Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lying & Omission

Is deception by the media every justified? First of all, what exactly is deceitful? Is withholding the truth deceitful? To withhold the truth is a little different than outright lying. The media is never justified in outright and flat out lying. However, withholding truths of facts may, from time to time, be. For example, I believe that in the film "Absence of Malice" that we watched in class Megan would have been justified in withholding the information about Teresa.

Another example would be the Government's response to any hostile action by China. I'm sure that the plans in place should not be revealed to public. If somehow related information were to be leaked to a reporter or someone in the media, it would probably be best if the media recognized the importance of omission and did not report the information.

Yes, omission may be justified. But that does not mean under any circumstances. And when omission is performed, then the media needs to take care not to omit part of a story and tell the other part. Sometimes it might be better to omit the whole thing instead of part and give a false perception. To give such a false perception would be against the media’s purpose and ethics, even if what they reported was completely truth. Purposeful deception in the form of lies or other fictionalized claims or stories are not justified.

As for China, that's actually developing into an interesting story, one which my roommates and I sit around and talk about on a regular basis. Apparently the Pentagon Called Beijing a Potential Threat and there's the (Today actually) article on China Threatening Taiwan. And yes, the U.S. has actually discussed possible reactions to various situations.

Deception or Omission?

I think the word deception is hard to use to describe the NSA Wiretap situation. To me, deception is an outright lie. The definition of deception on dictionary.com is a ruse or a trick. Based on that definition, deception is NEVER justified in the media. They have no right to lie, or "trick" their audiences. That is not their job, and they will lose respect.

If we used a different word, like omission, for the stories like the NSA, then I think that yes, there are times when the media should not report some information. Threats to national security is one of those. Many may not agree that the wiretap story was a threat to security, but it is possible that the NY Times understood more than the public did about the situation, enough to know when to hold the information back. I don't know about everyone else, but I personally would choose waiting a year for the story, than gettting the story when it was first received, and having something terrible result from it. That might be a little bit exaggerated, but better safe than sorry.

Minimizing Harm

Although minimizing harm is always brought up here and there, it seems to be overshadowed by the responsibility of the press to give the truth to the public. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but I think there are definitely ways in which harm can be minimized without losing the truth of the story. Some media may be going for shock factor in their stories, but that factor can be what really causes harm to people.

As I write this, I have the publishing of pictures specifically in mind. In the SPJ Code of Ethics, it reads, "Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief." A lot of the time, the privacy of people, especially in tragic times, should outweigh the public's right to know or at least the right to know every last detail. However, it can be pretty hard to win a case if a person has been invaded of their privacy by the press. In the case of a public person, depending on the invasion of privacy, they may have to prove actual malice to win their case.

My hope is just that no matter the person, public or private, journalists still keep in mind how publication might affect a person before publishing. I'm definitely not saying to hold back information just because it hurts a person's reputation, but if a person's gone through a tragedy, he or she may not need to be reminded of it again if the public interest in the tragedy isn't huge.

GRAMA still a soft spot

As I hope all of you know, the legislator has been debating over several bills that witll restrict public access to public information.

It has been a hot button issue, especially for journalists, realizing we are the primary users of GRAMA (Government Records Access Management Act). But I am proud to say the rumor is the governor is prepared to veto. He understands the necessity of government conducting their business in public. Well done Jon!

Over the course of the last little while, journalists have been stewing about these revisions. Politicians have been stewing about them as well, but for different reasons. They were proposed mostly because of public officials didn’t think public information was meant to be the mining ground for journalists to dig up dirt on the government.

I love it when politician start complaining about this. They start to whine that journalists are so bad news oriented they forget and start to hinder the actions and purposed of government. They say we are more worried about selling our papers than we are about reporting the accomplishments of the legislator. And their solution to the problem is always the same…get rid of the journalists.

I would like to propose a different solution, and a better one I think. If politicians don’t want journalists digging up dirt on them, perhaps they should not get dirty. I think they’ve forgotten what team we are all playing for. Often, what’s good for one is going to be good for the rest of us. After all, we are all on the same team.

If you would like to read more of my opinion on the subject, check out my column tomorrow in the Utah Statesman. Once it comes out, I will try and link it to my post.

How the Blogosphere Is Disrupting the Old Media

Blogs, Wikis, and other community sites like Slashdot and Digg are beginning to change the landscape of traditional journalism...
Can you Digg what is happening to journalism?

Jeff Jarvis
Monday February 27, 2006
The Guardian

When I do my scary blogboy dance for old-media companies, I warn them that their real successor - the true media mogul of the age - is not someone they know, not someone named Murdoch, Hearst, or Newhouse. He is Kevin Rose, the scruffy geek behind Digg.com, a site where users edit the news. In him, we see the media industry of the future.
More at the link to the Guardian story.

Monday, February 27, 2006

NYT sues Pentagon over domestic spying

Mon Feb 27, 6:11 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Times sued the U.S. Defense Department on Monday demanding that it hand over documents about the National Security Agency's domestic spying program.

The Times wants a list of documents including all internal memos and e-mails about the program of monitoring phone calls without court approval. It also seeks the names of the people or groups identified by it.

The Times in December broke the story that the NSA had begun intercepting domestic communications believed linked to al Qaeda following the September 11 attacks. That provoked renewed criticism of the way U.S. President George W. Bush is handling his declared war on terrorism.

Bush called the disclosure of the program to the Times a "shameful act" and the U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation into who leaked it.

The Times had requested the documents in December under the Freedom of Information Act but sued upon being unsatisfied with the Pentagon's response that the request was "being processed as quickly as possible," according to the six-page suit filed at federal court in New York.

David McCraw, a lawyer for the Times, acknowledged that the list of documents sought was lengthy but that the Pentagon failed to assert there were "unusual circumstances," a provision of the law that would grant the Pentagon extra time to respond.

The Defense Department, which was sued as the parent agency of the NSA, did not immediately respond to the suit.

McCraw said there was "no connection" between the Justice Department probe and the Times' lawsuit.

"This is an important story that our reporters are continuing to pursue and of the ways to do that is through the Freedom of Information Act," McCraw said.

The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires the federal government to obtain warrants from a secret federal court for surveillance operations inside the United States.

But the Bush administration says the president as commander in chief of the armed forces has the authority to carry out the intercepts and that Congress also gave him the authority upon approving the use of force in response to the September 11 attacks.

Is Deception Justified?

The terrorists did not realize how much information the Administration was gleaning from their communications. To leak this information in the form of a news story deprives the government of an effective tool to protect our nation.

The NYT's decision to not publish this sensitive information at that time was the best choice they could have made. The security of our Nation could have been compromised.

In these times of Terrorism the media are justified in deceiving or witholding information that could be crucial to our National Security. Whether we approve of wiretapping or not, it is a decision that our president made in our country's best interest.

heard of a watchdog??

The media doesn't exist in this day and age to protect the government. In fact, political speech and criticism is the most protected in America. If I remember correctly, and I do, the press is supposed to be a watchdog of the government to protect citizens from intrusion such as the wiretapping.

As we wrote about our loyalties, I know many of us listed the public on or near the top of our lists. However, I don't remember seeing too many people have the government as a priority with loyalty. I believe the press's responsibility is to inform the public, especially about any known government misconduct.

In the case of the wiretapping, it's expected for the government to keep it a secret. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. The government should definitely look out for national security; it's their job. However, it's not the media's job. Although the press should, of course, keep national security in mind when making their decision, they should weigh the matter appropriately. I don't expect the press to release where our troops are located or other critical information, but with the wiretapping issue, the public's right to know seemed, to me, to outweigh the national security "crisis."

Withholding the story

It was wrong for Bush to do the wiretapping in the first place. There are still civic liberties in this country, I assume. That should not be triffled with because of terrorist attacks. Anyway, I have a lot to say on the issue of it being done in the first place but lets move on to not disclosing it.

I think the fact that it was not disclosed shows that the Bush administration knew it was wrong. If what was being done was in fact for the common good shouldn't the community know about it? It is our civilian liberties at stake so why is it being kept from us?

It was no less wrong for the Times to keep it. For the pure and simple fact that it was in the publics interest to know about it. The phones can still be tapped without peoples knowledge or a warrant, people would just know that it was going on. I don't agree with dicision not to run the story.

There are times when discression is best. For example if a lead terrorist is captured and to lure other terroritst out, it is kept hidden that the leader is in custody.

Basically I don't like it and I wish it would stop. But as the article Nancy gave us said from the Christian Science Moniter said, it will and 'democracy' in this country will go on.

