Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Western reporters in Africa struggle over when to help

By Abraham McLaughlin | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Daily journalism involves many dilemmas. But Western reporters covering developing countries often face unique conundrums: A little humanity - just the change in their pockets - can sometimes feed 10 or 20 people.
Such giving can violate a basic tenet of journalism: Observe, don't engage. It's a cornerstone of the effort to stay objective. But Western reporters often ask themselves: Should I help anyway?

One Western reporter, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject, recalls doing a story on a man in Afghanistan. In 2002, the man was laboring hard to rebuild his mud house, which had been destroyed during a war. But he couldn't afford a few wooden poles for a roof.

Furthermore, his young son was in a hospital and couldn't be released until there was a house to come home to. "I never give to anyone who asks for money," says the reporter, but in rare cases, she does give. Even then, though, "I take great pains to ensure it does not come from me directly." In this case, she sent her Afghan translator back with the cash - and told him to tell the man it had come from an anonymous donor who'd heard about his case.

Different standards

But one expert on journalism ethics argues reporters working in poor countries should not feel bad about helping people, and need not go to such lengths to disguise their efforts to help. Standards are different in poor-world contexts, says Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at The Poynter Institute, a journalism training center in St. Petersburg, Fla. "In the US, you can tell a [poor] family how to get food stamps or how to access social services," she says. But "the safety net in the US is much more secure for the poorest of the poor than it is in Swaziland," for instance.

MORE from this Christian Science Monitor story...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Senate OKs sex-offender registry

Abuse: The national database bill, expected to become law Thursday, also would crack down on failures to register

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to approve the creation of a national sex offender registry and establishment of tough new prison sentences for offenders that fail to keep their listing current.

A child predator who kills a victim during commission of a sex crime could receive the death penalty under the act.

"We're going to get tough on these people," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Senate sponsor of the legislation, which he said would "curtail the ability of sex offenders to operate freely."

The House is expected to pass the legislation next week, and President Bush has said he will sign it Thursday, the 25th anniversary of the disappearance of Adam Walsh, for whom the bill was named. Walsh was the 6-year-old son of John Walsh, who created "America's Most Wanted" after his son was abducted and who was hailed by senators for his advocacy for the legislation.


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Narcissism and the Journalist

File this one alongside your mental notes on
Shattered Glass and Jayson Blair.

Reporter Joe Lauria's unwitting role in the Rove 'scoop'

The May 13 story on the Web site Truthout.org was explosive: Presidential adviser Karl Rove had been indicted by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald in connection with his role in leaking CIA officer Valerie Plame's name to the media, it blared. The report set off hysteria on the Internet, and the mainstream media scrambled to nail it down. Only . . . it wasn't true.

As we learned last week, Rove isn't being indicted, and the supposed Truthout scoop by reporter Jason Leopold was wildly off the mark. It was but the latest installment in the tale of a troubled young reporter with a history of drug addiction whose aggressive disregard for the rules ended up embroiling me in a bizarre escapade -- and raised serious questions about journalistic ethics.

In his nine-year reporting career, Leopold has managed, despite his drug abuse and a run-in with the law, to work with such big-time news organizations as the Los Angeles Times, Dow Jones Newswire and Salon. He broke some bona fide stories on the Enron scandal and the CIA leak investigation. But in every job, something always went wrong, and he got the sack. Finally, he landed at Truthout, a left-leaning Web site.

I met Leopold once, three days before his Rove story ran, to discuss his recently published memoir, "News Junkie." It seems to be an honest record of neglect and abuse by his parents, felony conviction, cocaine addiction -- and deception in the practice of journalism.

Leopold says he gets the same rush from breaking a news story that he did from snorting cocaine. To get coke, he lied, cheated and stole. To get his scoops, he has done much the same. As long as it isn't illegal, he told me, he'll do whatever it takes to get a story, especially to nail a corrupt politician or businessman. "A scoop is a scoop," he trumpets in his memoir. "Other journalists all whine about ethics, but that's a load of crap."

... [clippage]

After reading his memoir -- and watching other journalists, such as Jayson Blair at the New York Times and Jack Kelley at USA Today, crash and burn for making up stories or breaking other rules of newsgathering -- I think there's something else at play here. Leopold is in too many ways a man of his times. These days it is about the reporter, not the story; the actor, not the play; the athlete, not the game. Leopold is a product of a narcissistic culture that has not stopped at journalism's door, a culture facilitated and expanded by the Internet.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Update on Harvard student-author's plagiarism

Publisher cancels young author`s book deal

NEW YORK, NY, United States (UPI) -- Amid new allegations of plagiarism Little, Brown & Co. has canceled 19-year-old Kaavya Viswanathan`s two-book contract.

Viswanathan acknowledged last month her popular novel, 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,' contained near-identical prose to that found in a book by Megan McCafferty, which Viswanathan said she unintentionally 'internalized.'

But Tuesday, new claims of plagiarism arose based on works by young-adult authors Sophie Kinsella and Meg Cabot.

That`s when the publisher pulled the plug, the Boston Globe reported.

'Little, Brown & Co. will not be publishing a revised edition of `How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,` nor will we publish the second book under contract,' Senior Vice President and Publisher Michael Pietsch said in a one-sentence statement.

As well, the company recalled some 50,000 unsold copies of the novel, which was published April 4.

'Opal Mehta' had a first printing of 100,000 copies, and Viswanathan had received a two-novel contract worth $500,000 at age 17, a month after arriving at Harvard.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


This means you are doing things for the motive not because of what happens after you do it. If you saw someone that was hurt, would you stop and help them? Even if you could potentially get blamed for their injuries? I think that most people would stop and help, not because of the recognition that would come with it but because that is the right thing to do as a good citizen. I think that most people act ethically. Maybe I think this because I like to see the good in everyone. To a lot of people, I think, consequences do not matter. Whether they are good or bad people still have motive to do the right thing.


I think that the media lives for conflict. To me conflict is drama. I think that our nation and world are surrounded by conflict. So of course the media is going to report it. I think that it is very important that the media reports both sides of a story and that they seek out the most reputable source they can. I think that they should keep their opinions out of it and let the story be told as it. The reason why the media might seem so wrapped up in the conflict is that that is what the public is giving them to report. But as far as thinking that conflict is a traditional news value, I would not have included it. When stated like that it makes it seem like the news media is trying to hash out problems and cause contention, but in reality I think it means reporting both sides.

Sex Offenders

If I had children I would want to know if there were any sex offenders in my neighborhood. I think that this can be a very useful tool, however I do agree that it can be a very harmful also. I think that there are different levels of sex offenders and that they should be catorgorized. I think that it is stupid to have the "sex offenders" that were 18 and their girlfriends were 17 and the relationship went wrong. This is so unfair, the life of the individual just completely changed. I think that things like that should not be reported, however I do feel strongly about having serious sex offenders on a database that can be accessed by everyone. I think that it should be public knowledge.

Risking Lives?

I think that it is very unfair of a journalist to ask someone to risk anything for a story. Why should someone be in danger or do something they do not want to do so a story can be printed. Maybe I feel this way because I am not a journalism major. Especially after watching the movie The Killing Fields I feel like this is absurd. I know that I would not risk anything for a story. I think it is different if it is someone on the your media team because they are working towards the some purpose you are but I think that if it gets crazy enough and they want to stop the story because they feel like they are risking too much then I think that is fine.

I would not give the western media a good grade. I do not feel like the people in the Eatern culture are portrayed like they should be. I think that the media lets their opinions get in the way. Whether they are stressing frustration towards the White House or portraying the war in a different light, I feel like these opinions get in the way.


I tend to agree with what everyone has been saying about motive and consequence. I think a person's motives reflect what kind of a person they are ethically. It's what drives a person that shows who they really are.

I've been wondering, however, where Mill's idea that the end justifies the means fits into this. I usually agree with Mill's idea of the greatest good for the greatest number, but according to his theories, consequence is everything. Would Mill say that a person who has no moral character can do an ethical act simply because the consequence helped the greatest number of people?

I just wanted to throw that question out. I think that as long as we're doing everything we can to be ethical people and to take personal responsibility, that is what really matters. Good consequences usually follow that type of motive, but when they don't, it still is the motive that really matters.

State Slogan...

