Teaching Notes

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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Final Blog Post Spring 2010

How has your concept of media ethics (and of ethics in general) changed since the beginning of the semester? What accounts for the change? Is the change valuable? And if your concept hasn't changed, why hasn't it? Does that mean ethics is unteachable? What are the consequences of that for society?

Your response should be as detailed and complete as space for a blog comment allows. It's due by 4:45 p.m., Thursday, May 17.

Before responding, read the "Afterword" to our textbook. Please be thoughtful in your response. Grammatical, too.

34 comments:

Kim Dubin said...

My concept of Media ethics from the beginning of the semester till now has changed, and it has been very influential for me. The different ethical principles that we learned can apply to important situations, and as to if I can follow those principles with precision now knowing about them.

From the very first blog that we had assigned to us about what is most valuable to us in life, I remember my answer was love, family and money. Although I was skeptical about putting money into the equation, I realized it’s what is true to me in life. When speaking about Accumulation as Deficiency and how it is the more stuff you have, the more it doesn’t make you a bigger or better person it made me think. If this is true then why does it feel like people get ahead in life when they have more of what they want? Of course to me envisioning myself as an ethical being, I understand that I would not do any act in order to get money or be in the lime light if it is morally wrong. Ethics and doing what is right is important to me, and I know money can’t persuade my actions. However I know some journalists or other news reporters will go to the extreme at times to get the story they want.

It has been brought up in class numerous times that Journalism can be looked at as entertainment nowadays, and remembering back to the intro of Journalism ethics goes to the movies it reminded me of that. “A journalist who defaced truth, who betrayed the trust of readers, who lied and plagiarized and cheated, became a bigger media star than ever.” (Barnicle) This reference alone is what gave the class a lunching point as to how being unethical can get you publicity. However what I have learned is that being ethical is what truly gets someone identified and held up as noble in the world.

In my opinion the Hemingway quote we went over in class, “What feels good after” is the most meaningful one in this course. To me if an action has an uneasy feeling following it, I don’t go through with it, which is what ethics is all about. This can relate to the prima facie duties, the duty proper and courage. When speaking about courage and how I mentioned in the previous blog the car accident that happened next to me, it made me think of some of the prima facie duties. Fidelity which was me keeping my promise to get home at a certain time, and the non-maleficence was to be a witness to the car accident. My lack of courage for this situation was by having the duty proper to be fidelity outweighing non-maleficence. This can relate to Utilitarianism as being what creates the greatest good for the greatest number of people. If I was to be a witness in the case I probably would have helped more people than just going home, but of course there were reasons to continue driving as well like mentioned in that blog. Like it is said in the Afterword section of our textbook, “We may never know for sure whether we’ve made the right choice or the wrong one, but it’s good in and of itself, like truth or beauty, to reflect on the terrible responsibility that comes with choosing.” Many ethical situations can occur where the outcome of the action taken can either benefit the greatest number of people or not. In this case I learned to next time pull over and help the person involved in the accident.

Kim Dubin said...

It is also good to be empathetic towards people. When we spoke about photojournalism and how it is a crucial topic towards how the outcome can affect an individual in the long run, circumstances were evaluated. As a person it is natural to feel sympathy towards someone, but relating to capturing a controversy situation it can be difficult at times. Looking at a photograph as an editor and it being a good picture, to a reader of the article asking themselves how someone can publish this is hard to do. Either way though I learned to look at things from different angles while always keeping in the back of my mind empathy and professionalism.
Another topic that really hit home with me was truth, truthfulness and truthiness. All 3 of these are within our everyday life. The truth of what is fact, truthfulness of our ability to find out what’s happening and truthiness of believing what we want to believe is true. Before this class I never knew what truthiness was, and now that I do I relate my everyday life to it. There are a lot of things in my life I would like to believe is true even though it just simply isn’t.

Overall relating to future jobs, since I want to be involved in some aspect of advertising the TARES model was most beneficial to me for learning. Creating an ad that is ethical to viewers is important to how well the ads message is received. The TARES model is a great way to go about creating an ad and how the viewers will respond to the message the creator is sending. Most people don’t take time to study media ethics. When someone asks me what classes I am taking, and I say media ethics that are thoroughly impressed. One person in particular said to me, that media ethics is a great class to take in a day and age that needs to be reminded of what is ethical and what is not. I couldn’t agree more.

Meg said...

My concept of ethics in general, has definitely changed since the beginning of the semester, let alone the concept of media ethics. There’s one thing about learning all of these principles and being able to recite them, but it’s another thing to actually apply principles to a situation and see the different outcomes. The change for me came from looking at different media ethics situations and evaluating them case-by-case. Before media ethics, my concept of ethics was pretty straight forward…you are supposed to do what’s right. Through media ethics though, I’ve come to realize that doing the right thing isn’t that simple nor is it that cut and dry. Different situations require some evaluation as to what is the right thing to do. There may be more than one solution. There may be more than one person who will get hurt by the outcome. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from media ethics it’s that every situation is different and you must evaluate all of the possible outcomes for everyone involved.

I really like the “Afterword” section of the book. The man who is handling the nest mirrors that situation and ethical journalism (I guess ethics in general) perfectly. The man is faced with a situation in which if he saves the plant, the nest will be destroyed, and vice versa. His dilemma is that he has to choose which one to save. Ultimately this is how most ethical situations are. There is always only one option that can win, and the other option loses. A person can try with all their might to do what they think is right, but even in the end, someone or something can still end up being problematic. The part of his conversation that really struck me was when he said, “ I should have realized that’s where a nest would be…but I didn’t. I was so absorbed in my immediate task, and so conditioned in my past experience (I hadn’t found any eggs in last year’s nest) I overlooked the obvious”. I think this situation describes ethics perfectly. No two situations are the same even if they are similar. The man just assumed that since there wasn’t a nest the previous year, then he wouldn’t have to worry about a nest this year. In an ethical situation, what worked once, may not work the second time you are faced in a similar situation. In order to figure out what to do in a certain situation, one must evaluate and observe all that there is about that particular situation and then decide what is the ethical or right thing to do.

Meg said...

I believe that most people are taught at an early age what the difference is between right and wrong. It is the people around them and their other surroundings that affect whether or not that person will be able to do the right thing in an ethical situation. I think it was important for us as young adults to take this class, as we are all preparing to go off into the real world soon. I think this class set up a lot of good examples of potential situations we as professionals could have to face one day, whether we’re a journalist, a PR major, or any other profession really. We were shown that it’s not always easy to make the right decision, because what’s right for someone may not be right for someone else. To sum up, I definitely think that ethics can be taught because we see it everyday with parents trying to teach their children what to do, or even in a classroom situation like ours where a professor is teaching his/her students. I think there comes a point though, where ethics cannot be taught and some people are only out to advance themselves. They do not care who they hurt along the way, rather they just want the good publicity for themselves by uncovering or exposing a big story. Unfortunately we do have those types of people in society, and unfortunately I think we always will. There are going to be people who want to work for the greater good and be a journalist because it means helping other people and society. Then there are those who want to be a journalist because they want to be a big name. It’s important to be really careful about the choices we as individuals make because I’m sure no one wants to see a society happen where everyone is only out to make themselves look good.

Overall, I think that yes, ethics can be taught. The children, and the students, and the people can recite as to what is right and what is wrong, but the ultimate test is when those people are put in an ethical situation. It’s not whether you know the difference between right and wrong, but whether or not you ACT upon that. It’s one thing if you can say what the right thing to do in a situation is, but it’s a whole different thing if you actually do the right thing in that situation. Until you are put in an ethical situation where you yourself have to choose between one thing or another, that’s when you’ll know if you understand ethics and the difference between right and wrong. I think ethics is like a test people are forced to make everyday of their lives, some tests being “graded harder” than others. We are all faced with making ethical decisions everyday of our lives whether we realize it or not. It took this media ethics class for me to realize that. The decisions we make everyday have an impact on the rest of our lives, so we as individuals need to decide early on what type of person we want to be. I’m fortunate that I was able to take this class before I went out into the working world where I know I will have to make more than a few ethical choices. I may not know exactly what to do, but I hope with the information I have and knowing what I know now, I will be able to look at whatever situation I’m put in and come out making the best ethical decision that I can make for myself and the others involved.

eden rose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
eden rose said...