NY Times decision justified

Whether or not to publish or to hold the NSA wiretapping story was a decision to be made by the New York Times alone. I’m certain that there were many factors discussed by the paper before making the decision. How can you pass up on a big story like that? Because your city was forever affected by the 9-11 attack. You want to do everything in your power (and perhaps beyond your power) to prevent another attack. This is exactly what President Bush did. The difference between the NY Times and President Bush is that Bush gets in trouble for not disclosing the fact and there can be no legal difficulties for the NY Times for not disclosing.

The White House asked the NY Times to not publish the article. If I were in the crunch of the newspaper’s decision of running the article while weighing the risks of national security and privacy in a time that there was tremendous concern about national security, I would have made the decision not to run. Waiting for a better time to run the article when the concerns are not so deep is also appropriate.

I believe that the article was delayed in the interest of national security rather than the papers own interest. In short, I applaud the decision by the New York Times to delay the printing of the article.

New blog on ethics from Poynter Online

Kelly McBride, a wise journalist, has started a new blog on ethical decision-making in newsrooms. Poynter is publishing it. I've linked it from our permanent links column (right beneath all your names, on the right). Here's the scoop:

We'd like to alert you to a new blog -- Everyday Ethics
(http://www.poynter.org/everydayethics) -- by Poynter's Kelly McBride and colleagues. The column includes
reports on ethical decision-making in newsrooms big and small, and will provide shorter, more frequently updated posts than we offered with Ethics Journal.

You'll find the new column here: www.poynter.org/everydayethics, and you can sign up to receive it as an e-mail newsletter (whenever new items are posted) here:
www.poynter.org/subscribetoeverydayethics. Soon, we'll also offer Everyday Ethics by RSS as well.

Why ethics matters so much

Couple of days ago I posted this, asking for your thoughts, and have noted a profound silence. In the meantime, Arthur Silber has thundered forth with a fine and pithy opinion on the subject:

Getting Our Hate On: Now We Are (Almost) All Michelle Malkin

"[A]s has been the case with every major controversy in the post-9/11 cultural atmosphere, the legitimate questions about the port deal are not the meat of the matter. They are not where this game is being played. The Newsweek story of last year was not about "press irresponsibility," although that was the excuse used to justify completely illegitimate attempts to intimidate the media into reporting nothing but "good news." And the entirely phony Mohammed cartoon controversy is not about freedom of the press -- but that is the cover used to stoke the fires of racial hatred and to make the very dangerous notion of a "clash of civilizations" appear to be genuine. See this follow-up post for more on the propaganda purposes served by the cartoon controversy.

So. What do you think? (Note: There's a COMMENT link at the bottom of this post.)

Sunday, February 26, 2006


So I also missed the post about loyalty and would like to comment on it now.

I believe that journalist should be loyal to the public. It is their job to report truthful stories to their readers. Journalist remain loyal by publishing stories that their readers what to know about. Like someone already mentioned, they do this even if it is not safe or easy for them. Although they work for the people, I think that it might be easy for them to forget that. They also have a loyalty to their publisher and editor. They are relied on by these people.

Individuals in public relations should remain loyal to their companies. They should stand by them and make them look good when possible. It is their job to report the positives about the company and when something negative happens, they help the company get passed it and keep them in a postive light.

Although I am not headed in a career as a journalist, but instead a teacher, I believe that I will also have loyalties. I must be loyal to the school I work for, my students, their parents, and other educators. I can not think of one job in which loyalty should not be a high priority.


There are a lot of ethical issues surrounding the NY Times wiretapping story. Protecting sources, right to privacy, national security, government power and so on.

I believe deception by the news media would be tricking or lying the audience into believing something else. A reporter has a role to report accurate information, deception is never justified. I don't believe the NY Times was being deceptive, they were holding the story to protect themselves and their sources. Being summoned by the President and the White House not to publish a story would be a frightening situation for anyone to be in. Holding the story for a year was a justifiable act, the reporters were protecting the NY Times', themselves and were pressured by the government to do so. In the end they were able to get the job done and provide an account of what had happened.

Protecting Sources in the Internet Age

Earlier this month, the Washington Post ran an interview with a shadowy young hacker who breaks into insecure computers and harnesses them to run a variety of money-making projects like distributing E-Mail spam for his clients.

The story in the Washington Post was carefully written to avoid giving away the identity of the hacker. There were sketchy descriptions of the otherwise unnamed small town where he lived.

The story also included a photograph of him in shadows, so that his face could not be seen.

But there was something else about the photo that the editors of the Washington Post neglected to reckon.

Photographic images stored in digital format contain embedded text annotations (called metadata) that are used to help organize and classify libraries of digital images. Some of the metadata is inserted automatically by the digital camera. Some of the metadata is inserted manually when images are run through PhotoShop. Photo journalists routinely add such annotations to help them keep their image libraries sorted out. In this case, the metadata included the name of the small town in Oklahoma where the photographer had taken the original picture.

Someone who knew about metadata in digital images opened up the photo from the Washington Post's story (as posted on the newspaper's website) and examined the metadata. That was enough to complete the missing parts of the picture. The Post hasn't confirmed whether the sleuthing is accurate. They are remaining mum.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A failure of the press?

William J. Bennett is the Washington fellow of the Claremont Institute and a former secretary of education. Alan M. Dershowitz is a law professor at Harvard. Their jointly written essay, published Thursday in the Washington Post, says American's free press has surrendered after the latest volley. Here's an excerpt:

What has happened? To put it simply, radical Islamists have won a war of intimidation. They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists -- their threats more than their sensibilities. One did not see Catholics claiming the right to mayhem in the wake of the republished depiction of the Virgin Mary covered in cow dung, any more than one saw a rejuvenated Jewish Defense League take to the street or blow up an office when Ariel Sharon was depicted as Hitler or when the Israeli army was depicted as murdering the baby Jesus.

So far as we can tell, a new, twin policy from the mainstream media has been promulgated: (a) If a group is strong enough in its reaction to a story or caricature, the press will refrain from printing that story or caricature, and (b) if the group is pandered to by the mainstream media, the media then will go through elaborate contortions and defenses to justify its abdication of duty. At bottom, this is an unacceptable form of not-so-benign bigotry, representing a higher expectation from Christians and Jews than from Muslims.

While we may disagree among ourselves about whether and when the public interest justifies the disclosure of classified wartime information, our general agreement and understanding of the First Amendment and a free press is informed by the fact -- not opinion but fact -- that without broad freedom, without responsibility for the right to know carried out by courageous writers, editors, political cartoonists and publishers, our democracy would be weaker, if not nonexistent. There should be no group or mob veto of a story that is in the public interest.

When we were attacked on Sept. 11, we knew the main reason for the attack was that Islamists hated our way of life, our virtues, our freedoms. What we never imagined was that the free press -- an institution at the heart of those virtues and freedoms -- would be among the first to surrender.

Are they right? What do you think? Please use the comment button beneath this post to post your opinion.

The NSA's MP3 collection.....

This story makes me laugh. Being a conspiracy theorist, this whole deal is rather small. If what I currently understand about the contracting of tapped phone calls is true, the british company that the NSA contracts with, monitors all phone calls in the US.

But, to the topic at hand, not my crazy delusions.

I feel that the press should never decieve the public. To define deception in my mind, I believe deception to be lying and making up information. If the media has highly sensative information, it's better for them to just not say anything than to lie about it.

The White House must have presented the NY Times with some solid evidence to keep them from printing this story. I hope that they did, because this is big news. The whole situation is a repeat of the Pentagon Papers, and I think it is respectable that they worked together instead of taking it to court. So I stand by the NY Times, and I think they had good reasons to hold the article for a tear.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Shattered Glass

I also thought that Shattered Glass was a good movie, not one that I would choose to own, but one that is worth watching, especially in the setting presented to us. There were many ethical issues that can be discussed, especially with Glass and his fictional articals. Now, fictional articles are not in and of themselves bad, but to present them as true does bring up some difficulties. Maybe he thought that he wasn't really hurting anybody, but the whole story about the political convention and the mini bars really could have damaging effects, not on individuals who were of course fictionalized, but on the parties involved and their associates. It is also important to take into account the magazine, and those whose jobs might be compromised by such lies. Innocent as it may have seemed to him and to some others, it was wrong and very potentially damaging.
Another point that I found interesting was the "political" problem with disciplining Glass becaus he was so well liked. He had done wrong, but was that to be overlooked because of the good rapport he had with his fellow employees in order to keep them happy. I would have to disagree with that line of thought and say that what he did was indeed wrong and merited punishment even before finding out about all the other stories. I would hope that such dishonesty in the media would be returned with just punishment.

Is it something we said, boss?

Thanks to Prof. Ted Pease's Word of the Day for this quote:

"America loathes the White House press corps.
This is especially true when the journalists
preen for the television cameras, yell at the
press secretary to achieve a dramatic effect, act
bratty and petulant, appear openly disrespectful
to the president and the vice president and
generally behave like unruly five-year-old
children playing in a sandbox."