There was a blog awhile back about how Utah is getting a new state slogan. Well, it has arrived. Jon Huntsman, Jr. has picked "Life Elevated." Not bad. I actually kind of like it. It's a lot better than the "Where Great Ideas Connect" crap we've had since 2001. Our license plates will continue to have "The Greatest Snow On Earth" on them, but our state slogan is "Life Elevated." At first, it was going to be "Seek Higher Ground" which I actually like a lot more, but it was too close to Colorado's slogan: Enter a Higher State. What do you guys think?

Motive or Consequence?

People's opinions on what is an ethical decision can always be challenged and many times are. But good consequences always mean something good, right? Who can complain about that? Well, just like ethical decisions, what's good for one person may not be good for another. I think that no matter what, the motive behind an action always takes weight over the consequence. I'm sure people can think of plenty examples. A guy steals so his child doesn't die of starvation. Stealing is bad, but the man's intention, life for his child, can be nothing but good. However, maybe another guy collects food for hungry children on the streets before he decides to run for mayor. His actions may just be to look good. Feeding children is good, but doing it only to win an election could definitely be considered a bad motive.

In journalism, although some people may wish they had changed their actions because of bad consequences, I think motive still remains priority. I think that as long as the newspaper or whatever used a process to find different ways to publish (including not publish) information, their ethical decision as a whole should be considered. They should be able to explain to a possibly angry audience their motives for publication. In doing so, they show their priorities in publication and still allow viewers or readers to judge it themselves.

Ms. Magazine

One of the macro issues in the Ms. Magazine case was whether or not a publication endorses a product by running an ad and if the publication should be held responsible for claime of an ad. I've been thinking a lot about this, and I've decided that as long as the line between advertising and stories is clear, the magazine shouldn't be held responsible.

It drives me crazy when I pick up a magazine and start reading something I think is a story and then find out that it was an advertisement. I think this falls into the equity issue of the tares test. If something is an ad it should look like an ad, so readers aren't assuming it's an objective view.

Most advertisements, however, are fairly noticable. most people realize that the company is promoting itself. Although I think the magazine can print whatever ads they want, most people realize that the magazine isn't promoting a product, the company is promoting the product. The claims made in ads are the claims of the advertisers, not the claims of the magazine.

Wikipedia and politics

I saw an article about Wikipedia the other day, and I thought I'd find out more about what has been going on.

Just a little background for anyone who hasn't read about it...Wikipedia is set up so anyone can change the entries. It is supposed to help the encyclopedia be more accurate because all readers can be editors and mistakes can be easily changed.

Politicians are starting to use this as a tool to smear their opponants. People helping out with campaigns are editing their candidate's biographies to make them look better than they are, and are changing the opponants bios to make them look worse.

Wikipedia has organized a group of volunteers to make sure these bios stay unbiased, but is this really possible when it's so easy to change the information. These volunteers are going to have to check informaiton about each candidate on a regular basis to make sure everything is true.

This also shows that no matter how accurate information is, it's still important to check facts. When compared with Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia was found to be almost as accurate as the well-known encyclopedia. Even though most of what is in these encyclopedias is considered to be true, with people changing information in Wikipedia, it's important to make sure we're getting the correct information.


Motive really is an interesting factor in any ethical decision. It describes the core of a person's ethical standpoint and the character of that individual. In seperating the motive from the act or decision, we really lose ethics altogether. Acts cannot really be judged when taken out of context. If a person was to shoot another in self defense, yet the motive was left out of the picture, they would solely be a murderer. If a man steals food for his family, but the motive is left out, he is a thief, but with the motive in place it brings a whole new light to the situation. On the reverse side, if a man donates a million dollars to charity solely for a tax break, is he really being charitable? It looks great with no motive in place, but the wrong motive changes the context of the situation profoundly.

As far as the media goes, motive is really one of the important factors any journalist should include in any ethical decision. Is the person being used as the means or the end? Should I print a story about Teresa's abortion to save the reputation of another? Which is the greater good? Where do my loyalties lie? Where should they lie? I believe that motive is almost as important an ethical factor than the act itself.


Conflict seems to me like a news value that is regularly seen in publications. Editors seem to love publishing information about arguments or stories with diverse views. This value, however, does seem to produce a little of conflict for reporters themselves. Which side of the story should be told, and who should be used as sources?

My opinion is that journalists should do the same in conflict stories as in every other story. They shouldn't tell both sides of the story- they should tell all sides to it. Although some situations may seem to be only two-sided, journalists should research to find out if any other opinion could be included with the information. Regarding sources- journalists should find knowledgable sources for each side to a story. Sources should be authorities on the subject. It would be unfair to have a university professor back up one side with very detailed information while an unknowledgable person backs up another with vague ideas and strict opinions. Journalists should search to find sources that will give the best equality in a story, giving the readers the best way to decide about the conflict themselves. This gives both the audience and those representing the sides of conflict a fairer publication.

Ms. Magazine

Just in case my post isn't clear, I'm writing about the macro issue that asks, "Is a magazine ethically required to be an open forum for all advertisers who have the ability to pay? According to what standards?"

I definitely don't think a magazine is required to publish all ads that can be paid for. A magazine is not a public forum- magazines have narrow audiences, and the ads within them are specifically for those audiences. If a magazine, let's say one for teenage girls, has stories promoting not drinking, the magazine would be opposing its own information if it published an ad for alcohol. Editors have the discretion to choose which ads will and will not be included in their publications. The same is law for newspapers- editors decide. If the magazine loses readers because of the narrowness of ads, then perhaps the editors can choose to include more. However, I'd think that they would be more likely to lose readers by having ads the audience isn't interested in.

Public Relations

Between public relations practitioners and journalists, who defines news? Well, I'd say the journalists. PR practitioners may give the news to the journalists, mostly the good, but in the end, editors decide which news to publish. Usually, they tend to publish negative stories- a lot of the time these stories are more newsworthy. Let's be honest, who really wants to read a story that talks about how a business is running smoothly? Sure, it's good publicity for the business, but the public is more likely to read a story about some corruption or other controversy. One of the elements of newsworthiness is disaster, and disaster in business is definitely included.

However, although the journalists get to choose what makes publishing and what is left out, reporters still need PR practitioners in order to have this option. Without the practitioner, the journalists wouldn't get nearly as much news. Positive stories about businesses are usually easy to get because the business wants free publicity, so the reporters can just talk to them and get the stories easily.

However, journalists have to be careful about what the practitioner says- whether is puffed up or complete truth. Practitioners' job is to make their business look good, so their news isn't always objective and accurate. This gives a strain to their relationship with journalism even though the two need each other to get stories to the public.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Who owns the media?

The problem with wealthy corporate media ownership is that they can spin the news in their own favor for their own personal gain. I hope that this doesn't happen frequently but I'll bet it does. For example... in order to get their favorite politician into office they might say or print over-the-top, wonderful news about him whether it's true or not and print negative news about the opponent. This is not fair. If they're going to print something it should be fair to both parties and not build one up and pull the other down. Even the most factual information can be spun and the truth can be stretched so that it serves the media ownership and their needs. Therefore we may be getting a view that is lop-sided. Some journalists may be writing stories that don't sit well with their values...only to keep their jobs. The consumers don't have to get sucked into believing everything they read. If they don't like what they read....nothing forces them to accept it.

motives...our inner drive

Our motives lead us to what we will do and how we will do it. When I think of a motive I think of an inner part of us that drives us. Our motive give us the incentive to act. It is the impulse that forces us to move. So basically our motive defines the way we behave. If our motive is negative or underhanded or self-serving, then our actions will sometimes reflect those values. But not always. In some cases, a person can come across to others looking like their motive is so genuine and true when in reality there is often an "ulterior" motive driving those actions along that is not ethical or upstanding at all. This hidden agenda shows what our true colors are....with no sincerity or character. Consequences, (especially the fear of negative ones) can have an impact on our actions. Every action has a reaction and consequences can and do affect the actions of some....but for the most part I think that our values and morals are the forces that mold what our motives will be in any given situation.

Motives and Consequences

"An important part of moral development is the recognition that motive, not consequence, is the critical factor in deciding whether an act is ethical."
I think this quote goes along with the idea of acting with good intentions. Were your choices for a good reason and in the best interest of the person/people involved, or was the choice selfish and thoughtless? No matter what the actual outcome (or consequence) was, what the intention was when the decision is made is what is important. For example, in a lot of the case studies we have discussed, there was a question about whether or not a photograph should be run. When they choose to run it, their motive is usually to inform the public and to emphasize the impact of a certain situation. The consequence includes some understanding consumers, and many angry and confused ones. But the motive of the newspaper was good, and if they can defend that motive, then the decision was ethical.
The hard part about understanding this statement, is that a lot of the time the expected consequence is the motivation. People act according to what they hope the outcome of their action is. So in that respect, motive and consequence are really almost the same thing.