Coming into this class I thought ethics were a set of rules that I would have to live by and follow in order to be a good person. I found this to be way more complex then what I initially thought. Instead I learned that yes ethics are a bunch of rules but these rules aren't implemented to tell me what to do, but put there to help question what I do and how I do it. I learned to question and to have an opinion. As a whole my stance on media ethics and ethics in general has completely changed. I found out that just talking and participating in a class just isn't enough. You have to have a stand, a position, a purpose, a cause. And once you have that position you have to be open to the other end of your argument because the only way to learn is to accept both sides of an argument, but at the same time be knowledgeable in fighting for your side in a ethical manner. The most eye opening and cool, for lack of a better word, discovery in this class is that if there is a theory about an ethical situation, it can be wrong, and I can be the one to challenge it. When I looked at the next part of the question “what accounts for the change” I knew my response right away. This class, and the style of the way the class is run is what caused this change. I learned that by listening and analyzing philosophical theories and other student opinions I can better my self. I never once felt WRONG in this class I just felt like I was speaking my mind on certain issues that came up and that my input was as good as any one else's. I feel that the class really fed off of each other and helped each other come to conclusions that not only felt right within our own personal conscience but conclusions that everyone was willing to at least give a second look. The value of this change is tremendous. I now know that I can question things in order to be ethical not just follow guidelines. Now that I have learned those guidelines that I thought ethics was solely based upon I know that I don't JUST have to follow those guidelines but use them to guide me to question things around me. The process we use to make decisions inevitably affects the quality of the decisions we make, this quote when reading the afterward really summed up what I am trying to say. If anything I’ve learned that decisions aren't always spontaneous but have repercussions that I have to be aware of and in order to grow in my decision making process that I chose to live by. Another life changing concept that I have grown to live with and understand is to choose one good is often to lose another, or two others. At first this was tough for me to grasp because I want to make everyone happy and will do anything in my power to achieve this goal. The cliche that you cant always have your cake and eat it too actually makes sense now and has meaning. When making ethical decisions you really do have to weigh your pros and cons, in a way that will settle well within and feel right even if there are some negative repercussions. Ethics has actually showed me that there's hope for people and that although everyone may not be an ethical person there are still ways out there to help people understand how to truly make a decision that will benefit them and their surroundings the “correct” way.

Lindsey said...

My concept of media ethics and ethics in general has changed dramatically. When I signed up for the class I didn’t know what to expect. I new what the basics of what ethics were but never really thought we would go in such detail, which has benefited me personally. I never new ethics had so much information and theories behind it. I learned that ethics is the principle of what’s right or wrong. When the tragedy with Haiti came into our discussion that’s when it really hit me how important ethics is in our daily lives. Seeing all the pictures shows how bad it really was over there. When we talked about journalists and if they should do there job or actually help the people in need, it made me think of what I would do. Before taking this class I believe I would just stick to doing my job, but now I believe I would drop everything and help them, as I would hope people would do for me. I believe it’s more ethical to help people in need, rather than stand there and maybe make the situation worse, but sometimes it depends on the situation.

Also when the photojournalist guest speaker came in I was very interested in what she was doing. Before learning what I learned in this class I would think what she was doing was pretty cool, but now I actually think what she is doing is wrong. She took some pictures at a funeral and the reaction of the family, which seems like she’s invading their privacy. Even if the family doesn’t care it’s still unethical. I think it’s interesting that they photojournalists have a huge book that they have to know when taking a picture. It’s the guidelines of whether or not to take or make the photo public.

When we learned about all the theories the one that stuck in my head the most was the TARES model. I believe this is true because I’m really into advertising and commercials.
T-Truthfulness, provides truthful information.
A-Authenticity, showing that doing the right thing is important but also to do it with the right attitude
R-Respect, respect for the person who receives the persuasive message
E-Equity, Is the receiver of the message on the same level as the creator
S-Socially responsible, does ad increase or decrease trust for persuasive messages

The other theory that stuck with me was the Theory of Pluralistic Values by W.D. Ross. He came up with 7 duties known as prima facie duties (on the surface), which were right because they’re right. The seven duties are: 1. Fidelity-promise 2. Gratitude-bound to people who have done us kindness 3. Justice 4. Self-improvement-prove ourselves, prove our talents, reach potential 5. nonmaleficence-do no harm 6. Beneficence-help improve others 7. Reparation-making up for a committed wrong. Duty proper is when 2 or more prima facies are in conflict with each other, it’s the duty you chose when in conflict. You try and look at the facts, attach appropriate value, make the best decision or best guess.

Lindsey said...

I also learned a lot from the two-sided issues like idea of deception. Deception is a misleading falsehood or a bluff. I believe its wrong to go undercover unless it’s for the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. Before taking this class I thought it was totally wrong to be deceitful, but now my beliefs have changed. The situation with Nellie Bly is a great example of a situation where it’s all right to be deceitful. Nellie Bly went undercover as an insane woman to expose the treatment of patients in Insane Asylums. Her act was the greatest good for the greatest amount of people.

Another thing that struck my attention was how the media tries to put news out to the public that’s just for entertainment. Again, Haiti was a diaster, but it seemed like the next day it was a different news story that wasn’t really important. The media made such a big deal about Tiger Woods and his story, which should be between his family. Why should a cheating man get all the media attention when our world is suffering. The U.S. and many other countries are in a depression and what Tiger Woods does behind the golf scene is what we care most about.

I believe that someones beliefs can only be changed if there willing to look at the big picture. Media ethics can be taught but some people might not believe it or want to believe it. Some journalists are always going to do the wrong thing while some are always going to do the right. It depends on what kind of person you are. Some journalists don’t realize how bad it is to make of stories or sources, and maybe if more media ethics classes were taught, there would be less lies in journalism, and more facts.

Samantha said...

My concept of Media Ethics has changed a lot since the beginning of the semester. It has always been something that I knew that I should strive for but it never seemed as important to me as it does now.

Before, I think I had a cynical outlook on the ethics of the media, assuming that there really weren't any anymore. The news shows are all biased and newspapers are full of errors and I assumed that no one was trying to do anything to fix it. I think I also assumed that once I made it out into the job market I would end up jaded and discouraged in thinking that there was any hope for the media and I would practice the same unethical techniques that most of the media partakes in. However, after taking this class I see that there are still people who care about being ethical and think that is the most important job that we can do.

I also learned, however, that in order to be ethical one also has to be brave. I do not really consider myself a brave person. I will never jump out of a plane for fun and I usually don't fight back very much when someone confronts me, but I would like to strive to be brave ethically. I admire the people we learned about who stood up against the people in charge for what they believe in. I especially admired Michael Keaton in "The Paper" for literally stopping the presses when he knew that what was being sent out to the public was wrong. I also realized that of the people that were quoted on the board, they stand out because they stood apart from the rest. While everyone was busy being selfish, people like Hillel the Elder were raising ethical questions like, "being only for myself, who am I?"

These people had courage, and this class has made me realize that I truly want to be an ethical journalist, but I have to have the courage to do so. We spoke a lot about this in class and I was really inspired to follow in these courageous people's footsteps because I admire what they do. It stood out to me one day when you said that being ethical sometimes meant that you had to be an outsider too and being ethical can sometimes mean being lonely. This is a scary concept, because I think as human beings we don't really want to be outsiders, we'd rather be with the "in-crowd." Sometimes, however, the in-crowd makes bad decisions and I would rather be the one doing the right thing.