--Jon Friedman, columnist, MarketWatch,
reviewing journalists' confrontations with White
House Press Secretary Scott McClellan over the
Cheney hunting accident, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Media Ethics: Into the pot, already boiling...

Media Ethics: Into the pot, already boiling...
I couldn't believe this story. I remember watching half of it on an airplane somewhere, but I didn't think it was a true story.

I frist have to say that I liked how they filmed it. You said in class that they did it from the Friends and coleages point of view and it was very fitting. You get to see the lies unravel right in front of you.
I personally liked all the quotes that Glass was spouting off through out the film. "we have an obligation to keep our facts straight." , "a great editor defends his writers","if you don't have it cold you don't turn it in", "You're taking their word against mine?" all of these were so... I was just angered when they were coming out of his mouth. what was so shocking was that Glass knew exactly what he was doing. There was no way that he made a misstake or goofed up. He just lied and didn't care as long as he wasn't caught. That is so crazy to try and comprehend for me.

one of my favorite parts of the movie was when chuck was talking to the 'girl friend' and said "we're all going to make an apology come monday morning for what we let happen." I like that he took on the responsiblity and realized they should have caught this, "It's indefensable what we let happen." They should have know about that 'hole' in the fact checking. It was neat to look and compair and contrast Chuck and Steve. How one was a 'real' journalist and cared about the story, public and what he was writing and the other was about pleasing people and intertainment. weird how our news seems to be bending toward the later of those two.

over all it was an interesting story to watch. I am glad we could take a look inside a situation like that.

A Fork in the Road

Is it ever acceptable for a journalist to deceive? Well, most certainly. In fact, my policy is truth is never the, um, best policy...um...yeah? No, no. In all seriousness, I have grown up knowing how important honesty is, but I've also grown up knowing that sometimes you just have to lie. Yep. If I didn't want to go to school one day, of course I lied.

In my mind, deceiving is different. Deceiving, although associated with such terms as betrayal, is something done that does NOT necessariliy cause harm to another. So sometimes deceiving is necessary. Fabricating in a story, not acceptable. But one example of deceiving may be hiding some information from your editor about a story, like a quote from an individual. It doesn't hurt anybody. Am I clear? I feel like I'm rambling. Basically, I guess deceiving is okay in certain circumstances. Make sure there will be no victims and that it's absolutely necessary.

Now, let's apply this to the wiretapping incident. Does it hurt anybody? Not physically, but I imagine people were pretty shocked when it came out that it had taken an entire year. In this case, I do not find it acceptable.

Let's have good role models in the media!

Calvin & Hobbes do journalism ethics too, did you know that? Here's Calvin expounding on the subject of cartoons.

University Budget Cuts

I read this morning in the Herald Journal that Utah's institutions of higher learning took a huge hit on Tuesday on Capitol Hill when the legislative budget recommendation for higher education was reduced to a fraction of the original request.

The higher education subcommittee recommended a 26.4 million budget to help universities in the state with operating budgets and faculty retention. Legislators were thinking of a number closer to 4.1 million!

Eight out of 10 University presidents cruised to Salt Lake City to voice that disappointment. Why the cut? Utility bills are sky high. Heating the buildings and keeping the lights burning are a costly necessity. We students get to dig a lot deeper into our pockets to gain an education. Some programs may be scaled down or cut. The focus remains on elementary and secondary education funding. Sure...the little kids need to know their "three R's....reading, writing, and arithmetic"...plus a whole lot more. But getting a degree at a University is also becoming increasingly difficult. Will gaining a higher education only be for the gifted and the rich? Higher education obviously doesn't rank too highly right now in Utah. I hope my taxpayer dollars are well-spent. These legislators are well payed to figure out this money mess. And please....don't raise my taxes too.

Please...Lay the Politics to Rest!

On February 7, 2006 Correta Scott King, wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., was memorialized at a church service that lasted six hours! A fitting service might include family, a close circle of friends, and multi-faithed clergy that had worked over the years with Mrs. King. But Nooo! Make room for the politicians too. The funeral brought out the president and three of his predecessors as well.

President Bush's remarks found the right tone as did his father's remarks (or so I thought). But you knew there was trouble when Bill Clinton brought his wife to the pulpit. Why would a senator from New York be included in the program which was meant for presidential speeches? Bill made reference to the past democratic presidents that were present and hinted about Hilary's prospective presidential run. The congregation obliged by cheering! At a funeral!

Jimmy Carter (who likes to bash his Republican successors) made a cheap comment about how the FBI wiretapped and monitered Martin Luther King's activities. His comments about "surveillance" were meant to embarrass President Bush. At a funeral!

Rev. Joseph Lowery, a long-ago associate of Martin Luther King Jr., also used this nationally televised forum to stir up the political pot by chewing out the present administration's attitude toward the poor people of America and by slamming the whole idea of the war in Iraq! At a funeral!

It sounds like I'm leaning on the Democrats. Maybe I am. But is nothing sacred anymore? A funeral is not the appropriate setting to bash anyone (Republican or Democrat.) A memorial service need not be politicized! Mrs. King deserves better.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wowza, that was a good show.

So I just watched the movie Shattered Glass and I just loved it.

I thought it was so amazing how he could just lie and lie and lie and lie. Even when he was bold faced confronted about one of his lies he instantly popped up with another one. Glass absolutely refused to admit he'd lied.

If Glass isn't interested in being a journalist he'd be a good sociopath, serial killer or car salesman.

I thought it was awesome of him to say that all of his sources were fictional and fictional people don't write letters to the editor. Fictional people do however write faxes and make shotty websites when they need to.

When it showed 60 Minutes' interview with Chuck, Glass' editor, I agree with Chuck when he said if Glass said the sun was shining he would immediatly check with two other people.

Glass was so fabulous in his lies that it ruins his credibility for life. It's relevant to me saying Glass could be a serial killer. I don't care what he says you don't ask Ted Bundy to babysit. Bundy might tell you he is sorry etc. but I'm not trusting Bundy with my kids and I certainly won't trust Glass with my news.

He cried on his friends' shoulders and continued to lie to their faces. It's hard to trust a man, let alone a journalist, after that. Glass would, however, make a good lawyer and I wish him the best of luck in that.

Not that anyone cares but I give the movie an A. I even like how it ended up that his talking to the high school class was fake. I was thoroghly disgusted and entertained and I loved it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Trick or Truth!

Okay, this may seem like a little bit of a trivial thing, or it may just make me seem like an idiot, but I figure that any news article that leaves me searching the internet like this one deserves some attention.

Before reading the rest of my post, take 45 seconds to read this article related to the U.S. Outsourcing.

Finished reading it? No? Oh, well, here’s the link again.

Okay, now you've actually read it? Good. So maybe you're not like me, but at the end of the article I was left wondering "Is this for real, or is this just some spoof article that's meant to make fun?" I thought it was just a spoof, but there was no obvious disclaimer, such as "Andy is a Humorist writing spoof news Articles for Newsweek" at the very bottom of the page. I mean, sure, it's classified as "Humor" on MSNBC and "Satire" by Newsweek, but sometimes there's a lot of truth to what's meant to be humor.

So I thought "Maybe on the guy's webpage, The Borowitz Report, there might be a biography or something." Nope, nothing.

After some searching, I found this page on Amazon, which describes his book. Using your browser, search for "fake journalist" (which appears just above "Product Details"). That's the type of conclusive disclaimer that I was looking for.

So my ethics issue here is this - some of the more serious sounding and legit looking humor pages should have a better disclaimer. I could easily see some gullible fool being completely taken by that article, even though it was not meant to be taken as such. Do we really want people like that running around talking about the "horrible article about U.S. outsourcing" that they read from a very reliable source, such as MSNBC? These things need to be better marked. After all, we do live in a world in which firewood is marked as "Warning: Flammable!"

The satire article above is making fun of President Bush outsourcing Port Secutiy, which is a real story.... or at least, I've been fooled! This article mentions Dubai, which has some interesting things going on in it. Check out a Google Image Seach, or look at the World's Fanciest Hotel (Burj al-Ara), read about Dubai on Wikipedia, look at The Palm Islands or The World Islands websites.

The prince's personals...


I find it rather disturbing when a news agency publishes information that is personal, and illegally obtained. Just because the person involced is a public person, they have no right to print a story based on stolen material.

While it is perfectly understandable that people who hold a public interest are obviously more newsworthy; they should still have an expected level of privacy. This act no different than a camera crew planting a camera in Prince Charles' bedroom and then broadcasting it over the 6 o'clock news. I understand that it wasn't the The Mail that stole the diary, they did publish the diary, knowing it had been stolen.

I can see no other ethical reason to publish the contents of the diary. I see no loyalties to anybody but the writer himself and the company that hired him.