There will always be conflict

When I think of the word conflict I think of an issue that has at least two (sometimes many more) different opposing opinions surrounding that issue. I learned early on in this class that when elements in a moral system conflict certain ethical principles can help me make tough choices. My mind immediately goes to Sissela Bok's model. First consulting my own conscience and deciding how I feel about a choice. Then taking it to others for their expertise and imput. Then finally discussing the conflict with all the parties involved (even hypothetically) to see how everyone involved in the issue might respond. I like this model and I have used it in my own life as I make difficult decisions. In the media the values of accuracy, tenacity and equity should fall in to place once all sides of the conflict are explored and all the parties represented effectively and fairly.

Just a reminder...

Final class assignments are due tomorrow (Tuesday, May 2) at noon. You may place them in the wall box outside my office door (AnSci 306) or ask the person at the main office desk (AnSci 310) to place them in my JCOM department mailbox.

The post quality here is improving all the time! I'll keep it going after you've all drifted away for the summer; remember, if you feel the impulse to talk about ethics, you're encouraged (begged, even) to drop by and chat. It's on Blogger's public listing now.

Thanks for a great semester, all. I've enjoyed our discussions immensely.

Sex Offenders...Out of Luck!

I'm sure it isn't much fun living under a microscope if you're a convicted sex offender. On the state sex offender Web site the personal information is there for all to see. All of their personal information is there for our protection. We, the innocent law-abiding citizens, deserve to know if there are predators in our midst. We need to know their faces and addresses and the cars they drive to protect our children. It is sad that we live in such a world where we have to educate our children at such a young age about these "adult" issues. But education is power. Sex offenders live in every neighborhood and I want to know where they are in my neighborhood. I was saddened to hear of the unfair murder of two men in Maine last month. Their killer found the names and locations on the sex offender Web site and tracked them down. Vigilante justice is an issue when dealing with those that commit such horrific sex crimes against others...usually others that cannot defend themselves. But overall, the Web site protects the vast majority and may harm only the minority. In this case, the Utilitarian theory holds true with me. However, if it were up to me...I would re-think the offenses and only list the very severe and horrific and repeated cases (but who decides what those are?)---not the John Doe back in my college days who took a pee in the shrubs outside the White Owl at closing time and got busted for " indecent exposure." There would always be a "gray area" concerning what is "bad" enough to list and what is insignificant. That's because we all have different value systems.

Ms.....a woman in charge

A magazine should not be required to be an open forum for all advertisers...just because they can pay. A newspaper is expected to be the "voice" of the people who read it. It is to represent the ideas and values of it's readers. When a paper does not represent what the reader expects it should....then, watch out....the newspaper will hear about it! But a magazine, a corporation, should have the choice to decide what products that it will advertise. I work part-time at a local movie theater. I'm sure we all can remember the "Brokeback Mountain Saga" and the controversy that surrounded it and it's distribution....especially in Salt Lake at Larry Miller's movie complex. He chose to not release the film at his theater. It is his theater and he got to decide what will runs and what doesn't run. He felt that what he released at his complex in some way defines who he is and what his values encompass. He felt that his reputation would be compromised and his business may suffer. Here in Logan, the film was released and the consumer was able to use their agency and decide to see the film or not to see the film. Both sides of the issue got some strong "feedback" from the public. Maybe Larry could have made a disclaimer and posted it up on the screen with all of the pre-movie "commercials"--- just like the networks do before the late night infomercials run... clearly stating that he does not endorse the products advertised and are in no way responsible for their claims. (The ads or the movie?) So, use at your own risk. Ultimately the ownership of any magazine should have the final say in what "graces" (or doesn't grace) their pages. Their image is at stake...and image is important. They shaould be allowed to "pay the bills" however they choose to.

Media Ownership and social justice

The main concern journalists and consumers need to be worried about as media ownership becomes more concentrated is accurate representation. This is always been a problem for media. There is a difficultly in representing the world the way it is actually built. White men have a tendency to dominate ownership, and therefore white men dominate the news coverage. I think it's important to make sure news coverage is as diversified as the areas they are covering. With the concentrated ownership becoming even more concentrated, it will be harder.
Certainly this has always been a concern for journalism professionals. But it should be a concern for consumers as well. They should realize that undifferentiated news rooms and coverage is news with bias and can't be trusted to the fullest extent.

Identity of Sex Crime Victims

Bitty’s blog on the unfolding Duke dilemma, as he called it, has been making me think. I thought I remembered seeing a case study in our book about another high profile rape case- the one involving Kobe Bryant. So I looked it up, and sure enough... The case study deals mostly about Kobe fans leaking the alleged victim’s name, and the follow-up coverage and exposure of the girl’s identity by the mainstream media, in particular a sports talk show host named Tom Leykis.
The thing that I found interesting in reviewing the case was a statement made at the end by Geneva Overholser, an editor of a paper that won a Pulitzer for a series of stories it ran on “one woman’s path through the criminal justice system after her rape.” Ms. Overholser argued that withholding a victim’s name “reinforces the stigmatization that society puts on the rape victim” and that, “the responsible course for responsible media today is this: Treat the woman who charges rape as we would any other adult victim of crime. Name her, and deal with her respectfully. And leave the trial to the courtroom.”
I see a problem with this. I don’t think rape is an ordinary crime. Sexual crime is different because I think it hurts the victim in a way that is much more personal and emotional. This is not to say that victims of violence aren’t also emotionally hurt or psychologically strained, but I think that sexual crimes take it a step further. Also, the way sexual crimes are treated in court is different. The victim himself/herself is put on trial in a way that doesn’t happen to victim of a regular crime.
Because of the harm sexual crime does to victim and the way sexual crime cases are handled by our justice system, I think that public disclosure of identity should be the victims’ choice.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Motive, Not Consequence

“An important part of moral development is the recognition that motive, not consequence, is the critical factor in deciding whether an act is ethical.” To me this is a very comforting statement. It says that to be an ethical person I must worry about having a good motive, not a good outcome. Which makes a lot of sense, really; we probably don’t have much control over most of the consequences of our actions. We can only try to do the right thing and hope that the right thing will lead to a positive outcome.
I think that everything we do has repercussions that go far beyond what we can anticipate or imagine, and the consequences of our actions and others’ tangle and weave themselves into webs where outcomes are no longer traceable. If consequence is all that matters, well, then we’ll never figure out what to do or who has done what.
So we focus on motive. We don’t know what our actions will lead to, so we try to do the very best thing we can, and hope that a good motive will at least set us on the right course. That a positive beginning will have a positive end; that kindness will elicit kindness, and justice will elicit justice, and respect will elicit respect.
That said, I do think that if the consequences of your actions seem to be pretty consistently negative, you should probably reconsider whatever it is that you’re doing. Evaluating consequences, although a bad way to make decisions, is a good way to, well, evaluate. Double check yourself, if you will.

Privacy vs. Photographs

I have been thinking a lot about the sex offender registry and the concerns about invasion of privacy that it brings up. I’ve been connecting it in my mind to the case studies we talked about in class quite a while ago- the case study about the photograph of the man falling from the world trade center and the the case study about the picture of the girls falling from the fire escape. Something about these two case studies disturbed me when we talked in class. I feel very conflicted about the issue of privacy versus capturing and recording history or setting reform in motion. I do feel like the pictures were violations of their subject’s privacy. I wouldn’t want my picture to be used the way theirs were. But I also recognize how important both pictures are. I have been impacted and touched by photographs just like these.
So what’s more important? History or the individual? My conscience requires me to take the side of the individual. I think it’s wrong to show pictures of people who are about to die; they were alive when the picture was taken, alive and living their final, very personal, moments. It doesn’t matter that there were witnesses at the scene who actually watched what the photographer captured; these final moments were still personal to the subjects, and a witness is a lot different than a picture. Since they were alive when the pictures were taken, they are entitled to full privacy protection. And as for both pictures being taken on public streets, well, bad things can happen to you in public- but your death is still your own business. Plus, it’s illegal to show random people in the street’s faces on tv if they haven’t signed something... It just seems disrespectful and crass for these photographs to made public.
And I don’t think the argument that the photos brought about about reform or truly captured a historic event are good enough; violation of privacy for a truly altruistic purpose is still violation. I agree with Kant- that people should never be a means to an end, even if the end is noble.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Consequences vs. motives

I think the reason motive is used to decide whether an act is ethical is because of this:

The consequences of an action can be the same whether or not the decision was ethical. For example, in the Eugene Register-Guard case we read about, Godbold said that he put the picture in there without really thinking. He knew it would cause a stir and that was about it.