This class has definitely changed my outlook on ethics. While the class sometimes left me feeling pessimistic about where the media is heading, I am hopeful that this class can help spark a change. I know that I will take the lessons I learned with me and apply them to any job I take. I hope that everyone else does the same thing, and maybe even some of your students will go on to teach media ethics classes and continue these teachings to another generation. I think this class and classes like it are the hopeful spark we need to turn around what we see in the media. The people who stand up for ethics should be the norm, not the outlier.

Victoria said...

When I initially signed up for media ethics, I had little interest in the topic. I believed the class was only going to focus on ethical models and ethical principles. On the surface I was correct, we did learn about those things, but we delved far much deeper than I thought we would. I was shocked that a class could actually make me think differently about the actions I take. I was shocked that a class could make me notice things I have never noticed before, about myself and society. I assumed ethics were straight forward; do this, don't do that. Yet although they are guidelines, they are not rules. I have learned that models and guidelines are things you should think about before you determine whether something is or is not ethical.

My concept of media ethics has changed dramatically. This class has made me question the quality of both journalism and public relations. It has made me realize that media ethics plays a huge role in both of these professions, and to be involved in them a person must be ready to make very hard ethical decisions. Before this class I had no idea that journalists and other media professionals had models and principles at their disposal. I always just assumed they didn't know any better, and they thought they were doing the ethical thing. I will make sure to take these models and principles with me. Professionally I want to try to be as ethical as I can, and I know the things I have learned in this class will help me to accomplish that.

I found the class discussions to be enthralling. I never thought a class would have me questioning my own values as much as this one has. This class made me realize that I do not really know myself as much as I thought I did, and that I am not really sure if I am doing the right thing with my life. I find myself constantly questioning my actions, wondering if there was a more ethical way to solve the problem at hand.

I remember the blog you recently assigned which had us pick an instance where you know you did something unethical. I sat in front of my computer and thought of at least twenty instances that have happened in the past year in which I know I did the wrong thing. That one question made me realize so much about myself. So much that was so apparent. Yet I never thought about these personal flaws, probably because no one ever asked me the question.

I have learned so much from this class, about society, about media, about myself, and about my peers. The change it has made in me is very valuable. I believe this class has worked towards making me a better person overall. This class took me in a complete different direction then I ever expected myself to go.

On a personal note, I really enjoyed this class. I enjoyed the way we really taught each other and talked about personal experiences and opinions so openly. I felt comfortable expressing my opinions, even if no one agreed with me. I feel that I learned more in this class than any other class all semester. Perhaps the things I learned aren’t tangible, maybe they can’t be measured with an exam. But they are the most important things I have learned all semester, and probably things I will take with me my entire life.

Chelsea LaDue said...

Since the beginning of the semester, my concept of media ethics has definitely changed. I had always been the type of person that would do whatever it took to get ahead in life. I guess I can blame that on not having much growing up. But through discussions in class, readings, and learning principles, I have come to realize it is not ok to step on other people's toes to get ahead.

In the beginning of the semester we were asked what is the most important thing to us in life. My response was to be successful. That is exactly the type of person that I was then. All i truly cared about was getting ahead. If you were to ask what is most important thing to me in life now, I would still say I want to be successful, but I want to do it in a way that would make me happy. I thought bringing other people down to raise me up was normal since it is always shown in movies (the Devil Wears Prada, for example), but I came to realize that it is more important to be the best ethically than the best technically. Doing the wrong thing sometimes only results in guilt, which can be worse than an actual punishment. Self-punishment is the worst ind because you know you did something wrong and nobody can make you feel worse than yourself. Violating your own values is probably one of the hardest things to get through.

Also, this class has effected the way I view other people. We've discussed courage at great lengths in class. About a week or so ago my friend was faced with a situation where her team was voting for captain and the person who tallied the votes cheated so the person who she wanted to win would win. My friend found out because the tallies were done on a piece of paper that she took back when they were done. My friend didn't say anything to the team. I just thought that was so wrong, especially to the girl who was jipped out of being captain. Sometimes doing the right thing, like in this case, can be problematic. Like in the afterword in the book, doing the right thing may result in other bad things happening. Taking the nest out to save the plant ultimately resulted in the bird eggs dying. Just like telling the team there was cheating in the voting process could result in a big team fight which is never good for the dynamic of the group.

I often tell my friends that I think everyone should have to take media ethics in order to graduate. I truly believe this because the world would be such a kinder more ethical place. I don't see how anyone could come away from this class not wanting to be a better person. Many of our discussions have made me feel guilty about some of the things I've done and said to others. It has made me realize that things others do and say to me sometimes are not ok. I have actually ended a friendship because of something that was said in class which was, "if someone truly cared about you, they would care what they did to you." That has stuck with me and I honestly believe I will go through the rest of my life having this in my head.

I definitely believe ethics is teachable and I really hope that after leaving this class, I don't forget about everything we've learned. I hope I don't go back to the person I was before. There might be people that leave the class unchanged, but that doesn't mean it is not possible to teach ethics.

Kim Plummer said...

Prior to this class, I never really thought of ethics as much more than something being morally right or wrong. I hadn’t really thought about the process of making an ethical decision because I didn’t understand that there could be a process in the first place. I had kind of just thought decisions I had made were ethical because they “felt right,” people seemed pleased with my work and I never had too many outrageous complaints.

What I realized is that a decision could be ethical because it “feels good after”—thanks, Hemingway—but that there should be some sort of rationalization for the decisions we make. Instead of thinking of ethics as either the right or wrong decision, I now think of ethics as a process. I remember earlier in the semester we were describing ethical principles as a kind of road map to an ethical decision. Thinking of ethics in this regard is more encompassing—it goes beyond yourself. I learned that a lot of the reasoning that accounted for my past ethical decisions were rooted in and defended by principles I had not then known about.

Recognizing this is a valuable lesson. Reflecting on past decisions within the framework of models like The Potter Box, The Veil of Ignorance and the Bok Model and learning principles like Aristotle’s Golden Mean, utilitarianism and Kant’s Categorical Imperative prepare us for future ethical dilemmas. If needed to stand up against decisions I don’t agree with morally, I’ll not only have the courage, but the know-how to do it in a successful way that is both technically and morally excellent.

I think it’s more optimistic to look at ethics through this point of view. It means that there could be more than one ethical solution, which gives you options to find the most appropriate solution for that situation. I think the Afterword of our text really sheds light on the fact that there is hope for ethics. Even for those who may not have gotten the same out of the class as I did, just beginning to think about these principles and grapple with the ethicality of issues is a start. Like it’s written, we can see failure in ethics, and throughout all areas of our lives, as hope that we can emerge from our mistakes wiser. It’s imperative to believe that ethics can be taught, unfortunately, not everyone is as receptive to it as others. I think back to Megan asleep in ethics class, and the fact that she has a choice to wake up at any time, it’s just a matter of when. And, to think of the glass as half-full, I think there comes a time in everyone’s lives where they will realize it’s time to open their eyes, and most of us already have.

M.Blumenfeld said...

Before this class I had no concept of ethics or ethics in the media. Instead, I had certain moral standards for ways of behaving that dictated what I considered "right" and "wrong." This class has provided me with a frame of reference where I can now look at a situation and make a more informed decision based on what I perceive to be true and, through the use of the models we discussed in class. It's basis in politics, philosophy and writing have turned to be a well rounded course which continues to influence my thought process.

Through this class I have gained a valuable understanding of how one's personal and professional life intercede. When I once thought that people can live different lives outside of work, It has become apparent to me through the lessons learned in this class that one's professional life is typically an example of how one lives their life outside of work.