Troubled journalists...

I was thinking about Glass as well. How can a person have so little self respect to attach their name to items they made up? If he were a fiction writer he would have been wonderful. He had an amazing imagination. But he was not. He was a journalist assigned to report the facts. He knew that but still he lied. I consider it lying because he was told to tell the truth and he didn't. If he were writing fiction he could do that.

It angered me that when he was interviewed he was so smug. It was like he didn't care he had gotten caught. He only wanted publicity. It was sad when he said he was apologizing on national television to the people he deceived. And only after five years. I agreed with the older gentleman that called him a worm. I would want to never see him again either.

I am so angered that he can now write about his experience and make money. I was pleased to hear that not many people bought his book. It serves him right.

Just one thing that bothered me. If he was so messed up about his lying then how can he pin point when he started. If he consciously did it he could. Therefore I think he did it on purpose and now is trying to cover his tracks. He thought he was so smart that he could get away with it and he wasn't. Now he has to find a way to make himself look like a victim when he isn't.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cheney Schmeney

As for the big Cheney story...
So what if there was a delay in the story to the press? I really don't believe that 2% of the public cares that the White House press did not get the story before a day had gone by. Is the Washington press upset that a local news media got the story first? I honestly believe that the media is serving their own egos more than the public interest.

Would the White House press rather have the man lie bleeding in the weeds until after a press conference was held? When the time was right for the story to go to the public, it was done as truthfully, honestly, and fairly as you could probably ask for – what more can the media or the public want?

Now, this is not to say that Cheney or the White House did everything correct and above board either. But no matter how they would have handled it, the press would have had a heyday. As for Cheney's involvement in the matter, should the media crucify him for an accident? I believe that they should first review the definition of the word accident in Websters.

If this weeks blog sounds like a rant rather than an objective view, I suppose it is – similar to what the press is appearing to do. I’m sure that’s not really true, but I truly think that is what a lot of the public thinks.

Fiction in the news: the death of journalists

In regards to the Stephen Glass issue, I have been thinking about it all week and the only thing I can come up with is "Gosh! I'm embarrassed!" Above all things journalists have been known to let slide a little, I am most hurt that truth and accuracy are among them. This wasn't simply an error in judgment or a misprint. The reporter wasn't conned or tricked. He simply decided the truth was something he could fudge on here and there, which eventually turned into something he could create all on his own.

They were great stories. He was one heck of a fiction writer and if he would have started out that way, I think he could have done really well for himself. But as writers, they only thing that keeps us in business is our credibility. Once you lose that, you better have nothing else to say because no one is going to listen to you.

I consider myself to be a fairly mellow person. I am not easily angered. But I have been captured by a straightforward desire to slap Glass, and others like him, across the back of the head and scream "You idiot! Do you know what you've done?" As an up and coming journalist, my job has just become twice as hard, if I can even get one. Think of how much more cautious editors will be of young reporters. Think of how much harder kids like me will have to work just to get our foot in the door. And once we get there, our learning curve has disintegrated. Perfection now. News can afford no mistakes. Then we will be the ones circling our excess comas--writing our notes in our own blood. That is the result of fiction is the news. Yes, it hurts the public, but it kills the journalists.

A few thoughts on loyalty

So I wasn't paying attention and I missed last week's topic post. But I do have something to say about it...

Journalists must be loyal to the people. Without that, what right do they have to say they are working in the best interest of the public or claim the people have the right to know therefore they have the right to report? I would say, for the most part, journalists would tell you this is where their loyalties lie. They are working for the people and sometimes this means sticking out their necks a little, sometimes into places they wish they wouldn't have gone, sometimes into trouble, danger, and disasters, sometimes into sadness, pain, and disappointment, sometimes into the happy moments.

This isn't always a glamorous job. Journalists are not the most respected and beloved people. But they are trying to keep everyone honest, thus working in behalf of the people. If journalists lose that focus, they lose their purpose.

However, it is important to remember even though journalists technically work for the people, that doesn't make them separate from the people. At this point, a journalist is rarely treated as anything but more than a private person. They have no special rights, privileges, or protections not already allotted to all citizens. If they want information, they have to file a request under FOIA or GRAMA to get it. They have to stand behind the yellow tape at crime scenes. If they want a story told, they have to go to the source, ask the questions, and dig for the truthful answers. Any person would have to do the same if they wanted the truth.

The thing that separates journalists from the rest of the population is the fact that they are willing to do those kinds of things--dig up the information, tell the stories and publish them--so everyone doesn't have to do it for themselves, a job which has a tendency to put them in the bad egg basket along with the other underlings of society--lawyers.

Journalists should be held to standard. They should be accountable for mistakes they make. But let's not sit them on the chopping block. Remember who they are working for...


I've been reading in the paper over the weekend about the riots in Europe and Africa over the cartoon portraying Muhammad as a terrorist. I don't agree with the cartoonist standpoint but the riots are ridiculous.

The Da Vinci Code,by Dan Brown, insinuated that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. Many Christians were offended by this and urged people not to read the book. There were, however, no riots. No bounties were placed on Dan Brown's head - as far as I know at any rate. Christians may not have liked it but it was in fact Dan Brown's story and he had a right to print it.

The cartoonist had every right to give that view of the Muslim prophet. Muslims do not have to like it, but that does not justify riots that hurt other people and certainly not a bounty on the cartoonist's head.

These riots are illogical and counter-productive. Their prophet was portrayed as a violent terrorist. In reaction some Muslims have become violent. If some Muslims are mad about Muhammad being portrayed as violent they shouldn't be violent themselves. Riots prove the cartoonist's point in my opinion.


Just a reminder to those of you who attended class last week, and a heads-up for you who did not:

Because we have two February/Monday holidays (Presidents' Day and MLK Day), the university requires we teach Monday classes on Tuesday this week. This means that tomorrow night is really not Tuesday in the eyes of USU, it's Monday -- which means we don't have class tomorrow, since some actual Monday class most likely has dibs on our classroom.

This also means that your second film commentary (Shattered Glass) won't be due until we meet next week. So, you have a week of grace on that assignment.

For those of you who weren't in class last week when we discussed this, your commentary should expand on the message of the movie and connect it with events from your own experience as well as philosophies of ethics. Recapitulations or reviews of the movie's plot will not be accepted as commentary.

money or values?

I recently read an article about Yahoo, Google, Cisco, and Microsoft, and their business in China. Congress called their actions despicable because they are complying with their laws and allowing information to be blocked and censored. The companies are all trying to get a hold in China because it is an "internet gold mine" and they could get a lot of business and money from them. But they have to comply with the Chinese laws to be able to stay there...which means censorship. So here is the question.....

Do they stay out of China because it goes against the U.S. values of the free flow of information? Or do they try to stay because it is good for business?

It seems like an easy answer, but as a leader in that company, would it really be that easy? They could make a lot of money in China.

In my opinion, those companies make enough money without China. They aren't going to go under if they don't have that business. So even though they may not get as much money as they would like, is it really worth giving up something that is suppposed to be so highly valued in our country?

what do you think?

Current Journalism Ethics Issue: Controversial Cartoons

I think the response to Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad has been really interesting for two reasons. The first is the amount of violence and threats of violence from the radical muslim world in response to the pictures. The second is the condemnation the Danish newspaper has come under. The Society of Professional Journalists has released an interesting statement about the controversy on their website.

Society of Professional Journalists Statement

The cartoons were originally published in the paper after the Danish author of a children's book about Muhammad could find no one to illustrate his book. The newspaper Jyllands-Posten picked up the story out of interest as to whether artists were sensoring themselves out of fear of reprisal, since in the Islamic religion any drawing of Muhammad is considered blasphemous. They published 12 cartoons featuring Muhammad in their paper. The cartoons were not meant to insult; they were a reaction to a rising number of cases of self-censorship, a statement about, or test of, freedom of the press in Denmark. You can see some of the 12 cartoons on the website of The Brussels Journal.

Muhammad Cartoons

I think this is a really important ethics issue because although it seems wrong, or at the very least in very poor taste, to publish something blatantly offensive to members of a certain religion, it seems even more wrong to NOT publish something out of fear of reprisal. The Danish newspaper seems to have hit on what probably should be the fundamental ethics question here: Are journalists and those in the media tip-toeing around anything offensive to Muslims out of fear of reprisal? It's interesting that some of the Muhammad cartoonists have had to go into hiding, and the newspaper is now being protected by securtiy guards.

At the same time, according to The Brussels Journal,
"...[I]n Brussels a young Muslim immigrant published a poster depicting the Virgin Mary with naked breasts. Though the picture has drawn some protest from Catholics (though not from Western embassies, nor from the bishops), this artist need not fear being murdered in the street. On the contrary, he is being subsidised by the Ministry for Culture."
There seems to be a double standard here.