He said that when people called in and asked why they placed the photos he said he didn't have an answer. Now if Godbold had actually thought about it and come up with a solid ethical justification for the placement, perhaps the readers would not have been as upset.

The picture would have caused emotional responses whether or not Godbold had strong reasoning for his decision. I think readers would have handled it better, though, knowing that he at least had a good reason for it.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Motive is where ethics live but consequences must be considered

Bad things happen to everyone, and often times other people cause those bad things to happen. People die in car crashes, rumors damage reputations, and so on. The only way we have to decide if actiona that cause these bad things are ethical is to look at a person's motive. I agree with this completely. Motive is always important. However, the motive alone is not cannot be the only factor we look at. Consequences must be considered. If a person is killed by a drunk driver, it could certainly be argued the driver didn't intend to kill anyone. But should that elivate him from the consequences of drinking and driving. I don't believe it can or should. In the government the law is almost always based on consequences, with consideration to motive stired in. It is done this way because it works and, it seems to me, the reason this works is because everyone has their reasons for what they do, good or bad. Journalism needs to work the same way as the law. Consequences of everything they print needs to be considered. If they aren't, even the best intention will be little justification to the readers who call in angry.

Duke's dilemma

I was just sitting here reading NEWSWEEK about the story of the two lacrosse players indicted for rape.

There seems to be two extremes in this case. Those that agree with the defense and are calling the questionable character of alleged victim into question. She is a black stripper claiming that two rich white college men raped her. She is after money, attention or whatnot. Why should she be trusted? These men already were apparantly popular atheletes that had women at their finger tips. Why rape her?

The other side seems to be that people are deeply upset and already comdemning the men accused. It seems that people are sick of the average rich college student and what they get away with. Assuming these men did in fact commit the crime. They have no consequences for their actions. They can have keggers on the front lawn, have casual sex, urinate and throw up in public places, and even (allegedly) rape strippers and have little to no consequence. People have had enough and they want these boys punished - harshly.

I lean myself more towards the latter opinion. I am a little sick of rich college living in a way that would get another person arrested. Public drunkedness is not cute when someone does it and it is certainly not cute when a pomped up, spoiled college brat is doing it. I'm not saying these men did it and I must admit that the victim comes from a lifestyle that seems less than trustworthy. But so, it seems, do the lacross players.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ms. Magazine

I don’t think magazines are ethically required to be open forums for advertisers. Magazines have a symbiotic relationship with advertising because they sell space and make a profit, and in return the ads are seen by the magazine’s readership, but this symbiotic relationship doesn’t require a magazine to accept every or any ad. Magazines have images to maintain. I’m sure Vogue doesn’t want ads for teen retail chains like Factory 4 U. Boy’s Life would shy away from alcohol advertising. Outside magazine probably doesn’t want to advertise Roberto Cavalli stilettos with four inch heels. Ms. Magazine has a feminist, socially just image; if Ms. doesn’t want to accept advertising because they think it detracts from that image, then it is their prerogative to refuse it.
Also, advertising wasn’t paying the bills. At the time of it’s suspension, Ms. Magazine was losing money. If accepting advertising isn’t financially sound, then a business like Ms. Magazine can’t ethically be required to do it.
Magazines are different from Newspapers. They aren’t and shouldn’t be required to be objective; they target specific audiences and promote their own agendas. Magazines are essentially businesses and therefore shouldn’t be required to accept advertising they feel is bad for their business.

Media Ownership

As media ownership becomes increasingly concentrated in fewer, wealthier corporations, there is an increased potential for the news to be manipulated by the interests of those who control the corporations. This is a potentially dangerous situation, because we are a democracy and rely on an educated public for our country to run as it should. The first amendment is crucial to the maintenance of all our other freedoms, and if big business is running the news, the first amendment would definitely be compromised. If the public is uneducated or miseducated on current affairs, they won’t make informed voting decisions or hold politicians or corporations accountable. Knowledge really is power, and if a single organization is controlling knowledge, we’re all in really big trouble. The media should be concerned about social justice because their readers are part of society, and social injustice is injustice against their readers.

confliction addiction

At first I couldn’t imagine why conflict is usually listed as a tradtitional news value. I was imagining journalists blowing issues up to create conflict, or reporting only shocking stories... What was it they said in Bowling for Columbine about making the front page? Then I realized that the value of conflict is not so much about selling news or shock value as it is about representing both sides of an issue, representing the fact that conflict exists. We live in a world full of conflict. If our reporting didn’t reflect this, it probably wouldn’t be accurate. And if conflict means representing both sides of issues, then I imagine that, far from sacrificing accuracy, tenacity, and equity, conflict actually encourages ethical news values.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Kindness - could it be a minimalist value?

Here's poet Naomi Shihab Nye's thoughts on kindness - a favorite poem of mine, and one I'd like to give you to think about before you leave for the summer:


Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity
of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in
a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night
with plans
and the simple breath that
kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest
thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other
deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that
makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to
mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What to do next?

"That the truly probing questions are being asked by bloggers rather than by national journalists is becoming increasingly commonplace," writes Glenn Greenwald, a noted blogger who has just published a book that attempts to answer the question, How Would a Patriot Act?

Greenwald's blog bio says he spent the past 10 years as a litigator in NYC specializing in First Amendment challenges (including some of the highest-profile free speech cases over the past few years), civil rights cases, and corporate and security fraud matters.

Here's John Dean's blurb for the book:

"Glenn Greenwald has assembled a devastating bill of particulars against the Bush and Cheney administration's insistence on operating outside the rule of law. He has gathered solid information and marshaled a litany of abuses of power that make Richard Nixon's imperial presidency look timid. All thinking Americans must answer How Would A Patriot Act? this coming election, and those who ignore what Greenwald has to say act at our collective peril."

-- John W. Dean, former Nixon White House Counsel and
author of Conservatives Without Conscience

Nazis and Ethics

Last year I took a class on World War II. Most of the class focused on facets of the war that aren't studied as much such as events in the Pacific and military action in northern Africa. We did, however, spend some time on the Holocaust, and while watching Schindler's List, I remembered some of the things I had heard in that class.

One of the most horrifying aspects for me was the fact that many Nazi leaders really thought they were doing the right thing by exterminating Jews. Rudolf Hoess, the commander at Auschwitz, said he believed he was doing the right thing by executing women and children. In his memoirs, he gave specific examples of watching women and children enter the gas chambers. Hoess was responsible for millions of deaths. He never showed any remorse for this, and he wrote in his memoirs that his only regret was that he didn't spend enough time with his family. Looking at the lives and testimonies of Nazi leaders, it appears that ethics didn't exist in the country.

Schindler showed, however, that personal responsibility still existed. He risked his life to give life to others. In a world of men who loved to kill, he gave everything he had to keep people alive. In the end, he gave the credit to the people who had suffered the most, and he blamed himself for not trying to save one more person.

Ethics shouldn't disappear when times are hard. People shouldn't forget about personal responsibility when risks appear. A truly ethical person will be willing to give up everything to defend certain values. Schindler exemplified this in the Nazi state.

Plagiarize... let no one else's work evade your eyes...

Lest I fall into the trap, let me attribute the title of this post where it belongs: it's a line from a song by Tom Lehrer.

Here's the story: a hot new author, only 19 years old and a Harvard sophomore, is in hot water.

Update 2: Young Author Admits Borrowing Passages

A Harvard University sophomore with a highly publicized first novel acknowledged Monday that she had borrowed material, accidentally, from another author's work and promised to change her book for future editions.

Kaavya Viswanathan's "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," published in March by Little, Brown and Company, was the first of a two-book deal reportedly worth six figures. But on Sunday, the Harvard Crimson cited seven passages in Viswanathan's book that closely resemble the style and language of the novels of Megan McCafferty.

