. I put this episode right up there with my other favorites, like "There's No Hope With Dope."

Basically, I just thought it was ironic and interesting that Saved By The Bell had any relevance to my Media Ethics class.


Arlene said...

Going through the class projects we found that the "Best Video on an Ethics Case" should go to class project: Smoking (Smoking in Movies)

The video starts off by introducing the issue and discussing each side's opinion. Also, the Bok model helped decide the conclusion based on ethical morals. The group used two different advocacy groups. One group protected kids in decreasing smoking that had previously increased because of the movies. Another group defended the rights of movie directors incorporating any type of smoking in their movies and how it covers their freedom of speech. Ultimately one should ethically harm no one and follow Aristotle's golden mean.

Meg Zanetich said...

After reviewing all the previous class projects, I would award the "Best Video on an Ethics Case" to Deception.

This group starts off by explaining the background situtation. They told the story and gave quotes from both sides. Some people were against the deception that The Spokesman Review did, while others thought there was no other choice. The group organized their thoughts quite well and it showed in their video. Using the 10 questions for making good ethical decisions made sense in this case. They asked and answered all of them with reasonable remarks. This then led them to their end decision. I enjoyed the layout, the pictures, and also the music. It was a great video.

Howie Good said...

Obviously, I'm asking you to do this exercise so that you have a model for your own vids. You can see that the best of the past vids are very good indeed. As many of you have by now deduced, I'm not a big fan of mediocre efforts or lackluster outcomes. I well realize that this isn't your only class or responsibility, but there has been plenty of lead time on the project, so the groups should be able to do all that needs to be done to create a vid that's cogent and vivid.

Amy said...

The project I want to award the Socrates to is “Controversial Photos: Of Life and Death,” posted on May 12th, 2008. The group benefitted from having an extremely interesting topic to begin with: whether or not it was ethical for a photojournalist to take photos of a drowning woman. The presentation was well-organized because the group began with describing the case, in detail, thereby giving the viewer a proper foundation on which to build their ethical analysis. They then provided a clip of an interview with the photographer himself, which fit into the video nicely, and also succeeded in making the case more interesting. The group then moved onto analyzing the ethicality of the case, delineating and addressing different aspects of it using the “right to know, need to know, want to know” model. The model they used was extremely appropriate because it aided them in proving that the public does not have a “right” to see a photo of a drowning woman, the public does not “need” to see this photo, and the only “want” people would express is a desire to see something dramatic. Thereby, the group proves that the photo was only used for dramatic purposes, and thus it was unethical to expose the public to it. They also made a great point in that the photographer was merely using the drowning woman as a means, and not an end.

In addition to the project being well-organized and clear, it was aesthetically pleasing. The group made a point to show every photo that was taken by the photographer, zooming in at points for dramatic effect and clarity. The graphics that were shown aside from the photos were appropriate to the content and at times, added just the right touch of humor. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this project.

Matthew Conti said...

After watching the videos I think that the awarded for the best ethics project should go to drowning 2 (Controversial Photos: Photos Capture Woman's Last Moments). This video explains the situation at hand, which is that a photo of a women drowning was shown to the public even though it wasn’t want the photographer was after or reporting. The video also gives examples of other related incidents. It also explains and talks about both views, but in the end say that because it does harm to other that it is unethical. They use a “right to know, need to know, want to know” type of model. What this leads us to see is that we don’t have a right to know or a need to know about a person drowning; we just basically just want to know. This video is good at explaining the situation and deciding whether it is ethical or not.

Bridget said...

I think that the Oscar for best media ethics project should go to the Smoking in the Movies project.

It is obvious that the group took both sides into account. On one side is freedom of speech and on the other side is the possible harm and negative impact on children who may watch the movie.

The group used the Bok model to decide whether or not smoking in the movies was ethical. What I liked about their presentation was that in lieu of having a discussion with the two groups they sought the opinions of opposing advocacy groups. It was an intelligent and productive way to solve the problem of not being able to discuss the issue with those involved.

I also liked that they used the Golden Mean to find a comprise. There is no easy answer between censoring free speech and protecting children and the idea of a PSA displaying the dangers of cigarettes is a reachable goal, as they said, and a solution that does not punish movie companies while protecting children. The groups opinions were thought out, intelligent, and well-presented.

Tyler said...

I agree with Amy that the Controversial Photos project deserves the Socrates for "Best Video on an Ethics Case."

As far as the organization of this piece, it was tremendously well thought out, first establishing the setting and circumstances of both the photographer, Halevi, and his subject. Also, the photos used provided the viewer with a great image off of which to possibly base their own judgments of the ethical dilemma.