Although the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists states that journalists should, "treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect," "examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others," and "avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status," I don't think that the Jyllands-Posten acted unethically. They were well within their rights of freedom of speech, and quite frankly, I think they made a good point.

Okay, my links aren't working, which isn't surprising since I'm computer handicapped.
The websites are, so you can get there manually,
for Professional Journalists statement: http://www.spj.org/news.asp?ref=548
for Cartoons: http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/698

Sunday, February 19, 2006


I was reading the paper this week and saw the Indiana abortion bill. It peaked my interest and I found out that the bill they are trying to pass would give Indianapolis one of the furthest reaching abortion consent laws in the country. One of the big uproars about it is mixing church and state and infringing on the doctors first amendment rights.
this bill would require doctors to tell women that life begins at conception. They would also receive info about the abortion procedure and to be informed in writing that "human life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm." The Indiama bill would also have the women know that the fetus might be able to feel pain. Indiana is one of 29 states with "informed consent" laws. The house Republican rep. Tim Harris said that, "We in no way infringe on a woman's right to an abortion."
I don't think this is a conflict with church and state. I think that it gives the women needed information. I think the better we know and understand a situation the better choices we can make.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

What can a liar or two do to an entire profession? What can we do to stop them?

While watching "Shattered Glass," I kept thinking, "Why would anyone think they could keep lying without getting caught?" This especially applies to journalists. Media professionals who are dishonest lie to such a large number of people that someone is bound to notice. Then I realized, maybe people just assume journalists are making things up these days.

In a movie review for the Miami Herald, Rene Rodriguez argued that society may have lost its faith in people in general and journalists in particular. He refered to instances after the Jayson Blair scandal when people whom Blair had written about said they didn't worry about the truthfulness of the stories because they thought it was normal behavior for newspapers.

Rodriguez partially blamed this behavior on society saying, "By retelling Glass' pathetic tale, Shattered Glass Reminds you how our culture's emphasis on success and stardom in any field -- and the betrayal of ethics to attain them -- has a cumulative, corrosive effect on society, no matter how small the stage may be."

The movie and article raised many questions. Who is to blame? In the end, men such as Glass and Blair are responsible for their own actions, but should other people have paid more attention? Is everyone responsible for holding journalists to a certain standard?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Science Reporting and Religion

On the subject of loyalty, how would you report a story in which scientific results conflict with religious beliefs?

This is far from a hypothetical exercise.

Consider, for example, this current story from the Los Angeles Times...

Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted

DNA tests contradict Mormon scripture. The church says the studies are being twisted to attack its beliefs.

By William Lobdell
Los Angleles Times Staff Writer

February 16, 2006

From the time he was a child in Peru, the Mormon Church instilled in Jose A. Loayza the conviction that he and millions of other Native Americans were descended from a lost tribe of Israel that reached the New World more than 2,000 years ago.

"We were taught all the blessings of that Hebrew lineage belonged to us and that we were special people," said Loayza, now a Salt Lake City attorney. "It not only made me feel special, but it gave me a sense of transcendental identity, an identity with God."

A few years ago, Loayza said, his faith was shaken and his identity stripped away by DNA evidence showing that the ancestors of American natives came from Asia, not the Middle East.

"I've gone through stages," he said. "Absolutely denial. Utter amazement and surprise. Anger and bitterness."

For Mormons, the lack of discernible Hebrew blood in Native Americans is no minor collision between faith and science. It burrows into the historical foundations of the Book of Mormon, a 175-year-old transcription that the church regards as literal and without error.


More at the link.

Playing it safe?

Media Run or Report?

Jen raises the issue of how much journalists should risk to do their jobs, in her "Run or Report" post.

The Committee to Protect Journalists tracks these statistics. You may be surprised at the number of journalists who've died in the line of duty.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

breaking news too soon...

How do your ethical news values stack up? Is accuracy really at the top?

I was thinking about the recent Cheney mishap of the quail hunting and how slow the news traveled. Cheney has been getting a lot of flack about the time it took for the news to be delivered to the media.

"I thought that made good sense because you can get as accurate a story as possible from somebody who knows and understands hunting," Cheney said. "Then it would immediately go up to the wires and be posted on the Web site, which is the way it went out. I thought that was the right call. I still do."

The extra time it took for this story to reach the public may have been worth it in my opinion, so far I haven't seen any discrepancies among the facts.
click here to read a full article of Cheney's mishap

On the other end of the spectrum we have the mining accident that made breaking news in January 2006 and was inaccurately reported. It is better to spend those few extra minutes to verify the facts and stick with accuracy as an ethical news value. click here to read about An Accident's Aftermath

RE: Ethics and political cartoons

Media Ethics and political cartoons

Good point to consider, from the Toronto Star:

The atheist and the moderate Muslim:
When it comes to taking offence, we all need to do some growing up

"If being offended is such a necessity to your enjoyment of life or your sense of self, think about the censorship you implicitly advocate. Consider that you may not be the one who gets to decide what is offensive and should be banned. Maybe it will be me. I guarantee you wouldn't like it."

Commentary on Cheney Story

The Christian Science Monitor has a good analysis by Linda Feldmann on the media feeding frenzy over the Cheney story...
Right or wrong, the White House press corps has behaved like a dog with a bone over the story of Vice President Cheney's hunting accident.

Run or Report?

"The Society of Professional Journalists is grieved that an attack on a crusading Mexican newspaper near the Texas border has silenced its investigative reporting on drug traffickers." -from the SPJ website

What do you guys think of that? I know it's not necessarily ethical, but would you run from the story in the face of danger or would you go for it. I honestly don't know what I would do. I suppose it would depend on the issue, right? In this case, I'd probably run.

A few years ago Daniel Pearl, a reporter, was shot for doing his job. He's not been the only man killed in the line of duty, but in the field of journalism, it's doesn't occur often. In this instance, I don't think I would have been there in the first place, but in teh case of the drug trafficking, I don't think I would be able to resist trying to dig up a little more dirt here and there, even if was a bit dangerous.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

How many people get hurt when journalists lie?

What can you say about a trusted professional who makes stuff up and publishes it as fact? Salon's Jack Shafer has something to say about that.

The Jayson Blair Project: How did he bamboozle the New York Times?
A journalist's loyalties should be to the public. A journalist writes for them, and there is an unspoken agreement that journalists will inform the public of what they "need" to know. A lot of times this need to know is really more of a want, but that's for another post.

Another aspect of this loyalty is that journalists should print the truth. In order for the public to be able to trust what a journalist says, all journalists need to do their best to uncover the truth of a story and print it accurately.

Public relations practitioners owe loyalty to their clients. A person in PR needs to look at the needs of a client and fight to help fill those needs. Although the loyalty is for a different group, truth is still important. If publics can't trust a PR practitioner, than that person is worthless to clients. However, a PR practitioner doesn't have the responsibility to inform the public of all of a client's dealings. There is a balance that each practitioner needs to determine on a case by case basis.

Loyalty is an important value to me both personnally and professionally. Loyalty can often determine a person's actions. When I make decisions, I often consider the people involved and how the decision will affect each person. I usually determine what I will do by deciding which person or group of people I owe my loyalty to.


I think it is a tie between their publishers or editors and the public. It should truly be the public but how can a journalist keep their job if they go against the superiors? It is most likely they would get fired. However they should have their first priority to inform the public. Again if they do not inform the public well enough they could lose their jobs.
They have to balance very carefully on a teeter-tater. They are in the middle and the public is on one side with the publishers and editors on the other. If one side is catered to more then the journalist crashes off.

PR Practioners:
Their loyalty is completely with the company or organization that hired them. Their goal is to inform people about the good sides of the company and not the bad. They must tell the truth about the company but maybe not all of the truth. They only have to tell the good truth and not the bad. They are on a merry-go-round of the company. It starts slow for them to get on but their information helps keep the company going and succeeding. If they do not keep total loyalty to their company and step a foot off the merry-go-round, they will fall off and probably lose their jobs.

It is different for journalists and PR practitioners. They have different loyalty dilemmas. I believe professional loyalty is important but not more than personal loyalty. For example, if a reporter writes something about a local political group that gets published. However, her editor took out some facts and quotes that would have made the politicians look good, what should she do? She has to be loyal to her editor or get fired but she believes more in the loyalty to inform the public of the truth to the best of her ability. She quit and will not work for her again. Luckily she had that option but journalists don't always.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Loyalties & The Media

I am in agreeance with just about everybody in that the media's loyalties should lie with the public. But the question is, what public? To a nation's public? To the world public? Speaking of which, here's the latest scoop on the Danish Cartoon of the Muslim Prophet.

I think that the recent fiasco with the Danish cartoons is a great example that the media sometimes has to think on a very large scale. I believe that they owe their loyalties to the public of the world. But does the truth vary from country to country?