"When I was in high school, I read and loved two wonderful novels by Megan McCafferty, 'Sloppy Firsts' and 'Second Helpings,' which spoke to me in a way few other books did. Recently, I was very surprised and upset to learn that there are similarities between some passages in my novel ... and passages in these books," Viswanathan, 19, said in a statement issued by her publisher.

"While the central stories of my book and hers are completely different, I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words. I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious. My publisher and I plan to revise my novel for future printings to eliminate any inappropriate similarities.

"I sincerely apologize to Megan McCafferty and to any who feel they have been misled by these unintentional errors on my part."

The book had a first printing of 100,000 copies.

Viswanathan, who was 17 when she signed her contract with Little, Brown, is the youngest author signed by the publisher in decades. DreamWorks has already acquired the movie rights to her first book.

The value of conflict

Conflict is very often seen as a negative thing, but it doesn't have to be. I agree that conflict is an important part of good reporting. Including conflict can be something as simple as getting both sides of a controversial issue. I think that conflict is actually what helps the media adhere to values such as accuracy and equity. Conflict forces them to get the whole picture, to get different viewpoints, and get different sides of a story. That keeps them out of it. They are just giving every possible amount of information they can give, and then allowing the readers to make a decision about what they believe, or what side they are on.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sex Offenders

Goodness, this is some crazy stuff! I definitely think sex offenders give away their privacy when they choose to violate the law in such a way. Just like murderers and thieves are named in the newspaper, sex offenders are as well. And once their names are out, it's public information. And public information can't just all of a sudden be private again.

With regards to the registry, I'm not exactly sure of my feelings. Yes, the public information is just being kept public and easily accessible, but I don't necessarily think that all offenders should be on the registry for their entire lives. If a man is on the list for sexually engaging with a 15-year-old girl, he deserves to be publicly acknowledged as an offender. However, like the case of one man, if the girl later becomes his wife and has children with him, I do think there should be a way for him to be removed off of the list. It's all a matter of situation. In another case, let's say armed rape, the offender should stay on that list forever, no matter how much jail time served.

I know we all love Pak, myself especially, but I have wondered what that girl thinks if she sees on TV, with hundreds of supporting fans, the man who held a knife to her and raped her.

Schindler's List

I can’t seem to get the movie out of my head. I have been thinking about the comparison between one person's horror and another's luxory. But mostly I keep thinking about Nancy’s question, “Why would I end the course with this movie?”

I have my one answer. In the United States people have religious freedom. It is illegal to kill someone just because he or she is a Jew. However, it was legal for Germans to murder thousands of Jews in WWII. Schindler was thrown in jail for just kissing one. That is how deep the hate ran.

But I thought about how the law may have changed but ethical choices did not. Schindler still did what was right to him even though it was illegal. He worked within the system to save lives. I thought it was interesting how one person still followed his values even though an entire nation did not. Just because of one man’s (Hitler) values an entire population of people was almost eliminated.

I think this movie just goes to exemplify Bok’s discussion about needing common values and ethics for society to survive. Add the continued massacres of people all over the world…the Holocaust…Cambodia…Africa…the Middle East. All over the world people are still killing each other. I think that we need to start working toward a solution instead of adding to the death. Bok is right to say that eventually peace will result with no one left to live it.

I think that values and ethics can be a foundation for peace…one day if we start.

Offend THIS

You know, I am a huge believer in a citizen’s right to privacy. It freaks me out how much information is available on the internet about us- have you ever googled yourself?? But I think that once you are convicted of a sexual crime, you forfeit your right to privacy concerning that conviction.
I say this because I want to know if my neighbor rapes young women. I want to know because I would drastically alter my actions concerning that neighbor. I want to know if someone who lives along the route my cousins walk home from school is a convicted child molester. I want to know if my little brother’s best friend’s uncle likes to have sex with unwilling little boys. I want to know because I want to protect myself and the people that I love, and it is a fact that most of those who have committed a sexual crime will commit another.
I noticed that almost everyone else’s blog mentions sex with a minor. Are we forgetting why that’s against the law? It’s wrong for an older man or women to exploit someone younger than them, even if the person being exploited is 17. Yes, there are cases when convictions are a little ridiculous, but I think that people with cases like the 17 and 18 year old having sex, getting in a fight, and then getting legal about it can explain themselves to their neighbors and employers and not have it be an issue. It sucks, yes. It’s unfair, yes. But I think it’s worth it if it means that dangerous sexual offenders will be listed online as well as the innocuous.
If we’re so worried about our privacy and personal freedoms, then lets start freaking out about taxes, identity theft, and Utah State selling my information, rather than worrying about the privacy of child molesters.

Risk and the East

How much do I think a journalist can ask others to risk in order to get a story? My first reaction would be not very damn much. I think if someone wants to take risks, that’s their own business, but I don’t want a bunch of pushy reporters trying to make their living off the risk of someone else. But I do think that there are instances when asking someone to take risks is justified. If someone knows something that can help hundreds of others and ultimately themselves, then asking that person to take a risk is probably an okay thing. We know that journalism can change government policy, promote social reform, and expose and hopefully put a stop to wicked, wrong, unjust things. Some examples might be: a former prostitute exposing the sex slave market run by mob bosses in eastern Europe, a government aide who knows that high ranking officials authorized genocide, or a secretary who knows that the company she worked for exploits children. These people might put themselves at risk by exposing these injustices, but I don’t think it would be wrong for a journalist to urge them to go on the record anyway.
As for how well I think the Western media covers Eastern cultures, I have to say that it probably varies from publication to publication. I think that local papers do a pretty crappy job, for the most part, of covering Eastern cultures, because their reader base isn’t really interested in what’s going on in Singapore right now. Although we live in a technological, globalized world, America is still a lot more isolated than Australia or most of Europe, and the average American just isn’t very interested in Eastern culture because he feels like it doesn’t affect him. Other publications, particularly those pertaining to business and investment, have a lot of coverage of Eastern culture. The Wall Street Journal, for example, has a significant number of articles on the East, because Asia is an industrial powerhouse, and its readers are interested. So I guess I would have to give The Wall Street Journal an “A” and The Standard Examiner a “D” for their coverage of Eastern Culture.

Friday, April 21, 2006

More on sex-offender registries

I heard this story on NPR this afternoon while I was driving home. Thought you'd be interested -- here's a link, and then when you get to the NPR site, click on the "listen to this story" button.

Many states -- including Utah -- list hard-core predators alongside people who may pose no risk to the public. There's a map at the NPR site that shows states' policies.

Murders Put Focus on Sex-Offender Registry Policies

All Things Considered, April 21, 2006 · Nobody knows why Stephen Marshall killed two men who were on the sex-offender registry in Maine. Immediately after, he took his own life.

One of the men Marshall killed, Joseph Gray, was on the registry for raping a child. The other, William Elliott, was listed because he'd slept with his girlfriend before she turned 16.

These deaths and others raise troubling questions about the public sex-offender registries which every state has. And they highlight the fact that many states list hard-core predators alongside people who may pose little risk to the community.

When Mark Perk read about the men murdered in Maine, he thought the same fate might have befallen him. "They put my name and address on there," Perk says. "Anyone can find me. Yeah, it scared us."

Perk is on Illinois' sex-offender registry for having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. She's now his wife and the mother of their two children. Perk says he knows he broke the law -- but he says he's no child molester. He's just treated like one.

"My wife and I get pulled over constantly because our license is registered to a sex offender," he says.

Perk says he has received telephone calls from people calling him a child molester and threatening his life. "People pull by the house all the time, staring in the windows," he says.


ethics in the workplace

The other day I had a discussion with a fellow worker about ethics. He told me his scheme to collect money from customers by creating fake receipts and using the money to buy a new chair for the employees. He was joking, of course, but we still discussed it. He reasoned that it would be okay because the customers wouldn't know the difference, and we'd still get a good chair. I argued that it would still be dishonest to the customers. He said that it would be doing the greatest good for the greatest number. What do you guys think? Would you be justified in creating illegal receipts in order to buy a nice chair for the employees?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Do Volkswagen crash ads go to far?