The "right to know, need to know, want to know" model was perfect for this case in order to judge all angles of this trivial event in photojournalism. The model was clear, as the viewer knew specifically when which part of the model was being explained, and the group did a great job including other principles as well (e.g. The Categorical Imperative).

One of the things I think I appreciated most was that the group was still able to use a lighthearted touch to add to it. Though it was a risk with such a serious topic, the group still did it tastefully, keeping the artistic merit of the piece high.

Nicole Moss said...

After looking through the previous class projects I believe that The Socrates Award should go to the project "Smoking" (Smoking in Movies.

I have chosen this particular project because not only did it hold my interest the longest out of most of the videos watched, I felt it was the most clearly produced and was very easy to understand. Even to those who may not be "media literate" as it was put in class.

The group weighed the options, and decided there were 2 positions to take. This was a good idea, an ethical idea one could say. They also used the Ethical Principles which is very important. After using the Bok Model which helped them realize (along with the viewers) that it is the duty of the media to protect vulnerable children or people, it is the social responsibility. They also explained the steps in a easy way, making it very understandable by the viewers. I also like how they tied Aristotles Golden Mean into means as to which they gained their conclusion.

Lastly, I felt the clips, quoates and overall artistic merit was perfect. Not too over done but just enough to lock in my attention.

Ryan Smith said...

I would give a Socrates to the video on newsmercials. I thought the project was very well organized and clearly explained the ethical dilemma. This group examined if the WHAS news channel was unethical by promoting the Kroger supermarket and Humana hospital in their attempt to inform the public on colorectal cancer. They used the potter box to make a decision which I thought was very clear and had quotes from the RTNDA and Society of Professional Journalist. I thought that this project flowed very well and kept my attention. I liked their conclusions at the end and what how they added things that they would do if put in that situation.

Jennifer said...

I thought that the Socrates award should go to the video made about the Virginia Tech school shooting in which the students explore the ethical dilemma of news vs. exploitation. The students did a very good job organizing the video by establishing the ethical dilemma first and discussing the details of the event, discussing the decision-making model of the Potter Box, and then breaking down the four different aspects of the Potter Box in full detail. The facts of the case include NBC's exploitation of a package that the shooter at Virgina Tech sent to the news company after he committed the crimes. The students argue that NBC was more concerned with initial exclusivity rather than considering the affect that airing this package would have on the public. To discuss the 2nd step in the Potter Box, values, the students used a list of ethical news values and discussed NBC's omission of both dignity and community when they chose to air the disturbing materials. A discussion of various principles follows which they used to judge the case including Kant's 1st formulation of the categorical imperative, Aristotle's Golden Mean, and the Journalism Code of Ethics. The use of these three principles acts as support to their argument by providing a number of sources that refute the way in which the news company handled the situation. As far as the fourth step of the potter box, the students make a very convincing argument about loyalties, urging that NBC supported the desires of a killer by showing the materials as he had wanted rather than having compassion for those affected by the tragic event. The students used appropriate images to convey their message and a variety of effects to make the video more interesting and active. The discussion of this case was made more shocking and identifiable because of the use of the actual images of the shooter that were hastily exposed to the public.

Kelsey said...

After looking through the videos, my favorite was the class project done on United 93. I really like the fact that instead of using voice-overs for the entire project, they showed actual people talking. It made me pay attention to what they were saying more than what pictures were flashing on the screen. I believe the way they looked at the ethical issue brought on by this movie was very appropriate as well. It showed how some people believed that the movie was done in a respectful manner, however the students view helped break down the movie to show that it was not as well made as the producers and directors believed it to be. Like I said before, I really liked how I saw actual people talking rather than just voice overs.

Missing deadlines in a media ethics just shows that some people do not connect ethics outside of class and inside of class. Although I missed this deadline, and by taking this class, I promised to my professor and myself that I would do my work. The only way for me to make this right, is to make up for the wrong I did. Completing this assignment outside of the given time frame was unethical of me to do according to Ross's list or any ethical decision-making model.

Scott Broskie said...

I think the Socrates should go to “Controversial Photos: Of Life and Death,” this video was powerful.

The organization of the presentation of this video was superb. The group had the facts along with plenty of sources to back up the information. They even used part of a documentary from Showtime which can appeal to ethos and establish creditability. The seamed to understand the gravity of the situation and used it to the fullest potential.