For example, was the propaganda in WWII in the US justified? Most people would agree that the Nazi's weren't exactly the nicest people in the world. But our view of them at the time I'm sure was very different than their view of themselves. Wikipedia has an excellent page on The History of Propaganda

So there must be a line between loyalties to your nation's public and the public of the world. Is the truth really the truth in this case? I believe that there is a difference between the nation and the world, and that there is a line. Though I'm not really one to tell you where that line is.

And I'm sure that there are loyalties on different levels than just national and global. As I said, I'm not really sure where that line is, but.... I think Denmark might!

my loyalty lies...

Journalists owe their loyalty to more than one group of people. They first owe it to their publishers and editors. It's hard to say this sometimes, but if a journalist loses his or her job, he or she also loses value as a means of communicating news to the public.

Second, journalists definitely owe their loyalty to the public. They owe them the duty of being fair and accurate. They owe the public the right to hear information for which they can process and learn from. Journalism is for the public; therefore, journalists owe loyalty to it.

I also think that journalists owe some loyalty to their sources. They must be loyal in that they correctly communicate the news from their sources to the public.

Public relations practitioners are in quite a different boat. Like journalists foremost owe loyalty to their publishers, PR practitioners owe it to their company. It's the company who is hiring them to make it look good- doing the job right does not always being staying fair and accurate.

Hopefully my professional values never conflict with my personal values. Loyalty ranks very high with both my professional values- I just hope I won't need to test my personal values in order to stay in my profession. I guess it all just depends on the situation.


Who would I owe loyalty if I were a journalist? Journalist loyalty is not at all cut and dried, as I would have supposed a week or two ago. Evidence of this is seen in the newspapers daily – everything from the editorial banter about Muslim cartoons to Persian Peacock adds run in the Statesman.

Journalist loyalties that I feel are important listed roughly in order of significance:
The publisher – after all, that is who pays you. This is assuming that the publisher is being open-minded, honest, and fair.

The readers/viewers – there must be a loyalty to deliver the truth to them.

Public safety – much consideration and sometimes restraint must be used to insure that you are doing the best for the good of the public.

National Security – an interesting issue these days.

Innocent people – journalistic power can cause undue harm to people if caution is not exercised.

As for PR practitioners, I believe that the main loyalty must be to the employer. This can cause conflicts if the employer is doing something that is against your moral or ethical values, take cigarette advertising for example – something that many people would object to. In this case, if you cannot agree with what you are trying to sell, both you and your employer would be better off if you would get employment elsewhere.

PR people should also have loyalty to public safety – for example creating advertising that could encourage dangerous copycat behavior.

I have no plans to work in journalism or public relations, but some of these loyalties still apply to my as an engineer. After our class exercise last week, I found that I feel an intense loyalty to my employer. My customers within and without the company are also important.

The relativity of loyalty....

Journalists, of course, owe their loyalty to the public. But that is far from an easy task. In the mix of a zillion forces all tugging at journalists for attention, ideals are lost. Performing the watchdog role is impossible this day in age because of the attitudes and practices of people. People tend to look at the media with an untrusting eye. While it's not a negative trait to have, many people refuse to trust anything and won't hear any proof otherwise.

This view towards the media can help spark an attitude of "us vs. them." When a situation such as that occurs, it's easy to shift loyalty. Journalists then looking to clean the collective opinion of the media may then go to extremes to make quick progress. In that case they still aren't being loyal to the public, they are being loyal to themselves. It's a double-edged sword.

PR practitioners owe their loyalty to whomever employs them. Their job isn't to inform the public and be fair, their job is to help bring in money.

I believe that loyalty is very important, but difficult to practice. Depending on the situation and who is involved, loyalties change and new enemies seem to be made.

Where Loyalty Lies

Where should a journalist's loyalty lie? It should be an easy answer: with the public. It is something that is preached over and over again. A journalist's responisbility is to inform the public and do what is best for them. That doesn't mean that is what they do though...and what if what is important to the public is not important to whoever runs the newspaper? Do you do what the boss says (after all, it is your job) or do you take a stand by printing (or not) something, quitting, protesting.... what should you do?

Here is what I think. A journalist's obligation is to the public, period. That is why their job exists; to let the public know what is going on in the world. It is up to them to decide what they think of it. Sometimes that means there is controversy over what to do. I think that a journalist should stand up for their right to inform the public...whether the boss agrees or not. Whether or not the reporter wins is not as important to me as knowing they tried to fulfill their responsibility.

Public Relations practitioners are different because they work for a specific company, and their job is to promote that company. So that is where their loyalty lies. Sometimes they may need to make a choice too (for example if a company is being dishonest), but mostly it is clear where their loyalty belongs.

So to summarize simply: Public Relations = company; Journalist= the public

True Blue Loyalty

I decided I had something further to say on the subject after reading the entry by Bittymiah. A journalist should report THE TRUTH. ALWAYS. And as much as is morally reasonable. For those of you who have taken Media Smarts, you know that the picture presented by the media is generally that we live in a world where white men rule, white women are moms or objects, adolescence apparently begins around the age of 10, and minorities are those who most often commit crimes.

What a sad world, and it's been created by people that I'll be working with in 10 years. Things should be presented accurately, untainted, and objectively. A journalist always owes loyalty to that nagging voice of truth. A journalist should always answer.

to some things loyal, to other things... not

Journalists owe loyalty to the public, or, I guess more specifically, to their readers. Loyalty to the public is an integral part of being a journalist, maybe even part of the definition of the profession, since first and foremost a journalist's job is to correctly inform the general public. After the public, I think journalists owe loyalty to their paper; they should work hard and honestly for their employer.

I think it's a lot different for PR practitioners. PR practitioners owe only the most basic, undeniable loyalty to the general public. Once they are employed, they owe their loyalty to the company. If being loyal to that company goes against their other values, they should quit, but while PR prac.'s are employed, they owe it to their employer not to hurt or be disloyal to the company.

Loyalty ranks really high on my list of personal values, but only in a very specific way. I believe in being loyal to myself, my family, and anyone I have made a commitment to or with. I don't believe in loyalty to causes, and I feel only the barest loyalty to the general public. I don't think I owe the general public anything other than not infringing upon their rights and liberties. This is a reason I would make a terrible journalist. I probably wouldn't want to tell the public a lot of what I was hired to write (I am thinking of an essay by Emerson, I believe, in which he declared the news gossip and useless noise); however, I do believe very strongly in the free market of ideas.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Owing Loyalty to....

Journalists owe loyalty to the public. These are the people that they represent. These are the people that they serve. Hopefully they represent the people in an open, truthful and fair manner. If they don't....then the public won't buy the newspaper and that journalist might be out of a job. Their credibility and their reputatation might be shot as well.

Public Relations practitioners owe loyalty to their bosses and the companies that they have contracted to represent. Once again, they should represent their clients fairly and accurately. Earning a buck is important, but if a product, for example, is all hyped up...it should be deserving of all the claims that the PR rep is assigning it.

Loyalty would rank highly in a professional settting. I would need to be loyal to myself. Not in a self-serving way, like getting the story at all cost without regard for anyone or anything. Let me rephrase. I would need to be loyal to a set of personal and professional values that would guide my decision-making in an effective way.


Since journalists report public affairs their loyalty should be to that same public. We are after all bringing the public news about the public. If journalists don't answer to them (the public) who else would they answer to? I suppose they could answer to individual media companies but they would eventually have to answer to the public as well.

Public relations is different. They do not bring news to the public about the public. They bring news to the public about one specific entity. Their job is to report one business or person to the world. Since PR practitioners have defined and specific clients they should be loyal to those clients.

The difference between the two I believe is this; PR practitioners have the responsibility of representing their client well - to paint a good picture. Journalists, however, serve the public and sometimes the public is best served by pointing out the negative that needs to be corrected within that group.

I have my personal loyalties but my professional journalistic loyalties belong to the public. Being a 'wannabe' journalist, if I'm loyal to anything outside public interests I will have failed at fully representing my 'clients.'

Media Ethics: Into the pot, already boiling...

Media Ethics: Into the pot, already boiling...
when I think of loyalties of a journalist I think their biggest loyalty is to the public. Society is why they have jobs, to keep the average person in the know. I think their loyalties coinside with the people or issuse they are doing the stories on and also their companies.
With PR practitioners I would put their loyalties more with the company they work for. Their job is to make that company or product etc.. look as appealing as possible. Their job isn't to show and tell all of the grimy greasy details (if there are any).
My professional values when working in PR would be more of a loyalty to the company. I don't always agree with hiding things from the public, but if that is part of your job; and working as a journalist would be the exact opposite telling the public everything, then you do your job to the best of your abilities.
I don't know if that is right?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lesser of two evils...um...2

This is a good dilemma, to be sure. Afterall, we, the media, that is, are to be a watchdog over the government. In turn, the government is to be a watchdog over the media. This would imply that the media keeps things from the public. True? Most certainly. In a way. Paraphrasing Steve Martin in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels", I quote, "I tell them what they want to hear...if it gets me what I want."