One concept which reflects this idea is that of Social Responsibility. As people within a society, we have a duty to ourselves and to others to do what is right. If every action sets a precedent for what will happen next it is up to us to ensure that the example we set is just and grounded in moral ideas. It is the responsibility of every individual who understands this concept to live up to this idea. But are those who do not live up to this idea unethical? Some would say yes, others may say no. Unfortunately not enough people live up to it, regardless of whether they know it or not. That is why we see a common trend of irresponsibility throughout our society which takes place on Wall st, by BP in the Gulf of Mexico...etc.

The media is a powerful outlet by which this irresponsibility can be uncovered and exposed to the public. However, while some journals and newspapers do an accurate job of exposing this information, we are continually bombarded with messages that even the best sources cannot break through the clutter. It is disheartening. I am left with questions even after all the lessons I've learned form this class, like what am I supposed to do after knowing this, or What can anyone do? Whats the point in spending time and effort in a plagued field? And although I have no concrete answers the only thing that feels right is to keep working on making myself a more ethical and just person.

The media is a great example and platform to teach ethics because of the role it plays in society and the analogies we can draw between media and life. This class has helped to draw these analogies so that our actions represent our beliefs. It is interesting to note that in our society and culture most people share ideals which they do not act upon. As Journalism and Public Relations majors it is our duty to the public to present accurate and reliable information so that the public can make more informed decisions. The habit of exposing wrong and unnecessary information is what adds to the clutter that has become the media.

I have left this class with mixed feelings because it is to me, really almost depressing to study the media because of all the negative aspects we discuss, however, I leave with the confidence in knowing that I as well as the rest of the class have undergone a full semester of this course and understand concepts which will promote the spread of accurate and reliable information. Throughout our personal and professional lives, situations will continue to arise which test and re-shape our understanding of ethics and the world. However, it is what we do with those situations and the thought process that gets us there that will continue to define who we are.

MBachmann said...

Coming into this class, I never thought that I was going to learn and become aware of so many things I didn’t know before. Prior to this class when I thought about the word “ethics” I assumed the definition was, to know the difference between what is right or wrong. But now I have learned there is much more meaning to the word.
One of the first questions asked was, “What is the correct moral policy to follow? And do I have the strength to follow it?” We were told to think about it, that there wasn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer, but what did we think. This may have been one of the hardest questions I’ve had to think about because in the beginning, I did not even know there were any specific moral policies and it’s hard putting yourself in any situation thinking whether or not you would do the right thing. Out of all the moral policies we were taught, the one I liked and could relate to most was John Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance. The concept is that you “step behind a veil and return to original position.” It puts you in someone else’s shoes and forces you to think and feel how they might in a situation. If people were able to put themselves in other’s shoes before making an unethical decision, I honestly feel that they would make the right choice instead.

MBachmann said...

Before this class I never realized how unethical many professionals were in jobs such as journalists and many people in the public eye. This first hit me discussing the news coverage in Haiti, which basically had as much coverage as the Tiger Woods scandal. Reporters are just looking for “news worthy” topics, which means anything that is amusing Americans in today’s society. Whether that means stepping over people and taking advantage of their struggles.
I find myself being much closer to answering that original question. I do not believe that there is a correct moral policy, because there are many to follow and learn from. I do think that if put in a certain situation, I would have the strength to follow a moral policy, and act in an ethical way. My concept of media ethics has definitely changed since the beginning of the semester. I am more aware of the ethical decisions that I face and feel if faced with a situation I would make the right choice. Prior to this class, I had a basic set of ethical standards that I set for myself, and those had come from what my parents had taught me growing up. This leads me to believe that ethics is teachable to some degree. At a young age it is easier to learn things, but as you grow older you are more set in your ways and not as easier to adapt to new ways of thinking. This media ethics class was very beneficial and enjoyable to take, and should be required for all students heading into any career so they can be aware of the unethical behaviors of professionals and how to avoid such encounters.

Julia said...

My view of ethics has changed completely since this course. Prior to Media Ethics, I believed ethics to be an unreachable set of golden standards. After the class, I realized ethics are a set of standards, but they are not unreachable. To be an ethical person, one has to constantly be striving to meet these standards. By doing that, one is an ethical person. Ethics is doing the right thing with the right intentions. I realized ethics isn’t only about doing the right thing. It is about the thing for the right reason. Often, people do the right thing to make themselves look better and altruistic. This is an ethical dilemma. One should want to do the right thing because it is right, not to better their image. People should not be used as means to an end. The most important thing I learned this semester is that I should not use other people to justify my actions. The excuse “well everybody else was doing it!” is an unethical one. I don’t want to let how other people act direct my actions. Being ethical is usually a standalone position, and this should not deter me.

The change was definitely caused by examining real-life situations that put ethics on a more reachable plain. The discussions in class, where each of us were asked “What would you do if…,” helped me make the difference between ethical and unethical decisions. As for journalism, ethics has been formed into a tangible shape. I have realized that ethics sometimes means risking your career to do what is right. I have to admit, before the class, I may have just chosen to put my head down and do the unethical thing, even if I didn’t want to, to keep my job. Now I realize that ethics is, as Hemmingway said, “What feels good after.” This change is definitely valuable. One of the things I strive to be most is an ethical person.

I definitely believe ethics is teachable. I don’t necessarily think it has to be taught in a classroom. I was able to get a grasp on ethics this semester because I was asked to examine, in my own life and experiences, what ethical situations I had faced. Examining my own experiences helped me realize what ethics really is. I especially learned from my failures in ethics. Failures are the greatest learning experiences. My failures in ethical situations have made me realize more ethical alternatives in situations. If children are taught ethics at a young age, and continually while they grow up, then our society is okay. But, in order to teach my children to do the right thing and not to use people, I myself have to be ethically sound.

Anonymous said...

In the beginning of the semester i honestly did not know what to expect from this class. I always thought of ethics as just knowing what is right and what is wrong and basing your decisions on that. I figured that we would learn about the philosophers and the ethical models and then about how we come to our decisions and what makes them ethical or not. After having the class for a semester I now realize that ethics is much more. Ethics is not something that is as black and white as right and wrong, it requires so much more thinking than that. Ethics changes with each situation and each person that is faced with an ethical dilemma. Making an ethical decision requires us to evaluate many different aspects of the situation and how it will affect ourselves and everyone else involved in the case, there is nothing simple about making an ethical decision and sometimes no matter what we do our decision can not be all good. Many times when we are making an ethical decision the outcome of our decision does not match up with what we intended to do in the first place, like the example of birds nest given in the Afterword.
I think what accounted for this change for me was evaluating the cases in class with the different ethical models.When we did these cases I realized that even when I came to a conclusion that I thought would be good, there were many other consequences that I had not even thought of that completely changed the outcome and did not at all match with my intentions. This change was very valuable because it showed me that there is so much more that goes into making a decision than knowing what is wrong and what is right. It showed me that even if I have the best intentions, the decisions I make may never come out all good and they may not match with my original intentions.

Anonymous said...

This class also made me take a much harsher look at the media and the things that we now consider news. Before this class I would often watch the news or read the newspaper and never question whether the things they were reporting on were even newsworthy or whether they were reporting on the situation in the most ethical way. I never questioned the way disasters were covered so much and then once interest had faded we never heard about those places again and the reporting had moved on to the next area affected by disasters. Now when I watched the news or even television in general i take everything with a grain of salt and am much more critical of the things that are being reported on. I can see now that the way the news handles reporting has become much more about entertainment value and less about ethically reporting about things that the public has the right to know.
I really enjoyed reading the afterword of the book because it really put into perspective all the things we learned about this semester. It made me realize how hard it is to make these ethical decision and that no matter how good our intentions are,the outcome of our decisions may not be all good. The afterword also put into perspective that the way we approach the problem will directly affect the outcome of our decision. I also liked the point the afterword made about how when we do not realize we are facing an ethical dilemma, it makes the problem even worse and even if we have honorable intentions, the outcome can still not be good.

Andrew Limbong said...