Volkswagen has drawn scrutiny with two TV ads that depict graphic crashes to illustrate the safety features of its latest Jetta model. Some are wondering if the ads go too far and if the message of the ad will be clear to the consumers. At first I thought the ad was an insurance commercial, I had no idea it was for VW Jetta until the very end. I've talked to friends about the ad and most believe that people will understand the ad and the point of safety that VW is attempting to make. Although some thought it was just too real and people would only think about the horror of how the people must have felt in the crash. Some ads are more graphic than others, I am in between on this one. I guess we'll have to see how well VW does in this next quarter..

If you would like to see the ad I am talking about you can click here and search for: Do Volkswagen crash ads go too far?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Muhammad and Opus Dei

It has been interesting to see what circumstances will prompt an explanation, retraction, or apology by the media. Another Muhammad cartoon has made the news. Here is an article searched from the web:

It sounds like the publication claims to have been trying to promote inter-faith unity with the cartoon of Muhammad in Dante’s hell with a humorous caption. The editor of the monthly publication has issued an apology.

Cesare Cavalleri, the editor is also a member of Opus Dei, a conservative (Catholic) organization. Another interesting article is found on the Opus Dei website:

While not claiming responsibility for the cartoon or the publication, Opus Dei has also extended their apology while making comments about the offences they feel from entertainment media concerning "The Davinci Code" book and movie.
It is interesting to see that this organization (religion based) chooses to offer apologies, and offerings of peace rather than to take the stand that the Danish and other European newspapers took on last year’s Muslim cartoons. You can see that the differences between the two organizations and the audiences they serve.

Schindler's mindset

I just thought I'd share something I learned last night that I never realized from watching Shindler's List.

I just got some new insights into the mind set of Schindler. I am a German Studies minor and this morning I read a poem by Guenter Eich. He is one of many post WWII writers that were part of "Die Gruppe Siebenundvierzig" or "the group 47." They, as a group, tried to write in such a way to redeem the German language after the Nazi's and the war had 'ruined' it. Hitler had used the language and power against the people.

In the movie Schindler says to Stern that Stern will get special treatment. Stern doesn't want it and for good reason. The Nazi party would often say that the Jews were getting "die Besonderbehanglung" or special treatment. It was kind of inside joke you could say. When Jews were getting 'the special treatment' they were really being tortured or executed.

Hitler was a very influential man. He spoke with very flowery language coupled with intense emotion. There is no doubt in my mind that the name Adolf Hitler could have been revered as one of the greatest leaders of all time instead of denounced as an evil dictator. He brought a country on its knees to an economic and military status that even many Germans believed impossible.

I think Germans were so grateful for what Hitler and the Nazi's had given them that they wanted to believe in them. When Hitler started scapegoating and warmongering no one said anything because they trusted him. He even later on referred to the Jews as receiving this so-called 'special treatment.'

I have been to the Dachau concentration camp. It lies just outside the town of Dachau itself. After the camp was liberated allied forces forced citizens of Dachau township to march up to the camp to witness the carnage and in fact clean up the mess left behind. The citizens claimed to have no idea. Many vomited, fainted or suffered major psychological strain. They claimed that all they were told was that the Jews lived there. They were told no specifics and certainly nothing terrible.

This all goes back to what I gathered about Schindler's mind set and that of Germans in general. All the wealth and power that Schindler had was from the Nazi party. How many of us would be like Schindler and 'bite the hand that feeds us?'

It is the responsibility of citizens to question every policy and every policymaker. Oscar Schindler questioned and he saved lives.

I dont' know whether any of you care about any of this but its something that hit me like a bolt of lightening so I just thought I'd put it out there.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Conflict as a value?

I hate to think that conflict is a news value. Sadly, I think it is a human value, not that humans like conflict but rather then have the tendency to flock to it. Conflict is interesting to us and that is a very human problem. Rather than running from unknown noises in the forest, we have to investigate, figure out what is causing it. Because of this tendency, journalists, as the voice of the people, report on a lot of conflict, but that doesn't mean we value conflict. Journalists are human too and conflict effects us in the same kinds of ways it effects of rest of the world. It hurts, for us maybe even more than normal because we are right in the thick of it, sometimes we can even be the cause because we bring problems to the attention of the people. But in order for journalists to keep with other ethical values that we do hold, despite public opinion, conflict must be approached as a means to find a solution. Journalists cannot create turmoil for the heck of it. They cannot blow problems out of proportion. Journalism must only value conflict that creates solutions. Arguing simply for the sake of arguing is fine, but must be kept off the front page.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Privacy, cyber-stalking & harassment

Speaking of privacy online, there's a good but gasp-worthy article in today's New York Times. Here's a link: A Sinister Web Entraps Victims of Cyberstalkers.

Utah's Sex Offender Registry

In case you haven't seen it for yourself, here's a link to the sex offender registry for Utah.

Note that you have to promise not to use information you find there to harass the offenders or their families and friends, and there's a reminder that such harassment is against the law.

To search it, type in your zip code.

Sex offender

I work at a bank and the other day a co-worker was looking on the Utah State site at sex offenders. I personally think its kind of a morbid past time but that is beside the point.

First off I would like to say that I wholeheartedly do not agree with sex offenses but I do feel that it is a violation of that persons privacy to be plastered all over the internet or whatnot.

Back to the point. This co worker found a member of the bank that is a known sex offender. She immediatly started saying she always knew he was 'creepy' etc. Did she really or is she filling in what she felt with what she now knows.

I think it is kind of like the Scarlett Letter. Does everyone have to posted on the internet with sins or crimes committed. Where do we draw the line?

I also disagree with the statement the 'girl claims rape.' The majority of the people I saw on the site were offending against minors. Whether the girl 'claimed' it or not is irrelevant. The individual is still a danger to children in the area.

Basically I think the public should be informed but not about every offender. I think repeat offenders should be listed for sure and beyond that I just don't know.

I really wish we lived in a world where was no sexual assault but unfortunatly we don't. I don't agree with the assaults but I do still think it is a violation of their rights to post what they've done for everyone to see.

Wow that was long and somewhat repetative. Sorry.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

sex offernders and rights....

I have to say that I am in favor of anything to keep track of sex offenders. I think they should have to put signs in their yards warning everyone that can see that there is a sex offender in their neighborhood.
This new idea of having your children tracked is great! use the info. out there to keep them safe and away from these perps.
I know that there is a law that is trying to use the death penalty on sex offenders that have been convicted of rape on two accounts for 12yr. olds and younger.
I don't think these people (sex off.) are sick because that would mean that they could have a cure or get some help for their illness, but they can't. sex offenders will perp on your kids and grand kids. they are too tollerated in this society. they need harsher punishment and consequences for their actions.
I believe that they give up their rights as soon as they invade or rape-molest someone.

Cat Trax – Godsend for parents?

A couple of the local evening news programs have highlighted a service that will be available soon. Cat Trax is a company who will set up a gps enabled cell phone to track where your children are. The phone will alert the parents when the child gets close to a registered sex offenders residence. The service is to become available in Utah in June at a cost of about $20 per month.

One newscast showed a civil rights attorney who says it is legal (since they are using legal information), but is invasive. I can see where there could be some privacy issues.

A close neighbor to a registered sex offender or someone who has moved into a residence that an offender has moved out of could be ostracized or even victimized by vigilante types who are over protective.


Here are some counterpoints to the comments that have been posted so far:
Even though we all have heard stories of people who are on the registry that should not be, don’t you suppose that the vast majority of those on the registry belong there? They have committed serious crimes and statistically will become repeat offenders. Our society has dictated that part of their punishment is a loss of privacy. That is a harsh punishment, but those are harsh crimes. Is it in the best good of the most people – remember Utilitarianism?

As for the guy whose underage ex-girlfriend turned him in – remember, she was underage and isn’t it a crime to have sexual relations with an underage person? It’s still a crime even if they think they are consenting. And conviction of a crime must be met with justice and punishment.

Let’s carry things one step further. Rather than gps cell phones that tell you where your children are, maybe we should force the sex offenders to wear radio anklets (like prisoners). Since they don’t always stay in their homes (they have jobs, go shopping, etc). Punishment too harsh? Unnecessary? Do we not care that our kids could be in close contact with them?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Common Values in Iraq

Today’s Utah Statesman carried an article "Life is better for Iraqis" on the opinion page by Jared Johnson USU Student/Soldier. I find that his articles offer an interesting insight into what we are doing in Iraq and some of the politics behind it all. I realize that it is his perspective and that his is not the only perspective on the issue.