As a writer, I feel that the consumers of the media deserve accurate reporting, truthful reporting, and complete reporting. None of this "surveillance" talk when it really should be called "public spying." Things should be reported exactly as they are. I would hope that PR practicioners feel the same, but I also know that they owe some loyalty to their businesses. I would just ask that they don't butter things up too much.

My scale of professional values? What a weird thing to say. I guess honesty to the public ranks pretty high with me. As discussed in class, there are, of course, a few things which should not be disclosed, such as names in certain cases, but other than that, give them the truth, let them see the whole picture.

Problems and Thoughts about Loyalty

Aggie Blue said, "...can you see specific problems that result from making loyalty a guiding principle?"

Yes, if loyalty gets caught up in whether or not to lie and possibly do an unlawful thing then problems will arise. For example say you were called as a witness and were asked under oath about a situation involving money embezzling and the CEO of the firm you worked for. An ethical decision will need to be made and hopefully loyalty to yourself and your career will be the decision you choose. The one you were so loyal to before will not be protected (hopefully) because lying in high profile situations are not worth loosing credibility, your good name and status in such a competitive business for.

Journalists and public relations practitioners need to be loyal to themselves their profession and to their audience. Loyalty ranks very high on my scale of professional values but like my example there will always be problems. Deciphering when to be loyal or when to step back to protect yourself is the tough part.

Friday, February 10, 2006


This is late and doesn't count for anything but I feel the need to do it anyway. Partly because I need 20 blogs for the final portfolio and partly because I wanted to say one thing.

I have the same list of ethical problems in the Movie Absence of Malice.

*She looked at the file and published a story about it.

*She printed the abortion story when Perone asked her not to.

*She published the story about Quinn's involvment from a source she could not back up without revealing the source's criminal acts to obtain the knowledge.

The worst ethics problem I saw in it was when Sally Field was writing the story about the abortion. She felt guilty about it when she was writing it with her editor and yet she still went ahead with it.

Sisela Bok said one needed to do three things to make an ethical decision, the first being consult the consience. While one cannot go solely on their intuition or concience, if either of those things appear in one's mind one should seriously evaluate what they are doing.

I think Sally Field saw the flags and just kept on going, and I basically wanted to punch her in the face for it. Okay I think I'm done.

Ethics and political cartoons

A good discussion on NPR about political cartoons and violence —

Do Editorial Cartoonists Draw the Line?

Talk of the Nation, February 9, 2006 · The visceral — and in some cases violent — reaction in the Muslim world to Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad have raised all sort of questions about the freedom of speech and cultural sensitivity in a globalized world. It also reminds us of the power of the political cartoon.

Neal Conan talks to cartoonists Mike Luckovich of the Atlanta Journal Constitution and Ann Telnaes, whose work has appeared in many newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, about their craft. Joining the discussion is Stephen Hess, co-author of the book Drawn & Quartered: The History of American Political Cartoons.

Here's a link to the NPR site (and more cartoons), from which you can click to listen to the interview.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Thinking about loyalties

For Josiah Royce, an American philosopher-theologian in the early 20th Century, who taught at Harvard, loyalty was an integral part of moral development. He believed loyalty was the most important ethical principle and that if we practiced being loyal, we would automatically make good ethical decisions.

Here are some questions to think about: Using "Absence of Malice" or current news events, can you see specific problems that result from making loyalty a guiding principle? To whom do you believe journalists owe loyalty? What about public relations practitioners? Where does loyalty rank on your own scale of professional values?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

UVSC pulls the word Vagina

I only heard a tiny bit of this story..

The Public Relations representative for UVSC printed a calendar to advertise for the 3rd annual production of "The Vagina Monologues". He decided to advertise it on the calendar and on the marquee as The V______ Monologues. There is a whole campaign they developed to advertise for this so I guess they needed to be consistent..but why not spell it the entire way, I don't know. I wonder what UVSC's friend Michael Moore will have to say about this decision.

Cinnamon Danish

Cinnamon Stillwell, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle, has a good analysis of the Danish Cartoon Kerfuffle.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

El Laundry Listo

Megan Carter successfully made tabloid magazines look more appealing than a legitmate newspaper. I imagine that even the most slimey writers for those magazines thought that she crossed the line.

1. What ever happened to verifying facts? For some reason she would take information from one source and then run with it. I know that I would have read that file on the desk, but I sure as hell wouldn't have used it in my story. She was so desperate to get anything written, she didn't care where the information was coming from. She had plenty of stellar building blocks to good stories, but she failed to use them.

2. Her constant involvment with sources is another problem. For some reason it seems that she dates anybody with a story. She dated the FBI agent, only as long as he had a story for her. She then dated Mr. Gallagher for a while. I'm sure, given the right circumstances, she would have taken Gallagher's friend out at least once.

3. Knowing about your sources helps. Who would have thought that a catholic woman having an abortion was a problem? Not Carter for some reason. If she would have had her Libel Manuel handy, she could have looked up the Catholic Church. I'm not sure if it says anything about birth control, but a little extra research would have helped.

Media Ethics: Into the pot, already boiling...

Media Ethics: Into the pot, already boiling...
okay lets start out the laundry list.
first there is Megan looking through files and printing a story that she didn't get both sides to. I think it's interesting that they would print someting that is to the "best of there knowlege" and not really researched.
when Megan goes out to lunch with Michel and gets bugged so he dosn't know that he is being put on "record".
ofcourse abortion is a big ethical to do and if Megan should have written about it or not in the news paper. It seems like they should have had some privacy issues there.
I liked the comment from the Political figure when he asked were you trying to buy me and michal replys I don't know are you for sale. =)
and just an interesting part when Michal and Meg. are talking to each other and he asks her if he is talking to her or the reporter. and she says the truth is truth in the world or reporting.
over all everything is so slippery in this movie which is probably why you made us watch it. It's interesting to see just how far you can go printing what ever you want.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ethics & A Movie

Anchor Name movie1

After watching the film Absence by Malice, quite a few media-ethics issues have surfaced. For all those readers like me who have a short attention span, I'll just put this into a list instead of paragraph form.

1. Okay, looking at the file which was (purposely) left on the investigators desk is pretty obviously an issue to question.

2. Some of the information published in the newspapers was detrimental to the lives of innocent (until proven guilty) individuals. I'm not just talking about "Boo hoo, that article hurt my feelings" or that somebody was offended, but take as an example the point where Gallagher’s workers went on strike. When Megan published the article about the abortion, Teresa committed suicide. Granted, suicide is a choice, but not one that comes lightly.

3. Megan tried to record her lunch with Gallagher without his knowledge. That’s pretty sly and deceitful.

4. At one point in the movie, Gallagher says to Megan, "Tell you or the world?" and Megan says "What does it matter? The truth is the truth." This was after the point in the movie where Teresa asks Megan is she can share something with her and have her not publish it in the paper. Megan says that she can't promise anything. So, my question is this - is Megan obligated to report everything she learns? Does Megan ethically reserve the right to withhold information from the media/public? Does it really matter as long as it's the truth? My take on that is that the media's job is to serve the public, and the public is comprised of individuals, so individuals must be taken into the equation There's no real definitive line that can be drawn, but at some point, yes, I believe that it is ethical to withhold certain information from the public to help individuals.

5. Going hand-in-hand with the previous bullet is the quote by Megan's publisher "I know how to print what's true, and I know how to not hurt people; But I don't know how to do both at the same time." I just thought that was an interesting quote to ponder. It ties in with the previous point in that there is often a very blurred line between what needs to be published for the public and what needs to be withheld for individuals.

6. Finally, I was intrigued by the ending where someone asks Megan what they should print about Megan's relationship with Gallagher. Megan replies "Just Say that we were involved." Then Megan is asked "Is that the truth?" and replies "No, but it's accurate." That seemed to be a little different than the Megan whom we had seen throughout the film up until the end. Could it be that Megan's outlook on ethics had been changed during the course of the film, or could it be that Megan simply had the tables turned on her?

Absence of Malice ethics

There are so many ethical issues in this movie. Here's my quick list.

* Rosen left files on his desk hoping Megan would read them. This made it so she would find the information, but it wasn't coming from his mouth. She also read the files on his desk without any permission.

* Megan and the people at the paper didn't really try to reach Michael to find out more information about the story. Megan called him once, and then said he couldn't be reached. This led to a story that wasn't balanced. The people at the paper were looking for scandal, and were determined to find it.