There was a very distinct moment in the class when I realized that I, as well as a number of the students in the class, have changed. It was during Renee Byer's presentation, and I think she was showing the picture of the girl crying at a funeral. When the class was asked if anybody thought it was right to publish the picture, nobody raised their hand. Though there could have been some form of “group think” that led the entire class to believe that the picture was unethical, I can honestly say that I wouldn't have batted an eye at it 4 months ago.

What I take from this class is that life, when lived correctly, is hard. To be constantly vigilant in remaining ethical and true is a day-to-day struggle. It is infinitely easier to not care, to not be bothered when there is an offense to ethics, but that wouldn't be ethical, would it? Before I came to this class, I thought that living an overall ethical life was easy; don't murder, don't steal, help an old lady with her groceries. These were the simple things which I thought were all that were necessary to be ethical. Instead, having taken this class, I realize the amount of subtly immoral things that surround us in our day-to-day. Taking Renee Byer's picture as an example, at a quick glance, there seems to be nothing wrong with a technically proficient photograph of someone grieving. But with ethics in mind, you begin to realize that she's grieving, she's in a vulnerable position. It doesn't matter that permission was granted after-the-fact, as Byer did. There was still someone being taken advantage of, a distinct breach of ethics.

I guess the main difference I have seen in myself after having taken this class is that I am more in tune with the not-so-outright breaches of ethics. What is moral is doing “what feels good after.” These are the words of Hemingway. But this class has made me see so many things that would not allow me to feel good after. There are so many more things that cannot go unignored, from pictures of poor children to Anderson Cooper's well fitting t-shirt and so many unforeseen consequences to my actions that I'd never realized, that it is hard to find something that would allow me to “feel good after.”

Thankfully, I feel well equipped to handle this newfound multitude of amorality. When I am personally in an ethical quandary, am I going to take a piece of paper, divide it into four quadrants, and go through the facts, values, principles, and loyalties of the situation? Not likely. But I do feel like I've internalized all of the ethical decision-making tools and principles that I have can have a grasp on any ethical situations which I might come across.

I forget who it was in the class, but I distinctly remember during our discussion of the e-mail Professor Good got from his previous student, and how her co-worker/friend was breaching ethics, someone asked what we were supposed to do with all of this, with the amount of ethics-breaching that is prevalent all throughout our society. It was a question that definitely stuck with me, as it still does now. Though we are taught all these things, though we can thoughtfully traverse rocky ethical terrain, what exactly will be the point? Though we can be as ethical as we wish to be, it still sometimes feels like drowning in a sea of bullshit. Seeing the glorification of celebrity rise, the credibility of the journalist easier to scrutinize, and the very idea of empathy slowly disappear, there doesn't seem to be much that can be done about anything. This is where courage is key. It is hard, it is a struggle. If being ethical was easy, then we would be living in a paradoxical world. Ethics can be boiled down to doing what is easy without thinking about how it might affect others. It is hard and a struggle, because it is supposed to be. Ethicality brings contention, and to be truly ethical, we have to be courageous enough to fight through it. So here's to the fight. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends.”

KHutchinson said...

First off, I would like to say that I think the afterword of the book is a brilliant closing to the ethical dilemmas we've talked about this year. It also addresses the dilemma I seem to be struggling with most: that just because your intentions are good and just, the results of my actions may not always reflect that. It's hard to imagine living in a world where even when I try to do good, bad things happen. I'm almost afraid to leave a world of family and college where, when I work hard, I get good results and when I help others, they in turn will help me.

It was discouraging to find out that the world does not work as smoothly as I'd like to think it does.

I was never a stranger to the idea that the world isn't always equal. When my sister and I would throw fits along the line of "It's not fair" my parent almost always followed that statement with, "Well the world's not fair."

I heard them say it. I tried to understand it, and I applied it as best I could as a child. I took it to mean that bad things can happen. Friends move away, car accidents happen, people die and get hurt when they've done nothing wrong. But even though these bad things still happen I believed that at the end of the day, if you lived your life as a good person, working hard, helping others, trying the make a difference, good things would happen.

I am proud to say that after taking this ethics course, I can still believe these things. Now, I'm not saying that I'm still a naive child believing that no harm will come to me or anyone I know just because we're good people, but the class has given me hope.

For centuries people have been theorizing ethics. Developing values, principles, and believe systems that support a positive lifestyle of being good people and if not going out of the way to help others, at least minimizing harm at all costs. Not only have these theories been passed down through the years, the practices are still being taught, followed, and considered.

Don't get me wrong. I know there are many people out there who would never consider the SPJ Code of Ethics, or think about the Veil of Ignorance before taking action, but just the idea that these decision making methods are there means that there are many others who DO use these to help them through their lives.

I think my favorite part of the class would have been when we discussed the Prima Facie Duties and the Duty Proper. I seem to come up against the problem quite often that I have to make a decision that is the lesser of two evils. This really gives me a map of what to consider before making a final decision. It's a list of values I can look at and apply to a situation and make a personal decision based on which I think is more important for this situation.

In that respect, this is always how I've looked at things, in a situational manor. This hasn't changed throughout the course of this class either. Instead, it was again reinforce. I still honestly believe that although there are moral laws (or my personal moral laws, like do no harm to others, always act honestly, etc) but there are always extenuating circumstances that need to be considered. There is always background information and reasons for what has happened. These need to be looked at before decisions can be made and action can be taken.

KHutchinson said...

So what did change throughout the semester? Like I said before, I think the thing that has most changed for me is my loss of the idea that all the world is a good place as long as we try hard enough. I think at the end of the day I can't justify this any longer. It just can't be true. I've come to realize that although there ARE so many people who WOULD consider the ethical aspects to their decisions, there are just so many more who don't. It's kind of sad for me to realize, but honestly, I needed to be woken up at some point. I was wearing my rose colored glasses and I guess I've removed them.

I'd still like to look at the world with a bit of a softer edge though. I think it's important to keep up my moral and my idea that the world is a good place...just because...well, the world IS a good place. There are bad people, and bad things happen, but again, like I said, this class has just reinforced the idea that I'm not the only one out there who cares about doing the right thing! It's just as refreshing as it is sad to learn that there is a double edged sword of people who do and don't care.

J.Rodriguez said...

In the beginning of the semester I was coming into this class with the same intentions that I was going to with all my other classes. I was going to try and get a good grade, and that was it. I then actually became interested in the class as the semester went by because I was learning so many new things. my whole nature of going about media ethics, or ethics in general had really changed. I went into to the class, with my "do what ever it takes" attitude. That has actually changed to, you have to actually think about the actions you take to get to a certain outcome because not everything you do is necessarily ethical.

At the beginning of the semester the professor asked us to think about what we desire most and why, and I came to conclusion that I had desired family most. I thought and still think that this is ethical because unlike other materialistic things like; money, success etc, I actually desired something that meant a lot to me and wasn't being selfish. This answer, still doesn't change just because throughout the semester, proff. Good was teaching us everything he knows about ethics, and when I go through my check list for ethics, family would still be considered ethical in the sense that I achieve family without using unethical techniques to get close to my family, for example: lying or deceit.

I feel that a lot has changed with what and how I do things on a daily basis thanks to taking the Media Ethics class. I think before I do a lot of things I used to do. whether it be cheating on a test, Making a promise, or even Choosing to tell someones secret. I had such a carefree attitude before, and although people think it's not a big deal, it kind of is. You have to really think about your actions and the consequences and outcomes that occur because you chose to do something, no matter how big or small the situation is. Everything you do has an outcome; good or bad. Everything you do, affects someone else; good or bad. Even though you are an individual, the things you do will always affect someone, good, bad, in the long run or on a short term basis.

We talked about a a lot in class, promise keeping, different methods, (TARES model) and even the potter box (Facts, Values, Principles, Loyalties). I really appreciate everything that went on in class, because I really did take away something from every lecture. This class, actually taught me to think more, and act differently because Ethics is always around and will always be around.

George Selby said...