His article today had to do with the question of whether the Iraqi people are better off since we showed up. My understanding of Bok’s Common Values is that Hussein showed disregard for minimum common values with his human rights violations. The West has liberated them from Hussein, helped establish a new government and helping to rebuild the country. We do all of this with as much respect for the Iraqis, their religion, etc. as we can. But still, how many of our Western maximalist values are we forcing onto them? Is it all a good thing? Jensen thinks so. I think so. Does that make it perfectly right just because we think so? After all we are only evaluating the situation from the viewpoint of our own maximalist values.

There is much gray area between true common values and maximalist values. Yes, it is hard to draw that line between them.

A closing comment comes from Hagar the Horrible. If this link does not work, do a search for Hagar’s cartoon of April 6, 2006:

Hagar the Horrible

Sextuplets: Six Times the Grief for an AP Journalist

I must be learning something in class. At least I am more aware of what’s going on in the news. Here is a follow up story that could almost have been a case study in our Media Ethics class.


There are beginning to be some follow up stories as well.

It seems that a couple scammed the media and the public by claiming to have given birth to sextuplet babies in order to get donations. It appears to me that these people have some serious mental problems as well, but that is not the issue here.

The AP journalist acted in good faith to the story’s subjects, the media, and the public by reporting the story, but he was scammed as well. Verification of the story was his problem. In these days of privacy rights it is difficult to just call up the hospital and get information, but still, six babies is quite a litter and you would think that there would be some public knowledge about it.

Note that the editor of The Examiner, the newspaper that originated the story is considering a "front-page column to readers to address the issue." There will be "a review of his reporter’s verification practices."

Sex Offender Registery Registers Offensively

Well, that is a tricky little title, isn't it? All right, it seems that we all seem to be having the same kind of thoughts regarding the SOR. It seems that a majority of us seem opposed to it, and I'm part of that. Although I think it's somewhat of a good idea, I don't think it's fair. Perhaps that's not the best word. The fact is once an offender is in that thing, that person is in there for good, regardless of any changes her of she has made in life. The person could be completely different ten, five, or even a year later. Of course, we have to take into account those that do not change their ways, but still, I don't approve of the registry.

I'm sure we all have similar stories to this one, but I have a friend who arranged to meet a girl he was chatting with on the Internet. Admittedly, I'm not sure what she had claimed her age to be, but let's continue. It ended up being a set-up, and now my acquaintance will have to have his face on the registry, as well, despite his seemingly upstanding character. Which brings up another point, is it fair to place the faces of those who have done practically nothing to the faces of those who have done, well, something?

Perhaps it will be different when I'm a parent, but for now the system just seems a little unfair. What do you all think?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"United 93"

Please read this article first if you aren't familiar with "United 93"

Newsweek-'United 93':Is U.S. ready for a 9/11 film?

A very controversial subject in the the news lately, "United 93" is the first feature film about 911 to hit theatres. My roommates and I just recently went to see the movie "Inside Man" this past weekend, and "United 93" was one of the previews. I had actually never heard anything about this movie before this past weekend. I had eerie/mixed feelings about the preview while watching it and couldn't stop thinking about what people directly involved with the attack must be feeling. I do not know anyone personally involved with 911 and felt horrified that people were going to make money from such a disgusting act of violence. But then wait..what about the movie we are about to watch in class this next week, "Schindler's List". So then I thought well, it is way too soon to revisit 911. I did a little research and come to find out before filming "United 93" they (producers..film makers etc.) got permission from the victim's families who were killed in flight United 93. This made me feel a little better about the movie and now I am considering watching it when it comes out. If the families of the victims are ready that must say something.

What does everyone else think? Are we ready for this film to come out?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sex Offenders & The Internet

I'm not all that in favor of having registered sex offenders made public for anyone to see. I would be much more in favor of sex offenders having to be registered in some sort of database. A database for employers, or anyone with a certain need-to-know, may look.

For example, a child rapist isn't going to be a concern to me, a single white adult male with no children under my care. If John Doe, two houses down, is a convicted child rapist, that's not going to matter to me. I have no need to know. However, if good ol' Johnny is trying to get a job at the local elementary school, then the school might want to do a background check on him.

Having sex offenders register with a public data base, I think, is not fair. I would like to see it be much more on a need-to-know basis.

As for the "They didn't put the whole story" claim, I wouldn't mind it if suspects/criminals had the opportunity to write up 'their side of the story' to be attached to the rest of the file. If the database had not only the initial charges, but what they were found guilty of, in addition to 'their side of the story', then anyone researching that individual would have more information on which to formulate an opinion and make a decision.

I had the USU police called on me once for an accusation which I do, and always will, claim was false. When the police spoke with me there was very little, if any, 'So what's your side of the story?’ They were very much "This is what we've been told about you, so this is what we're telling you to do." Some of the information which had been reported to them, as I saw it on the official report, was questionable as to its accuracy. The following week I inquired as to what I may do if I feel that there was information of questionable accuracy in the accusation. I was told that I could file a 'my side of the story', which I assume would then have been attached to my report. I think this would be a good option for sex offenders.

Bottom line: There should be some reform made in the way the state handles the information concerning sex offenders.

The Sex Offender Registry is a load of crap....

This registry is nothing more than harrassment. I am sure, that at one point it was a stellar idea that had a good impact. Now it's run by a group of man-hating socialists who would rather ruin peoples' lives than actually do good in our society.

My friend's brother is a good example of this, and his situation is not the first that I have seen. He met this lovely 19 year old girl on the internet. One day they decided to meet up, and do "stuff." A month later he gets a phone call from the police department telling him that they have some information about his car that was recently vandalized. He went in to meet up with the police and was arrested on felony rape charges. They used a car vandalism that had happened months prior as an excuse to get him to the jail. which I find lame.

Come to find out, this girl was 14. She had gotten pregnant, and told her family that she had been raped. Now what's even better, three other guys had "raped" her at different times throughout the month, and all had met her online, thinking she was 19. All four were prosecuted and sent to prison. His charges had been reduced to a misdemeanor. When he was released from prison, he had his picture taken, and was put on the website.

But alas, the charges on the website said something along the lines of Felony rape of a child. So the guy calls in, and the lady said that they don't put the final charges on the website, only the initial charges. Which pretty much tells me that they put the worse charges possible online, to show how bad these terrible people are.

It's a sham. No other criminals are registered and tormented. There were a group of kids in my high school who terrorized dozens of other students. They were arrested on many occasions, why weren't they on some sort of registry? I understand that rape is a very tramatic thing, but it isn't the only crime that can ruin a person's life and make them always look behind their back.

I feel this system is not in place for the good of society, rather in place as a mouthpiece for a small group to wave power in front of another group. On it's current premise, this system is highly unethical in my opinion.

Ethics of the Sex Offender Database

Utah's database of convicted sex offenders is, for the most part, considered a good thing. It is important for information like that to be available... especially where children are concerned. There are two big issues that some might see as potential ethical problems though.

First, the site doesn't give us the whole story. I've heard people talk about this problem before, and they have mentioned that a big problem is that it makes some people look like horrible people when they are not. An example that i have often heard is when an 18-year-old is dating a 17-year-old and they break up. The 17-year-old gets mad, reports the 18-year-old, and suddenly, they have a criminal record as a sex offender. Now, I know this is not the case with a lot of the people on the database, but it isn't really fair to those few people who really do have situations like this.

The second is that it prevents these people from moving on with their lives. It haunts them in their jobs, relationships, and even where they make their homes. Society doesn't really give them a chance to be "rehabilitated" and rejoin the community. I think this is unfair to some of the people, like the ones I mentioned above. At the same time though, there are a lot of people who deserve to be haunted forver by the things they've done. So this is an idea that is also kind of up in the air for me.

Overall, I think the sex offender database is a good idea with good intentions, but like all good ideas and intentions, there are always going to be some problems.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Syndicated Blogging

According to an AP story in WiReD News, a new syndication service called BlogBurst will feed stories and headlines from 600 participating blogs into the mainstream media.
Newspapers are looking to BlogBurst to provide expert blog commentary on travel, women's issues, technology, food, entertainment and local stories, areas where publishers may not have dedicated staff...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Ethics of news video

Okay, I admit I got caught watching a dumb TV show. It wasn’t Cops vs. Bad Boys or whatever, but one step above it. The show was about how news video has been used in recent years to help law enforcement. There were a few ethical issues pointed out in the show.

