Media Ethics 2015 Abstracts

Open Competition
How do ads mean? A mutualist theory of advertising ethics. • Margaret Duffy, Missouri School of Journalism; Esther Thorson, Missouri School of Journalism; Tatsiana Karaliova, Missouri School of Journalism; Heesook Choi •
This gathered qualitative data about people’s responses to ads identified as ethically problematic based on guidelines and conventions established by advertising ethics critics and the FTC. It analyzed people’s responses to the ads using social constructionist, rhetorical, and dramatistic theoretical lenses. Applying Symbolic Convergence Theory, the study found significantly different communities of meaning as individuals interpreted video commercials. It suggests a new approach to studying advertising ethics.

The Press Complaints Commission is Dead; Long Live the IPSO? • Mark Harmon, University of Tennessee; Abhijit Mazumdar, University of Tennessee • The authors tally 57 monthly Press Complaint Commission complaint resolution reports, dating from January 2010 to September 2014. The sums from each category were expressed as a percentage of all 28,457 complaints. The data show that PCC was something of a paper tiger. This quantitive analysis led to a qualitative review of the ethical need for, potential best practices of, and opportunities facing the United Kingdom’s new Independent Press Standards Organization, the PCC successor organization.

Journalism Under Attack: The Charlie Hebdo Covers and Reconsiderations of Journalistic Norms • Joy Jenkins, University of Missouri; Edson Tandoc, Nanyang Technological University • The terrorist attack on the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo created an ethical dilemma for U.S. news organizations. In reporting on the attacks, news organizations had to decide whether to republish examples of the magazine’s controversial cartoons. This decision highlighted an otherwise taken-for-granted assumption — that the journalistic field is governed by a set of norms, but these norms may, at times, be at odds. This study used qualitative textual analysis to shed light on the journalistic norms involved in American journalists’ own discourses explaining their respective editorial decisions to republish or not to republish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. The resulting analysis demonstrates how a shock to the journalistic profession can challenge existing norms as well as bring new norms to light.

The Death of Corporal Miller: Omission, Transparency and the Ethics of Embedded Journalism • Miles Maguire, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh • The New York Times won acclaim for its coverage of the second battle of Falluja in November 2014. But its initial articles left out a crucial detail, that a Marine corporal was killed while aiding two of the paper’s journalists. Over four years the Times published four different versions of the death of the Marine without ever fully explaining the circumstances that surrounded the incident or attempting to reconcile the differences in its accounts. On the contrary the newspaper has refused to articulate what factors led to the withholding of information about Miller’s death, a position that is clearly at odds with its own code of conduct as well as with the growing emphasis on transparency as a cornerstone of journalism ethics. This study, based on a review of the written record and interviews with key participants, sheds new light on the ethical challenges of embedded journalism and shows how the embedding process can work to shape news accounts to support military objectives at the expense of traditional journalistic values. The paper includes an examination of the way that the military has adopted transparency as a key element of what it calls inform and influence activities, which are now identified as part of combat power. The conclusion suggests that a commitment to transparency on the part of news organizations would be a way to regain independence in battlefield reporting by embedded journalists.

Examining Intention of Illegal Downloading: An Integration of Social Norms and Ethical Ideologies • Namkee Park, Yonsei University, South Korea; Hyun Sook Oh, Pyeongtaek University, South Korea; Naewon Kang, Dankook University, South Korea; Seohee Sohn, Yonsei University, South Korea • This study investigated applicability of ethical ideologies reflected by moral idealism and relativism, together with social norms, to the context of illegal downloading. The study found that intention of illegal downloading was dissimilar among four groups of ethical ideologies; situationists, absolutists, subjectivists, and exceptionists. Injunctive norm was a critical factor that affected illegal downloading intention, yet only for situationists and absolutists. For subjectivists and exceptionists, ego-involvement played a critical role in explaining the intention.

Media Ethics Theorizing, Reoriented: A Shift in Focus for Individual-Level Analyses • Patrick Plaisance, Colorado State University • This project argues that multidisciplinary methods and work to reconsider key concepts are critical if media ethics scholarship is to continue to mature. It identifies three dimensions of a reoriented framework for media ethics theory: one that reconceptualizes inquiry at the individual level; another that situates media technology in assessments of autonomous agency and organizational affiliation; and a third that applies formalist virtue ethics as the best framework for normative claims arising from the first two.