One of the points that was listed in the Afterword of the text really explains how my view on ethics has evolved over the course of my life: “Failure is usually assumed to be cause for despair, but actually, it’s cause for hope—hope because we can emerge from failure wiser, less arrogant, more human.” (164)
When I considered ethics over the course of my life, I did so because I had failed myself ethically. I had realized that I did something wrong, and I felt bad about it. After the initial despair that I felt for being a horrible human, I would always come around to consider the experience worthwhile because I had a new perspective on what was ethical and what was wrong. I had a new insight into the feelings of others, and a new insight in what I wouldn’t “feel good after” doing.
This class has changed me in a similar way. It has given me tools to analyze my ethical decisions just like the failures of my past gave me. Learning about the “Veil of Ignorance” and other principles like it, has also given me the ability to look at my past ethical failures in a more methodical way, and learn from them more efficiently.
As for media ethics, I didn’t ever consider it until this class. As a student of the media my goal was never to be a journalist. I had my eyes on media research, media education, and media law. For me, media ethics did not seem like something to worry about if I wasn’t going into journalism. Now that I’ve seen examples of ethical and unethical advertisements, articles, and actions in the media, I have certainly come to worry about the overall lack of ethics present in our media.
Also, I used to see ethical failures as the fault of those in charge, and I never thought about the low level employees’ playing a part in the media. Where are the whistleblowers? Is EVERYONE that works at Fox a slimeball? This has given me a mission for when, or if, I work in the media: I must create the next Jeff Cohen.
Finally, the blog question brought something to my mind. I consider the subject of ethics to be teachable, but I do not think that empathy can be learned. I think this, the lack of empathy in the country, is the downfall of our civilization. We watch movies about how horrible prison is, and then we look the other way when people rot in prisons for non-violent crimes. We watch movies and news stories about war, and never consider what it’s like for someone whose whole family was killed for political reasons. We sit in our computer chairs and blog about where our tax money should go while good Americans go bankrupt because they got sick, injured, or laid off. I think this lack of overall empathy results from the mind melting shit we see in our media, and the media’s ethical priority is what must change before anyone in America can learn to feel what others feel. The correlation is obvious: We buy what the TV tells us to, we dress like it tells us to, we only care about what it tells us to care about, and it does not tell us to care about other humans.

Maxim Alter said...

Since attending this class, ethics has become immensely important to me. My understanding of ethics, prior to this semester, was very weak. I used to think being ethical was easy and it meant only doing the right thing, but it goes so much deeper than that.

Being ethical means doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Every situation is different and can be looked at in multiple ways. In this class, I was able to learn some of these different ways through the principles and guidelines that were taught. Without ethical theories like Kant’s Categorical Imperative (act as if your choice could become universal law and treat humanity as an end and not a means), for example, I would have only based my decisions on what I saw on Television or movies. It’s a scary thought. I never considered myself an unethical person before taking this course, but now I definitely see myself as a much more educated and thoughtful person when it comes to ethics and the choices I make in my every day life.

Being ethical is not easy. The simple thing to do would be to not care or to not stop and help when someone is in need. Being ethical can often require you to go out of your way and be courageous. And having courage isn’t simply being physically strong; it’s being mentally strong.

I believe, wholeheartedly that ethics is teachable. We all come into this world using our instincts to breath, blink and move. No one teaches us how to do any of these things. But being ethical, in my opinion, does not come from instincts. It comes from your parents, your peers and everything you see around you. This is why I am so thankful I was able to take a course like this. I now have the tools required to make the best decisions and to be the kind of person someone could look up to. Like Prof. Good said in one of our recent lectures: how many people are there in the journalism field these days, or in any field, that we can really look up to? I honestly couldn’t answer that question, and I was completely blown away. Holy shit, this is the field I am moving toward. This is something I’m going to dedicate my whole life to, and I can’t think of one person other than Woodward and Bernstein. So if no one else can set a good example, maybe I should.

Maxim Alter said...

Another profound moment in class that has provided me with a great learning experience: The e-mail from one of Prof. Good’s students about the co-worker who made up all of her sources. Before this class, I guess I was just oblivious to this. I had no idea people actually did that or were even capable of doing that in a professional environment. It really made me take a hard look at the media and at journalism. Before this class, I had never even seen the journalism code of ethics. What this girl did was unmistakably unethical, and the fact that her editors never took a stand and never did anything about it still makes me angry. Journalists need to seek and report the truth. How could someone do the opposite?

I think by carefully looking at my decisions and by putting myself in the shoes of those my decisions will affect are what ethics are all about. In this life, I may not always be sure I made the right decision. I may not always like the outcome of my decision. And I may not always make the popular decision. But if I do what I feel is right and I use the tools this class offered me, then I know I will be the best person I can possibly be.

Alana Davis said...

I remember distinctly making my schedule for this semester and thinking to myself, this class will just be about how to do the right thing in the work place. My view on ethics was very straightforward and until this point, very limited. I could tell someone if I thought something was right or wrong, but I couldn't tell them exactly why before this class.

Getting the first assignment on the blog, I was thrown off guard. Why was this important I thought. Probably just a get to know you question. But throughout the semester it is clear that the whole point of Media Ethics was to asses ourselves and our values and figure out why we have those values. I daresay new ones have been introduced into my store of morals.

Before the class even began and I had ordered the text, I still believed that we would be analyzing ethical mistakes and achievements in movies and the media in general. How narrowminded of me. All these dilemmas, no matter how dramatized they were for movies, were real things real journalists have to deal with everyday. I'm not a person who picks a fight, but this class taught me you don't have to pick a fight to face an ethical dilemma. These things get dropped on your plate whether you like it or not.

I espcially liked reading about the former New Paltz grad who had the fabrication problem with one of her close co-workers. That really hit home for me because it's something we face even if we're not a journalism student. In everyday life, we catch friends or family lying and causing problems because of that. I believe that my view on speaking up has also been widely changed.
In our post about courage I felt it was very cathartic to admit I had done something wrong and realized that and am now a better person because of it. I think these fundemental ethical tools are things I've acquired that many journalism students in other colleges may be lacking, and I am very grateful New Paltz has such a course.

This course also helped me see flaws I would normally be overlooking because they are so integrated in our lives. During the process of of the group project, the issue of Disaster Porn became extremely troubling for me. Because of the extensive discussions we had in class about the dilemmas facing journalists covering disasters and invading privacy, I now feel I am able to look as disasters for more than they really are. I don't think we can be nearly as empathetic as we'd all like to be towards them, but now they're more than suffering faces on the front page of a newspaper.

I have to agree with Kim on Hemmingway's quote, "What feels good after." The times I've done something unethical and my body just knows it was wrong, I physically don't feel good. I think it's sad to say that because some may constantly ignore this idea and keep up with the unethical behavior, they build up this thick shell where the ability to make a true ethical decision cannot take place. I'm glad that I am able to realize how to achieve the "what feels good after" feeling now because of this class.

Alana Davis said...

The way the class was set up also allowed for students to speak their minds comfortably. I firmly believe I have spoken more truthfully and often in this class than any other. The discussions gave me so many points of view to work from and allowed me to come to a conclusion I thought was right on my own. Originally I thought that learning the models for making ethical decisions was a matter of procedure only. I thought I knew when push came to shove I wouldn't want to take the time to use these models to make my decision. But it is so vital to do so, I know that now.

The Potter Box really helped me asses the different factors in the dilemma instead of just pointing fingers at the assumed "bad guy." The TARES model, the Bok Model, and the Veil of Ignorance are tools I'm going to take with me whether I ultimately decide to persue a future in journalism or not. The question came up repeatedly throughout the class, why is something unethical. Your gut feeling is not a good answer in the real world. Because of the different aspects of these models, I also thing I became better at arguing an ethical dilemma and looking at all the hidden factors.