* Should Megan have told Michael who her source was? Did he have a right to know who's accusing him?

* Megan recorded her lunch with Michael without telling him. This is illegal in many places.

* Megan's interview with Teresa presented multiple ethical issues. Should she have turned in the tape of the interview. Should she have printed information that Teresa told her not to print? Megan said she had to discuss it with her editor, but she could have kept that information to herself.

The list could probably go on for a long time. One of the biggest issues for me was the attitude o people working at the newspaper. They said they were just trying to publish truth. The editor said, "A lot of news is bad news for somebody." In reality, it seemed as if they were actually just looking for scandal and for something exciting to print. If they were looking for truth, they would have put forth more of an effort to make the original story more balanced. It seemed as if they would do anything as long as it wasn't against the law.
Here are some of the ethical problems I came up with... I'm sure they have all been mentioned!

~The dectective at the beginning left the file on the table on purpose... He wanted the story to be leaked and Megan snooped through the file.
~She printed the story on Gallagher when she wasn't sure of the truth. Which caused him to have a ruined reputation by the end of the movie.
~She ended up getting so involved with Gallagher that she couldn't keep her personal life out of her job.
~Because Megan was involved and "cared for" Gallagher, she reveals her source to him.
~The attitude/philosophy of Megan's editor that you can either print what is true or not hurt people but you can't do both.

The one I found to be most problematic was that Megan printed the story of Gallagher's alibi which in turn led to the suicide of his good friend. I did not think that the story was necessary to print. I think that this was a great example of when reporters get too involved. I think that if anything was going to be printed it should have said that he was with a friend that was having a medical procedure. I can't begin to imagine how ashamed and horrible Theresa was feeling.

Absence of Common Sense

There certainly was no absence of ethical dilemmas in this movie. Will need another viewing with a steno notebook to catch them all. Here is my short list of a few of them with my unsolicited commentary:

The first ethical issue was that Megan took information from the FBI file. I personally disagree with her decision, but perhaps worse was the agent’s action in setting her up. Next, the reporting of the story without more investigation.

Megan wearing a wire and being trailed by a photographer was in poor journalistic taste, but was an ethical decision that was made.

Perhaps the strongest statement made by the movie was the interaction between Megan and Teresa and the printing of her story. Megan’s unwavering approach with Teresa was an ethical decision, as was the editor’s decision to print it. Actually, there was very little decision made by either Megan or the editor, they just did the irresponsible thing that came naturally to them – dictated by their ethical code. Don’t they know not to screw with an unstable person’s mind?

Having an affair with the person you just liabled was unethical on a personal level, let alone unrealistic. Just a way to sell movie tickets…but then again, how many women wouldn’t have an affair with Paul Newman, given the opportunity (see Roger Ebert’s Video Companion, 1998 Edition, pg 1.)

One of the biggest ethical problems was the overall attitude of the newspaper as presented by the editor and the lawyer and dutifully followed by their reporter. They maintained a strict ethical code of printing anything and everything with very little consideration of the individual parties that could be hurt by their actions. After all "Its not the papers fault, it’s the peoples" is what the editor said.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the movie (with the exception of the Megan/Michael affair), and I can appreciate the serious problems for which there were no clear answers, I think the whole bunch, with the shining exception of Wilford Brimley, were pretty irresponsible.

Means to an End

  • Megan definitely didn't try hard enough to get any comment from Gallagher before the original story was published. Any comment from him would've helped the story look and become more neutral and, therefore, more reliable.
  • Megan got involved with Gallagher on a romantic and personal level that clearly didn't relate to the news she was supposed to be covering. Instead of helping her with her story, this led to possible bias, making her a very untrustworthy source and journalist.
  • Megan tried to secretly record her conversation with Gallagher on the boat. Even though he should've known the information passed between the two was for a story and on the record, Megan still should've let him know about the recording device.
  • The largest of the problems I saw had to do with attribution. Megan chose not to attribute the information about Gallagher's investigation in the first place, most likely because she didn't want to lose that source for future stories. This source even somewhat intentionally left the information out for her to find. However, after being specifically asked not to use Teresa's name, Megan still published it. Teresa was trying honestly to help her good friend Gallagher and instead got her own reputation severely harmed. Megan could've, once again, left her source unattributed, but instead she chose to disregard Teresa's request and initiate the loss of a life.

Instructions for your film commentaries

Recapping what I told you last week in class:

Pick your favorite philosopher (choose from those covered in the text and my lectures). Then choose the one ethical problem, from your own "laundry list" or someone else's, that nags at you the hardest. Write 2 to 3 pages, typed and doublespaced, on the problem and what you think your philosopher would have to say about it, as well as the resolution he/she would offer.

It's not enough to be indignant or to scold the unprincipled principals in this story; what's important is coming up with a solution. Avoid the simplistic black-and-white prescriptions such as "well, if Megan hadn't peeked at the file on Rosen's desk in the first place none of this would have happened and Teresa Perone would still be alive. It's a slippery slope, blah blah blah..."

Ideally, this paper should lead you to formation of an ethic or "best practice" you would want yourself and all journalists to follow.

Questions? Ask them in the comments below this post.

Absence of Malice ethical issues

Well, I have a big long list of the issues that were present in that movie. First, the file of the investigator's desk. The question she was faced with was private information vs. the public's right to know. She chose the public's right to know.

Another issue was when Gallagher asked Megan who her source was for the story. Should she keep it hidden, or does the "victim" have the right to know who is saying those things about him? She kept her source secret until much later in the movie. The question is, was that fair? Especially because she got the information through snooping.

Next, recording their conversation on the boat without him knowing. It is legal in some places and not in others. But legal and ethical are two different things. Right along those lines, when he found out about the tape recorder, she had to make a choice to write the story or not. And she didn't. At least from that conversation.

One of the biggest issues in this movie is when she talks to Teresa about the abortion. Teresa didn't specifically ask her not to write the story, although she asked her to leave the specific details out of it. She had a choice to grant that request or to ignore it and print it anyway. She had to decide what was more important; the source's privacy, or all the facts in print. She chose to print all the facts.

For some of us, these issues are "duh" questions. We look at it and say, "she should never have done that.", or "she should have done that" depending on what it was. But it's always easier from the outside looking in. When you're in the situation, sometimes it is hard to know what is right. Because the public DOES have a right to know; she just didn't think about how much, and at what cost.

I personally would not have read the file off of the desk. I wouldn't have printed all the details about Teresa's story. I wouldn't have done a lot of the things that Megan did in that movie. But that's just me. It doesn't necessarily make me right. That's why it's the gray area.

Movie shows journalism at it's worst

So...there are a bunch of problems with this movie. The file shouldn't have been left for Meg to read. Meg shouldn't of read it. Truthfully this is a terrible way to get information out and to get the information you need. I would like to think that in real life, outside of Hollywood, journalists and policemen aren't as unethical and careless. There is a problem with tape recording without the knowledge of the person. In some states, it's illegal. In Utah, the law is that only one person who is being recorded has to know about it. So as long as the reporter knows, the reportee doesn't have to be told--legally--not ethically.

Another problem that has been mentioned in other posts in how Meg seems to become a romantic interest to people that can give her information. It's true that may not be ethical, but I don't think there is a journalism ethics problem here. It may simply be that she doesn't associate with many other people that don't profit her newsroom goals. Sure the detective could give her information, but is it really her fault that he likes her? Or that at some point she may have liked him? I also think this wouldn't be as much of an issue if the situation were revered and the reporter was a man and the source a woman. I don't think there would be as much of a problem if a guy, who has gone out with a girl several times for whatever reason, gets romantically involved. In fact, this reminds me of a Robert Redford movie, except Redford was a lawyer not a reporter, but the concept is the same.

Anyway, back to journalism ethics. One of the things that surprised me was the newspapers attitude about what to print. They were only concerned with the legal boundaries imposed rather than joining them with a little ethical reasoning. Truthfully, if I were the editor of that paper, I wouldn't have ran the story until Meg had gotten a hold of Gallagher. The story wasn't that time sensitive so it easily could have waited at least another day and Meg could have given it a good try. The story would have a more fair viewpoint and at least given Gallagher a chance to say, "Hey! I have no idea what you're talking about," given him a chance to keep his business going maybe, contact the workers union and so on. Plus it would have made Meg look more like a professional when Gallagher came to see her. If there are holes in your story you really can't say you are pro at reporting.

Another problem with the paper's lack of ethical responsibility was the attitude it took with the abortion story. If Meg was paying attention she would have realized there was a little more at stake here than simply Gallagher's alibi. Gallagher obviously knew he had an alibi and clearing his name was important to him, but not as important as the mental state and social appearance of his friend. There are other ways to write that story to without mentioning the abortion. I think that could have been handled in a way where the consequences would not be so drastic.