NGOs as newsmakers: boon or bane? A normative evaluation • Matthew Powers, University of Washington – Seattle • In recent years, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have assumed a growing role in shaping – and in some cases directly producing – news. What are the normative implications of this development? Drawing on normative traditions of public communication, this paper identifies four roles NGOs are tasked with performing: expert, advocate, facilitator and critic. To date, research suggests NGOs align most closely with representative liberal and democratic participatory ideals of journalism, while marginalizing deliberative and radical traditions.

When White Reporters Cover Race: The news media, objectivity and community (dis-)trust • SUE ROBINSON, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Kathleen Culver, University of Wisconsin-Madison • When white reporters cover issues involving race, they often fall back on traditional, passive practices of objectivity, such as deferring to official sources and remaining separate from communities. Using in-depth interviews combined with textual analysis in a case study of one mid-western city struggling with race, we explore the ethical tensions between the commitment to neutrality and the need for trust building. This essay argues for an active objectivity focused on loyalty to all citizens.

An update on advertising ethics: an organization’s perspectives • Erin Schauster, Bradley University • Ethical problems in advertising continue to exist but an update on these problems from an organizational approach is needed (Drumwright, 2007; Drumwright & Murphy, 2009). Forty-five one-on-one interviews were conducted regarding perceptions of advertising ethics. Findings suggest that ethical problems exist such as treating others fairly, behaving honestly, respecting consumers’ privacy and maintaining creative integrity. The implications of creative integrity and an organizational approach as ethical relativism are presented.

Carol Burnett Award
Ethics in Design: The Public Sphere and Value Considerations in Online Commenting Development • Kristen Bialik, University of Wisconsin-Madison •
Drawing on the work of Habermas’ public sphere and discourse ethics, as well as user-interface design and Value Sensitive Design theory in technology, this paper examines whether improved online comment system policies and design can help foster a more robust form of the public sphere. The study raises larger questions of how values within traditional journalism, as well as values underpinning democratic societies, can be emphasized in the structural spaces of online public forums.

The many faces of television’s public moral discourse? Exploring genre differences in the representation of morality in prime time television • Serena Daalmans, Radboud University • This study is focused on differences between TV genres (news, entertainment & fiction) in the representation of morality on television. We conducted a quantitative content analysis, based on a sample of prime-time television programs (2012) (N = 485). The results reveal distinct differences between the genres concerning the representation of moral domains, moral themes, types of morality and moral complexity, and striking similarities regarding moral communities as beacons of moral accountability.

Moderating Marius: Ethical Language and Representation of Animal Advocacy in Mass Media Coverage of the Copenhagen Zoo Saga • Christina DeWalt, The University of Oklahoma • Ethical theory is used in this study to assess news coverage of the Copenhagen Zoo’s decision to euthanize a healthy giraffe and the subsequent public outcry regarding the animal’s death. This paper examines twenty-six print, broadcast, and radio news pieces utilizing ethical frameworks derived from the widely used philosophies of Kant and Bentham. The types of news frames deployed as well as the willingness of mainstream media outlets to expand public exposure to broader social issues related to animal captivity and welfare, and their willingness to include non-traditional sourcing in meaningful and balanced ways was examined through in-depth, textual analysis. Findings indicate that while the mass media did extend moral considerations to the nonhuman subject through implicit means, news production norms, practices, and routines continued to hinder advancement of alternative voices and expansion of social exposure to broader ethical issues inherent in the story.

Aggregation and Virtue Ethics • Stan Diel, University of Alabama • As consumers increasingly look to the Internet to find news and traditional news organizations shed jobs, the demand for original news content online has come to exceed supply. To fill the void, websites, both digital-native and those associated with legacy news media, have turned to aggregation so quickly that the practice has developed faster than both legal and ethical standards that might moderate it. While deontological systems of ethics often guide traditional media, such rule-based codes are not easily applied to digital news practices. A system of virtue-based ethics grounded in an arch-virtue of truthfulness and moderated by the virtues of fairness, non- malevolence and temperance, and a standardized definition of terms, are proposed to help guide aggregation practices.

Analysis of moral argumentation in newspaper editorial contents with Kohlberg’s moral development model • Yayu Feng, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign • This study evaluates moral reasoning stages addressed in editorial pieces regarding rape culture from two newspapers in Athens, Ohio, with Kohlberg’s Moral Development Model. An analytical system was developed based on Critical Discourse Analysis and Moral Development Theory, which contributes a new approach to investigating media moral messages. The study details the different patterns of moral reasoning stages represented in the newspapers and offers a case study of editorials’ performance as moral educators.