The group used the “right to know, need to know, want to know” model. I think the model was well used as well. The idea of photographs and the power they have is unimaginable. Photographs do say 1000 words, as do the photographs used in this case to support the case.

I feel moved by this case. The video along with the pictures and audio pull at the heart strings. The group worked hard to establish the case in a clear way and I think they showed the model well.

Over all I think they did a great job, the video established the issue, explained what was wrong, and showed how they felt about said issue. The sound track along with the other images used provides a feeling which helps them win the Socrates in my eyes.

Marcy said...

I really enjoyed the “Ethics of Newsmercials” class project. I found it very informative because I don’t believe I have ever seen one. If I have, I didn’t take it for what it truly was. I thought it was organized very well and it was easy to pay attention to. It also sounded very professional. The person speaking had a voice that was meant for voice-overs. The beginning of the video also had a very good hook to get an audience interested. The group did their best to not use photos over and kept the video moving at a speed that wasn’t too fast or slow.

The group used the Potter Box to prove the ethics of their case, and I thought it was appropriate. They focused on a specific “newsmercial” and followed up with all the details. They were able to give the facts, values, principles, and loyalties for that specific “newsmercial” and broaden it to prove the ethics of “newsmercials” in general. They used other sources, including the journalistic code of ethics and the public relations code of ethics, to argue the points made in the sections of the Potter Box. At the end, they state how to correctly inform the public about and air a “newsmercial” to make them more ethical.

Marcy said...

It is ethically troubling for students to miss an assignment when they are being trained in ethics because it makes it seems like the concepts they are being taught are not being used correctly. Teachers and students have a "contract" to teach and learn. Part of learning is also doing assignments on time. This goes againt Gardener's concept of good work. Just because I physically did the work well, does not mean I morally did the work well.

John Purcell said...

I had a hard time deciding on what to give the Socrates award. I choose the “The Engineering of Public Opinion” video that dealt with how Scott McClellan used PR and to promote the war in Iraq. At the least, this video was the most captivating one I saw. The artistic quality struck me in this video. It was very well done and did have a professional appearance. On the Internet, not only is important to say something useful in our media ethics videos, but to make them presentable. Nobody is going to watch a video on the web if it doesn’t captivate them in some way.

The presentation moved very fluidly in the description of what has happened. The Bok Model was an effective method to analyze the ethical dilemma. I find myself liking the Bok Model the best overall too, because it seems like a sweet and simple way to ethically analyze a dilemma. I liked that they included actual statements from McClellan. The PR code for ethics was the best way to get expert advice. It did seem like advocacy and honesty were the two areas he had troubles with. McClellan certainly did not enhance the PR profession.

I apologize for posting my comment late. I thought it was due on a different date. I still wanted to share my thoughts, even if I don’t get class credit for it.

Joanna said...

The Socrates Award goes to... Class Project: PR F08.
This group did an outstanding job in creating an enticing introduction with music and images that grab the viewers attention while portraying the seriousness of the case.
I like the way the group presented the Bok Model and applied it to McClellan's actions. They used strong examples-- particularly direct quotes from McClellan- to support that the Bok Model fits this case. The information that is provided is clear and it is successfully paired with images that make a strong project.

Deidre Drewes said...

I would give "Controversial Photos: Photos Capture Woman's Last Moments" the Socrates award. This particular piece was an important focus of ethics due to its extremity: death. The photo journalist was proven to be ethically wrong because he put his profession above human nature, and his work did not provide the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Just as Amy mentioned, it was imperitive for the group to use a clip of an interview with the journalist to explain his motives which were, in conjunction, unethical. The group raised important questions concerning the journalistic importance of the photos, and whether that importance was outweighed by the loss of a life.

As far as handing in assignments late, or failing to complete an assignment, it is unethical no matter what your study (media or neuroscience). When one attends college, you are signing up for an agreement to fulfill your duties and complete your tasks in order to recieve that piece of paper that you should have studied hard for. When one fails to complete these tasks, they are going against that agreement, but foremost they are harming themselves. A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and half-assing or turning them in tardy is a waste of an education. When a student fails to complete their assignment in the manner in which it should be completed, they are violating the prima facie duty of self-improvement. Therefore, accordig to Ross, their inaction to improve their own self is unethical and no matter the outcome (even if the student aces a test they cheated on) the action is still unacceptable. That is why when I would explain to my mother that speeding is okay, as long as you don't get caught, she would disagree with me. Which goes back to my first post, where I explain how my mother's ethics set an example for how I should live my life. But, in all fairness, accidents happen.

Arantza said...