Ethics is so much more than right and wrong, and I wish everyone else could see that the way I do now. Your ethical decisions have real-life consequences on real people and we tend to overlook that most of the time. I also understand the SPJ Code of Ethics so much better now. Okay, a simple code of ethics to follow, I originally thought. But delving into it deeper really allowed me to see the integrity that should be kept when deciding to take on a career in journalism or public relations. Or any other field for that matter.

Then on the other hand, the "Meghan Asleep in Ethics Class" poem is how I knew I didn't want to leave this class like. I found myself thouroughly interested in the issues we tackled during the semester and I really cannot imagine being "asleep" when it comes to ethics. To be honest, I don't know if ethics can be taught. I think they can only be suggested and you can only be given the tools and right information and once an ethical situation arises, then you will learn how ethics works. I think your ethical methods and perspectives have to slowly be acquired because they're not something you simply need to pass a test, they're for life. I can feel confident in knowing that I have the right tools to make the right decision.

This class is a requirement for a reason. We all had to answer the blog questions and participate in class for a reason, to actually have this information make a dent in our brains. I'm thankful New Paltz has such a class, and I'm also thankful I took it in my sophmore year because now that I know the inner workings of media ethics, I can more confidently step into the world of journalism. It was beyond valuable for me and taught me a lot about myself. If I could take it again, I would and I'm sure I'd learn even more than before.

Sarah Boalt said...

I have always had a concept of what is right and what is wrong, but after taking this class, it has really opened my eyes to the complexity of ethics. One blurb that caught my attention was "the terrible responsibility that comes with choosing." Choosing is a responsibility and it's a difficult one. You have to choose to be empathetic and you have to choose to put the effort in to try to make the best decision that you can. Ethics is a choice, but I think we all have an ethical responsibility to one another. It's important for people to take the time out of their lives to be an ethical person, if not to better society, to better yourself. It is a "terrible responsibility" to have to try to make ethical decisions, it requires thought, but is well worth it.

Empathy is extremely important in making ethical decisions because how can you truly consider your decision a good one if you don't at least try to put yourself into the other person's shoes. Your decision may have been what's best for you, but what about everybody else? Can you truly feel like you've done good if you don't consider how what you've done affects the other party? It is a very unselfish thing to try to practice good ethics.

Learning about prima facie duties and duty proper really put into perspective how I make the decisions I make and how I can better make them. I have to really think about what my duty proper is, not just what's best for myself or what I may think is the best decision in general. It is hard to know what your duty proper is if you don't have empathy. I think empathy is probably one of the most important things we learned in this class. Ethics is considering everyone else around you and you cant do that unless you can learn to be empathetic. No matter how much you can't identify with something, no matter how much you may not agree with them or not like them, the most important thing is to still consider them because ethics isn't about you, it's about everyone. This is a very valuable change, because while I've always considered myself to be an empathetic person, I've really learned how important that is when it comes to trying to make an ethical decision.

I think ethics is as teachable as the recipient allows it to be. You can teach ethics and it is one of the most important things you can learn, but you have to be willing to learn it. It's like the poem, you can sit in the class and the teacher can talk, but they have to put in the conscientious effort to learn it. Ethics itself is an effort and it is definitely an effort to learn. If everyone was willing to put in the effort to learn good ethics and how to make decisions, the consequences on society could be great. However, it is the effort that is the main ingredient.

pspengeman said...

My concept of media ethics were sharpened, and my concept of ethics in general was broadened. The media has been one aspect of humanity that has perpetually irked me, but taking this class specified my suspicions, and gave me the knowledge I needed to know why these faults existed. Seeing each group's case study really gave me insight on the various problems in the media today. In terms of ethics in general, learning the terms gave me a sense for how to reach ethical decisions. These types of lessons are so valuable, concepts and principles I can carry with me for the rest of my life.

I think the main thing that prompted this change was my realization of how being an ethical person is. Before this class, I contained a pretty cynical perspective on the world and society in general, thinking that "if someone is happy than it doesn't matter if they are corrupt, misguided, or ignorant." However, I've come to realize how mistaken that thought it, and through this class I learned that an ignorant, simple life is not as enjoyable as one where you provoke growth, questioning, and complicated understanding. This change has been very valuable to me, as this class has bore some of the greatest meaning so far in terms of the classes I've taken in my college career.

I think a lot of people think ethics is unteachable, simply because its affects are hard to see with any of the senses. In an age where we produce and consume vigorously, we are always seeking a difference or change that we can see, or at least distinguish. Ethics does not fall into that category. If the world was a more ethical place, one wouldn't necessarily feel it, one wouldn't necessarily see it. But they would know it, eventually. I think the lack of ethics in society is not a single problem that can be fixed, it affects different people and different situations, caused by the subtlest instances of a failure to act ethically or responsibly. Awareness, however, if the best combatant to this issue, and I feel if people knew more about what it meant to be ethical, to look outside societal restraints on how we're used to dealing with each other, than the world could be a happier place.

In reading the Afterword in our textbook's conclusion, the last few sentences sum up the most promising characteristic of this subject for me. It states, "it's good in itself, like truth or beauty, to reflect on the terrible responsibility that comes with choosing." Humans are too hard on themselves, in the grand scheme of things, we are very young in relation to Earth's existence. We are a young species, and we are still learning. Could we collectively act more ethical, more efficient, and behave in such a way where media outlets and other mediums would work in a way that was more orientated towards to goodness of the public? Probably. But what we have to realize is that for the majority of the world to obtain this awareness and knowledge it will take time. Even those in our class who were inspired by this class have only scratched the surface, there is always more to learn. But what I feel this class did was provide that initial spark of interest, and whether it carries out for a full semester or for the rest of our lives, the benefits of this experience's outcomes are greater than those before this class was taken.

Chanel Arias said...

At the beginning of the semester, I never really questioned the ethics behind anything i saw in the media. My main perception of the media as whole, was that it is corrupt. During the progression of this class, I learned that yes, the media is corrupt, but there are many reasons as to why this cycle of corruption continues and it is much more complex than what I initially thought.

Being a media production major, I definitely started off on a different foot than the majority of the rest of my classmates. Many of the topics we spoke about dealt with journalism, so many of these things I had heard about for the first time. The most I knew about undercover reporting consisted of Drew Barrymore posing as a high school student in the movie, Never Been Kissed. The most I knew about the newsroom was that Superman was a reporter. So obviously for me, this class was a huge eye opener for me.

Through the several articles and cases that we read as a class, it came to my attention that unethical actions are even practiced within the newsroom. The news which usually upholds the image as being trustworthy and reporting only the truth, many times condone unethical practices. The tricky part of this situation is that it is not just one thing that motivates these unethical actions to be carried out, it is several aspects that just push reporters to the edge; whether it be deadlines, competition, and simply just the need for a story.
After worrying about the ethics behind getting a story, the reporter then has to worry about not showing any bias when writing the story. Much of the unethical practice is done when the reporter is stressed out and this leads to making choices that some might regret.

My concept of media ethics has changed, I have noticed much of this change through the blog posts that we were assigned each week. I always thought that reporters who went undercover to retrieve a story were the brave journalists, but now I know that deception is deception whether it be for a news story or not, and deception is unethical.

In answering the blog questions, I was given the opportunity to clearly think about the several unethical instances. I believe that ethics is teachable, and the first step is looking at the root of the cause for unethical practices. As a student I feel like I am taught non stop that the media is corrupt, but no one really goes into detail or analyzes the several concepts behind the corruption. Once we are introduced to the root of the unethical practices, we are then motivated to learn how to depict what is ethical and what isn't. This can be done through the several key models and terms we are taught.

There are so many parts to the media that people don't take the time to learn about. With classes like Media Ethics, and conversations that speak about the intricacies behind the choices made in media, people will be able to gain knowledge and hopefully be inspired to spread it.

Allison said...

