Ethics and Media
Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30-10:45 am, 194M 203
Helen Nissenbaum, Department of Media, Culture, and Communication
About the Course and Grading Policy
Media plays a significant and growing role not only in the ways in which people in society communicate with and inform one another, but as importantly in the manner in which societies reproduce social mores and reflect reality. Students who plan on pursuing careers in the media (professional and academic) will be faced with difficult choices that carry with them potent ethical repercussions, choices with which technical training alone does not properly equip them to approach in a critical and informed manner.
The purpose of this course is therefore twofold: 1) to equip future media professionals with sensitivity to moral values under challenge as well as fundamentals in critical thinking and decision making for navigating their roles and responsibilities in relation to these challenges; and 2) honing those same skills and sensitivities for consumers of media and citizens in media saturated societies. The course will focus on three of the core areas of media and communications, Journalism, Entertainment, and Advertising/PR, though with recognition that digital media has affected the scope and boundaries of these areas in important ways. These topics and their concurrent issues will be discussed with reference to fundamental ethical theories, focusing on case study development and analysis.
Case studies are drawn primarily from: Christians, Clifford G., et. al. Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning, 7th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. Supplemental readings can be found on blackboard.
Movies: Throughout the semester, students will be asked to view certain movies in preparation for class discussion and assignments. These movies will be made available at the library.
Requirements and Grading
This course assumes active participation on the part of all students. Absences without prior instructor approval may have a negative impact on students’ final grades. Throughout the semester, ad hoc groups will be formed for deliberation over case studies chosen by instructors. In addition, students will work in small groups on developing and presenting original case studies for which an ~800 word summary will be written by each student, discussing ethical ramifications. A critical analysis of a case study (~1000 words) drawn from a movie will be due toward the mid-point of the semester.
There will be brief quizzes at mid-term and end-of-term comprising short-answer questions which focus on ethics readings.
The final project will be a group poster presentation on an original case study. Discussions of the requirements and guidelines for the poster presentation will be held throughout the semester.
Unless otherwise noted, all assignments will be due at the beginning of the class period on the given due date. If this is not possible, other arrangements are to be made with the instructor prior to the beginning of the class period. Assignments turned in late will be subjected to a grade penalty of the instructor’s choosing.
Grades are assigned as follows:
Group case study and written analysis 20%
Short paper 20%
Mid-Term quiz 15%
Final quiz 20%
Poster Presentation 20%
Papers should be typed, double spaced with default margins and a legible font, and a recognized citation style. We recommend reference programs such as RefWorks (free through the library), EndNote, or Zotero (a free Firefox add-on.) Or, refer to style manuals such as The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, or online at www.internet-resources.com/writers/wrlinks-wordstuff.htm#top.
|Sep 8 ||Course Overview|
|Sep 10 ||Name Game/Case Study|
|Sep 15 ||Setting Context|
The Time-Warner Colossus CFMKW
|Newscorp buys WSJ |
|Schneewind, J.B. (1991) “Modern Moral Philosophy,” A Companion to Ethics. Ed. P. Singer. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, Inc., 147-157.
|Friedman, M. (1991) "Can Business Afford to be Ethical?: Profits before Ethics," Ethics for Modern Life, 4th ed. Eds. R. Abelson and M. Friquegnon. New York: St. Martin's Press, 313-318.
|Ten Commandments, Golden Rule
|Sep 17 ||Relativism|
Mohammed Cartoon Controversy CFMKW
|Herodotus, (1993) "Custom Is King," Moral Philosophy: A Reader. Ed. L. P. Pojman. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 20. |
|Stace, W. (1981) "Ethical Relativism," Reason and Responsibility: Readings in Some Basic Problems of Philosophy, 5th ed. Ed. J. Feinberg. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 492-497.
|Wong, D. (1991) "Relativism," A Companion to Ethics. Ed. P. Singer. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, Inc., 442-450.
|Benedict, R. (1993) "In Defense of Moral Relativism," Moral Philosophy: A Reader. Ed. L. P. Pojman. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 21-25.
|Sep 22-24 ||Ends and Means|
Dead baby photo CFBKW
|Starving child photo|
|Pettit, P. (1991) "Consequentialism," A Companion to Ethics. Ed. P. Singer. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, Inc., 230-240. |
|Mill, J. S., (1993) "Utilitarianism," Moral Philosophy: A Reader. Ed. L. P. Pojman. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 114-119.
|Bentham, J. (1993) "Classical Hedonism," Moral Philosophy: A Reader. Ed. L. P. Pojman. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 94-96.