The project that I think deserves a Socrates goes to the video called Drowning2.
The organization of the presentation was seemed to be very well thought out. They gave the facts of what happened along with pictures and comments. They included a clip from a Showtime program which gave more information, this also shows that the group did a lot of research and found other ways to depict the situation. The video was very cohesive and the examples along with the music used were very moving. It all added to the experience.
The model that this group used was the “right to know, need to know, want to know” model.This model was good to use for this specific topic because we are dealing with an ethical issue pertaining to pictures (photo-journalism) that are often questioned. They are questioned for their ethics because these pictures may be hurtful to the public and are usually unnecessary. This model deals with what the public has a right to know such as facts, need to know (they didn't need to show how this woman was killed, especially because her loved ones saw it),and it also deals with what an audience needs to know. An audience does not need to see a devastating picture like this and this specific project gave more examples of other devastating pictures.
I think that this presentation was done extremely well. As I said before it was very cohesive and the way it was put together made it a "powerful" video. The music that was put on it also worked very well with the message.

I think that it is ethically troubling to for students training for media professions to meet a deadline because meeting deadlines is one of the most important parts of our (soon-to-be) professions. The only way to be a professional however is if we can meet these goals that are expected by us. And if we can't meet them now, who's to say we will be able to meet them then.

This behavior goes against the theory of Epistemic Responsibility. Which is defined as doing your job the way it is supposed to be done. If you fail to meet a deadline, you have not acted with epistemic responsibility. You have not done your job the way it is supposed to be done, which is well and on time.

John Purcell said...

It is ethically troubling for students training for media professions to miss a deadline, because it shows they are not professionally responsible. Media professions, particularly journalism, are all about deadlines. If you can’t make a deadline it shows an incapability to have excellence in your field. I believe there is a difference between not caring and forgetting, although, does forgetting deadlines mean you don’t care? I am not sure about that. There are many variables in everyone’s life, but it certainly shows you are less caring if you forget. Bottom line, what are you learning about ethics if you can’t make a deadline? It, at the least, doesn’t make the person appear to be in concern with ethics.

In relation to epistemic responsibility, if you don’t do your work to the best of your abilities you are failing your responsibility to produce your best work. I feel this could also be used in some way to help my argument. I didn’t want to just pick a video randomly and say it was my favorite to get the assignment done on time. While it would have enabled me to make the deadline, it wouldn’t have allowed me to produce my best work. Even though I was late, I looked at all the videos to see which one was my favorite. I feel that even though I missed the deadline I still tried to make the quality of my work good. Making the deadline was one part of my responsibility, but I also have a responsibility to get my work done on time. To have truly fulfilled my epistemic responsibility I would have had to done both things — deadline and quality.

lisa said...

The Socrates for “Best Video on an Ethics Case”. should go to the fall ‘08 smoking video. This video is organized very clearly in each step of the project, which makes their analysis of the ethical issues very easy to understand and see. I think that the Bok model was very appropriate for their case; and I did not even really get the model until after seeing this video. The group effectively showed both sides of the case with visuals and coherent language. The video is also very visually compelling; the background images are engaging in that they are generally humorous, colorful, an relevant to the case.

It is ethically troubling for media ethic students to miss a deadline because it is, in the sense of Gardener’s definition of good work, a double standard. His idea of good work applies to work that is sufficient to one’s specific occupation but that also affects the community in a good way. Missing the deadline not only makes a student fail to complete their duties a student, but also makes them be unethical media analysts.

Christine Picault said...

After viewing most of the class projects by groups of previous Media Ethics classes I decided the one I would award a Socrates for "Best Video on an Ethics Case" is Smoking.I would award this video for many reasons. One of the reasons is the organization of the video, and second is the conciseness and clarity that they displayed. They started off with a quote from the philosopher Aristotle. Then they stated that they researched both sides of the issue in terms of should smoking in movies should be given an "R" rating. They incorporated the Bok model and the Golden Mean to approach the ethical dilemma that needed to be addressed in the video, leading to their conclusion. I also like the quotes, and visuals during the video made the video very clear and easy to understand.

I believe it is ethically troubling for students training for media professions to miss a deadline because it is something that were going to have to do when we actually get into our career and it is not going to be acceptable. I deeply apologize for answering this blog past the deadline, and I will make sure it does not happen again. I just thought it was due on Monday, but that is not excuse.In terms of Code's concept of epistemic responsibility, if one does not do his or her "best" work then that is failing right there because we are not fulfilling the repsonsibility to do our work to the best of our abilities.

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.