My concept of Media Ethics (and ethics in general) has changed completely since the beginning of the semester. I thought this class was going to be a big list of do’s and don’ts within the media, and there were a lot of good examples of what to do vs. what not to do, but there was so much more. I didn’t expect the class to go as deep as it did and to really change me as a person, but it has. At the beginning of the semester I would have fallen into the category of people who think that they are perfectly ethical. I was definitely a know it all. Everyone wants to believe that they are a good ethical person. I soon became humbled. I realized that there is a lot to learn about ethics, and what I perceived to be an ethical way of thinking could use some revisions.
In Media Ethics in particular I have gained knowledge of what is happening in the media, and how to learn from the mistakes of others and make ethical decisions in my own professional career. I found the ethical models to be helpful and maybe the only true way to be sure that, what you’re doing is ethical. The ethical model I found to me the most interesting would be W.D. Ross’s Moral Theory. I find this model to be important because it’s based on common sense. I found that, having no ranking among the Prima Facie duties is important; because it gives you the responsibility to decide which of the seven duties holds more value in that particular situation. All of the Prima facie duties are morally correct; Fidelity is to keep a promise. Reparation is to right a wrong that you have committed. Gratitude is to thank someone for something. Beneficence is to help others to improve themselves. Justice is to try and right wrongs. Self-improvement is to improve one’s self. Nonmaleficence is not to harm others. I feel that if someone fulfills the prima facie duties they are on their way to ethical decision-making.
I have found myself, when watching the news using Ross’s model and others to kind of criticize the program, I don’t do this intentionally, but sometimes it is hard not to. When I was watching the news one day they were covering the bomb scare in New York City and how the man lived in Connecticut and had Oreos and milk in his house. I automatically thought to myself, was it necessary to tell the public what the terrorist had in his refrigerator? The Bomb scare was the public’s right to know, but they took it too far with the cookies and milk, and crossed into want to know material. After that I realized that I am using what I have learned in Media Ethics in my day to day life, and I took pride in enlightening those around me as to why the story on a serious topic became sensational.
I found the “Afterword” section is the book to be relatable. I think everyone has had a similar experience. Something that at first you thought of as little and un-important, than at a second glance you realize the impact you have made, whether good or bad. The destruction of the birds nest and the little robin eggs is just another reminder of how fragile life can be, and that although overall good was intended harm was the result for the nest. This is true for many situations, where things don’t go as planned, and the feeling of guilt may arise. Even thought the situation was tragic for the nest and the eggs inside, a lesson was learned. “Failure is usually assumed to be cause for despair, but actually, it’s cause for hope-hope because we can emerge from failure wiser, less arrogant, more human.” I find myself to be a much wiser person than before, and will carry all that I have learned from Media Ethics, with me in my everyday life and into my career.

DevonP said...

My concept of media ethics definitely has changed since the beginning of the semester for many reasons. This semester, along with media ethics, I also took my first philosophy course which meshed greatly with this course. Coming into the year, the main thing I thought of with media ethics was conflict of interest. Being a journalism major, being objective is pounded into your head so I figured conflicting interests would be a main topic.

However, my pre conception was obviously way off. One of the main points I loved of the class was when we talked about truth, truthiness and truthfullness. I never really realized until we talked about these matters in class that it is impossible to discover the real truth. That is why it is so difficult to be a good, ethical journalist.

At first I didn't think this class was a critical class for journalism majors to take, but now I see why it is so important. In the beginning of the year we also discussed how the classic professions are law, medicine and academics. Journalism will never be considered a profession because of the first amendment, so to make journalism legitimate to the people there needs to be some sort of guidelines. The best way for these guidelines to be taught, I believe, is in media ethics. People mostly are taught right and wrong at a young age, but when it comes to journalism you have to think differently.

My concept of ethics has changed for the better because previously I had little knowledge of all the ethical models in which to make decisions. Also, I am well aware of ethical dilemmas that could arise in the news room. I would like to think that I would be able to deal with situations ethically, but after taking this class I realize I might have made some mistakes.

I find the veil of ignorance to be a great model for journalism students to use when assessing ethical problems. It requires you to picture everybody you are affecting with your action. That can be applied anywhere in life. The Bok model is another useful one because it stimulates discussion of a problem. I feel like for the video my group and I made, we sort of used this model in the process of making the movie without actually stating it.

Ethics can definitely be taught and absorbed by students. Of course not everyone will grasp it, but I can say that I did. I honestly never thought about the ethicality of a Pepsi commercial until this class. Not only do I now think about it, but I understand why things are unethical. Unethical activities occur in the media every day for the sake of readers, viewers and money. I can't imagine there will ever be a time where there are no sensational stories or tabloid papers. But I can imagine a time where quality, ethical, important stories occur regularly, over powering the tabloids. Media ethics got me to think about situations and try to decide what is right, and I feel like it could do the same for many people.

JustinMcCarthy said...

I think that ethics is a hard thing to teach. There aren’t any clear answers as to what’s right and what’s wrong. But I think it’s an important topic to explore because we will all inevitably find ourselves in ethical dilemmas that challenge our consciences.
I honestly think that society would benefit as a whole if students were required to take an ethics course. But at the same time, I think that ethics is something that needs constant review. Completing this course doesn’t make you a master of ethics. That was clearly illustrated by the former student we read about who made terrible ethical choices when she finally got a full-time job.
What I’ve gathered from this class is the ability to question the ethicality of any given decision. Undercover reporting didn’t really strike me as unethical before taking this class. I hadn’t questioned it or thought about the negative impacts this form of investigating could have.
But that’s one of the important things this class has forced me to do: review and evaluate the situation. The Potter Box begins with the facts for a reason. It forces one to look at all of the elements to a case before reaching a conclusion. By doing this, a decision maker is less inclined to miss an important part of an ethical dilemma. It might seem simple, but it’s one of the main things I took from this class: just think about it and question whether or not you’re making an ethically sound decision.
I think taking an ethics class is important because in this day and age, ethics are often the last thing people think about. They aren’t compelled to make ethical decisions or to even consider whether their decisions are ethical at all. And in many ways, I was no different. But I think that by learning different methods of tackling ethical dilemmas and by familiarizing myself with different scenarios where my personal ethics are tested, I am more equipped to make ethically sound decisions.

LImpagliazzo said...

I always thought I was an ethical person before taking this class. I never did anything to purposely harm anyone else, I always just strolled along doing what I was told by my superiors. I never really knew what ethics was until this semester, I mean I used the term, but not correctly apparently. Ethics had more dimensions then I knew.

I understand that since I am (hopefully) going into the Public Relations field, that I might be asked to do something that is against my beliefs. I know now, from all the decision making models we learned, that there is a way to figure out if the task is ethical or not. I know I may have to go against my beliefs to be able to provide for myself or my future family. Hopefully it will never get to that extreme.

I do agree with Kaitlyn. I always thought, as well, that if you are a good person, good things will happen to you. I always lived in my own little world, in the suburbs of Long Island, where nothing could ever harm me. It was a shock when I actually came into reality.

I believe that I have changed over this semester. For instance, when Renee Byer came to our class. Before I took this class, I would have thought "Oh these are some lovely, moving pictures." But after a few lessons on media ethics, my view changed. They were lovely pictures and they were moving, but her reasoning to take the pictures, I believe, was ridiculous. To invade someone's circle of intimacy by shoving a camera at them at such a private time, to me, is morally and ethically wrong.

Ethics is not an easy thing to teach and even harder when you only have 13 weeks to teach it. Media ethics is a harder thing to teach, I believe, because there are even more situations where you can be unethical, as a journalist or public relations professional.
It is not unteachable, but there is a lot of material to cover and debate over for a 13 week class.
Doing case studies, like our final project, helped me put our lessons to use.

There will always be people who will do anything to get ahead and there are people who will never understand the concepts of ethics. But there is hope in the world. There are students and other people who want to make a difference and want to be ethical people and make the world a semi-decent place.

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.