|Sep 29 ||"Sticks and stones…” Harmful speech, privacy|
A prostitute on page 12 CFMKW
|The Mosley case |
|Glover, J. (1975) "It Makes No Difference Whether or Not I Do It," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, XLIX, 171-190.
|Gajda, A. (2009) “Judging Journalism: The Turn toward Privacy and Judicial Regulation of the Press,” California Law Review, 97(1039), 1039-1106.
|Oct 1 ||That’s entertainment|
|The People vs. Larry Flynt |
|Mill, J.S. "Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion," Utilitarianism, Liberty, and Representative Government. London: J.M. Dent & Sons LTD., 1971, 78-113. |
|Greenawalt, K. (1995) "Rationales for Freedom of Speech," Computers, Ethics, and Social Values. Ed. D.G. Johnson and H. Nissenbaum. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 664-675.
|Poole, Howard. "Obscenity and Censorship," Ethics, Vol. 93, No. 1 (Oct., 1982), pp. 39-44.
|Oct 6 ||Midterm quiz|
|Oct 8 ||Quiz review and discussion of poster project|
|Oct 13 ||Group case study|
** Yes Men Movie: Group rates available on 10/12, 10/13, 10/14 **
|Oct 15 ||The truth|
Fabrication at the Globe CFMKW
|The New York Times Fires Jayson Blair CFMKW |
|Misleading advertisements (Advertising is Good for You - On Blackboard) |
|Bok, S. (1978) Lying: Moral Choices in Public and Private Life. New York: Parthenon Books, 32-46, 267-272.|
|Kant, I. (1993) "The Foundations of Ethics," Moral Philosophy: A Reader. Ed. L.P. Pojman. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 156-175.
|O’Neill, O. “Kantian Ethics,” (1991) “Modern Moral Philosophy,” A Companion to Ethics. Ed. P. Singer. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, Inc., 175-184.
|Oct 20 ||The whole truth|
Bin Laden tapes
|The Unabomber’s Manifesto CFMKW|
|Embedded reporters (RFPK Report on Blackboard) |
|Wal-marting across the internet CFMKW |
|Davis, N.A. (1991) "Contemporary Deontology," A Companion to Ethics. Ed. P. Singer. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, Inc., 205-218. |
|Berlin, I. (1991) The crooked timber of humanity: Chapters in the history of ideas (Henry Hardy. Ed.). New York: Knopf, (1-19).
|Oct 22 ||Group case study|
|Oct 27 ||Virtuous professionals|
|CNN in Baghdad CFMKW |
|Pence, G. (1991) "Virtue Theory," A Companion to Ethics. Ed. P. Singer. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, Inc., 249-258. |
|Professional codes (samples)
|Aristotle, (1993) "Virtue Ethics," Moral Philosophy: A Reader. Ed. L.P. Pojman. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 201-211.
|Oct 29 ||Guest speaker: Pascale Thumerelle, VIVENDI|
** Short paper due **
|Nov 3 ||Nothing but the truth|
|Sontag, S. Regarding the pain of others|
|Almond, B. (1991) “Rights,” A Companion to Ethics. Ed. P. Singer. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, Inc., 259-269.
|Butler, J. Photography, War, Outrage
|Nov 5 ||Group case study|
|Nov 10 ||Persuasion and paternalism|
Thank you for Smoking CFMKW
|Violence in games CFMKW |
|Guerilla marketing CFMKW |
|Selling students CFMKW |
|DTC Advertising CFMKW |
|Nov 12 ||Representation|
|In games |
|Kafai, Y., C. Heeter, J. Denner, J. Sun, Beyond Barbie & Mortal Kombat (excerpts)|
|Rawls, J. (1995) "A Theory of Justice (excerpts)," Introduction to Ethics. Ed. Gary Percesepe. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 58-64.
|Kymlicka, W. (1991) "The Social Contract Tradition," A Companion to Ethics. Ed. P. Singer. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, Inc., 186-196.
|Frankfurt, H. (1997) "Equality and Respect," Social Research. 64(1), 3-15.
|Nov 17 ||Online tracking and targeting|
|Nov 19 ||Group case study|
|Nov 24 ||Spillover|
|Nov 26 ||Thanksgiving|
|Dec 1 ||Review|
|Dec 3 ||Final quiz|
|Dec 8 ||Poster prep workshop|
|Dec 10 ||Poster prep workshop|
|Dec 15 ||Poster session|