Peace Journalism and Radical Media Ethics • Marta Lukacovic, Wayne State University • The radical characteristics of peace journalism position it as a model that expands the current understandings of normative media theory. Hence, peace journalism echoes the most innovative calls of media ethicists such as Ward’s proposition of radical media ethics. Peace journalists and citizens have to face constraints that are posed by cultural and structural violence when attempting to reflect on international conflicts and crises in peace journalistic/conflict sensitive manner.

The point of debating ethics in journalism: consensus or compromise and the rehabilitation of common sense as a way toward solidarit • Laura Moorhead, Stanford University • Philosopher and media gadfly Habermas in the newsroom? This paper — through the frame of Habermas’s discourse ethics — highlights a path for debating ethics in journalism using rational-critical discussion, which can lead to consensus or compromise through a move from individual to collective community interests. The paper considers the rehabilitation of common sense, through emerging technology and an interdisciplinary approach. The point of debating ethics in journalism surfaces as the hope for solidarity despite increasing pluralism.

Weekly Newsmagazines’ Framing of Obesity, Responsibility Attribution, and Moral Discourses • Lok Pokhrel, Washington State University • This paper presents a study of how obesity-related health issues in the United States are represented in four American weekly magazines: Newsweek, Time, The Weekly Standard, and National Review. The paper particularly examined the media’s attribution of responsibility for the problem of obesity, that is, whether the issue constitutes an individual or collective responsibility. The paper also argues that the news media’s framing of obesity-related health issues, through the use of various discursive and framing tactics, raises ethical concerns. Through analysis of weekly news magazine discourses, the study finds two themes that raise ethical concern: the weekly publications (a) primarily discussed the problem of obesity in terms of either individual or societal responsibility; (b) highlighted the ethical concerns from appeals to both personal responsibility and a sense of obligation to promote the health of others and fulfill the duty to avoid becoming an unfair burden to others.

Toward an ethic of personal technologies: Moral implications found in the fruition of man-computer symbiosis • Rhema Zlaten, Colorado State University • The impending fruition of man-computer symbiosis suggests a shift towards society’s acceptance of human partnership with technology. Increased intimacy between humans and machines creates a need for understanding individual rights in modern society’s transmedia paradigm. This paper calls for the creation of an ethic of personal technologies; a partnership of understanding how society grew to accept the full integration of technology into daily life and the rights of each digital footprint in a computer-mediated society.

Special Call For New Horizons in Media Ethics
A Duty to Freedom: Conceptualizing Platform Ethics • Brett Johnson, University of Missouri • This
paper makes two arguments. First, the field of media ethics should incorporate ethical analyses of the relationship between digital communication intermediaries (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) and their users. Second, these intermediaries should abide by a primary duty to protect the users’ freedom to speak via their platforms, followed by a secondary duty to mitigate potential harms caused by users’ speech. The paper synthesizes theories of intermediary liability and corporate media ethics to make this argument.

The Ethical Implications of Participatory Culture in a New Media Environment: A Critical Case Study of Veronica Mars • Murray Meetze, University of Colorado Boulder • In a fast-paced media landscape where producer and consumer relationships are constantly being renegotiated, the ethical implications of this participatory culture must be addressed. This article explores current literature on participatory culture through the lens of a case study of the Veronica Mars 2013 Kickstarted film. The Veronica Mars Kickstarter provides a unique view of the strengths of audience involvement in media content production. The Belmont Report social science principles for human subject research will be utilized in this case study examination along with the ethical framework of W.D. Ross’ duty-based ethics. This analysis aims to establish tangible ethical guidelines for media industry production in an unstable media environment.

What Constitutes Good Work in Journalism Education • Caryn Winters, University of Louisiana at Lafayette • What is the good work educators –especially journalism educators –are obliged to do in consideration of their simultaneous roles as members of a democratic community and members of professional communities?Rather than focus on specific professional practices, I have chosen to emphasize the necessity for professionals –and especially those professionals who play key roles in building the democratic capacity –to understand the core principles of their professional realms. When journalists and journalism educators engage in professional activity that is informed by these principles, they have the potential to transform their professional realms and democracy.

2015 Abstracts

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