The segment that caught my attention had to do with (supposedly) the first-ever police chase caught on video by a news helicopter. After a long chase, the car was disabled and the video showed a policeman approaching the car. Gun shots were fired by the driver and then one by the officer, killing the driver. The video was rushed onto the next newscast. The only thing apparent to the news viewers was that the officer approached the car and fired his gun. This caused an immediate public response about police impropriety. It was not apparent that the driver fired first without very carefully zooming in and reviewing it in slow motion.

What are the ethical responsibilities of airing this video without knowing or showing all of the details? I suppose that the TV news thought that they acted in the best interest of the public, but the news was hurried and not complete.

On the other hand, close examination of the video helped to clear the officer of any wrongdoing.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Isaac Hayes quits South Park

Several articles have been in the news recently about Isaac Hayes, who has been a voice on South Park since 1997, leaving the show over a religious satire of Scientology. One link to one of the first newspaper reports is at: http://articles.news.aol.com/tv/article.adp?id=20060313163309990010

The story continues in the media: Shortly after Hayes quit, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of South Park, had their first guest appearance on The David Letterman Show. To me this was an obvious PR event. Not much was said about Hayes. Stone and Parker told Letterman that they are just good kids who learned to make a lot of money with "really bad animation and fart jokes."
Rumor is that a re-run of the Scientology episode was canceled due to Tom Cruise’s (another Scientologist) influence on the network. South Park fans boycotting Cruise’s movies….. it goes on and on.

I am interested in the ethics of entertainment as part of mass media. What are the ethical codes of entertainment – or are there any? I realize that much of the issue between Hayes and Parker/Stone is more of a moral issue than ethics. Hayes quit because he was personally offended by the show. I believe he is displaying a double standard because Scientologists is not the only religion or group that South Park has offended.

Is there some ethical principle that allows Parker and Stone to offend people with humor? Does this not cause harm? Our culture is used to just blowing off offensive material in the media because of our belief in freedom of speech. Other cultures will not tolerate offence – just publish a few cartoons poking fun at the Muslim religion.

Personally, I am offended by South Park and numerous other television shows. That is why I avoid them. Ethical or not, the most basic moral principals do not allow me to engage them.

Magazines & Advertising

Question: Is a magazine ethically required to be an open forum for all advertisers who have the ability to pay?

No. Magazines and advertisers are two different species living symbiotically. But, just like species, you have different breeds of each.

In our free enterprise system, magazines don't exist for the greater good; they exist because someone somewhere has some sort of agenda. Different magazines have different agendas. For example, I have never read Ms. Magazine, but judging by its self description as a feminist magazine which is "More Than A Magazine - A Movement", I would assume that's its primary agenda is not to make a huge profit or report the news. I would guess that it's primary agenda is along the lines of liberating and empowering women in a male dominated world.

On the other hand, there are magazines like Time, whose agenda is more along the lines of reporting on important issues in today's world. Then there is a magazine called The National Review, which is a very conservative publication. It's agenda is very much conservative politics.

And then there are different breeds of advertisements; some want you to buy something, while others don't. For example, take the anti-smoking commercials which we've all seen. They aren't trying to persuade me to buy something or give them money.

So my point is this: I believe that magazines reserve the right to refuse certain or all advertisements. Magazines and Advertisers only coexist symbiotically when their agendas allow them to.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Killing Fields revisited

The timing of The Killing Fields could not have been at a more appropriate time considering the release of Jill Carroll by her Iraqi captors. Several parallels could be made between the movie and the real life Carroll story.

I believe that taking risks as a journalist is a matter to be decided by the journalist only. He or she must decide if loyalty to their employer or loyalty to discovering and reporting information will justify taking risks. It is not unlike the soldiers themselves – they have decided to take risks for their own reasons.

Should the journalist ask others to take risks as well? I think that it is appropriate to ask, but the person needs to know the risks – if for no other reason than that one can be open to a lawsuit if he is reckless in his requests of others.

Taking risks also needs to be weighed against the potential good. As in investing ones money or talents, higher risks often result in higher rewards.

UTAH"S New state Slogan...Coming April 5th!

I read a good article on the opinion page of the Herald Journal on March the 9th. It was written by Kathy Archer and was about advertising and slogans. We had just discussed Advertising and P.R. in class on the previous Tuesday, so it caught my eye.
One way advertising has been described is: The science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it. The marketing people spend millions of dollars researching colors, shapes, designs, and symbols that affect our preferences, with the goal that we will feel warm and trusting and then ultimately....we will BUY! One way to get the public's attention is to use slogans. They can be quirky, simplistic, romantic and emotional. They catch our attention.
The Tourism Council of Utah has decided that more people need to visit (or move to) our wonderful state to drop some money here so the state needs a catchy new slogan to draw the masses. (We the taxpayers are pitching in to the tune of 18 million dollars for this marketing makeover!!!!) Here are some slogans that Utah has previously tried. 1. Utah, The Friendly State 2. Ski Utah 3. The Greatest Snow on Earth 4. A Pretty, Great State 5.Utah! Where Ideas Connect....This is our current slogan. Who knew? Yeah..we need a new one. On April 5th, 2006 our new state slogan will be announced. Here are some ideas that were overlooked. 1.Gateway to Idaho 2. Don't Judge Us by Colorado City 3. We put the "FUN" in Fundamentalist 4.Liquor Laws like a Bible-Belt State, Minus the Humidity 5. Gosh, Utah's a Heckuva Nice Place! Watch for television spots and magazine advertisements .....Coming Soon!

Risky business

I don't think a journalist can ask a source to share information that will risk their life or their safety. However, if that source is informed that there is a risk factor involved, then that source should use his or her agency (and ethics) to make that personal choice. If the source holds a truth then he decides to share or not to share. Maybe there is a price to be collected for the risk? Most of us have a price. Especially when endangerment is a possibility. I hope that a journalist wouldn't use that source as a means to get the story. I remember in my notes the idea that Mill had. "An acts "rightness" is determined by the outcome". Telling the truth and risking the livelihood of a source may promote the greater good for the greater number, but I'm still torn in determining if that's the "right" choice.

and out in the real world...

Calvin and Hobbs do ethics

Can't live without you.....

Journalists and Public Relations people need each other. In Patterson and Wilkins we learned that no news organization is large enough to gather all the day's news without several public relations sources. Press releases share information every day concerning business earnings, new products, travel, entertainment, etc. In return, the media provide the audience that the P.R. profession requires. They want the publicity. So they scratch the back of one another.
Each profession define the news differently too. To thePublic Relations professional, the lack of breaking news is newsworthy....when things are flowing along smoothly. For the journalist the big stories lie in the areas where there is a change in the status quo....when things go wrong or at least differently than they normally do.
I heard Condoleeza Rice on Meet the Press two Sundays ago. The interviewer asked her about the horrific bombings that occurred that particular week in Bagdhad. She admitted that these incidents were terrible.....but could they shift the conversation to the many good things that were taking place in the other 15 provinces of that area?? I give about a B- for a grade to the Western Media. They surely show us all the tragedy. I would be interested to learn more from a different angle. From all walks of life living in Iraq and their day to day existence. What is it like? Many support the U. S. troops being in their midst helping them to gain the freedoms that they deserve.....obviously others do not!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

justice's ethics in Alabama

I know I have a blog up already, but I was reading the news paper artical, by Walter Williams, and came across a story that was interesting. It talked about Alababma Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker and his pateince (or lack there of) for others in his profession who use their office to impose their values instead of the written law.
Tom voiced his opinions in an artical after a 17yr. old got off death row after raping and stabbing a pregnant woman leaving her to die in front of three children. The reason the 17yr old got off death row was a decison made by the US Supreme Court's 4-5 that banned execution for murderers who were under 18 when they committed their crimes.
After this artical was printed the Alabana's Judicial Inquiry Commision filed complaints against Parker. They charged him with violating Alabama's judicial ethics standards when he publicly criticized his eight supreme court colleagues on their earlier dissions not to execute under 18yr. they also say that it breeds comtempt for the law.
I would like to see what they define as their ethical standards.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Who's a journalist these days?

Do Journalists Belong in the Media?

As if dictates from governments, media owners and advertisers weren't enough. Now journalists face a new enemy - those pesky mobile phone carrying people, with their instant reports and commentaries. Where are journalists going to go?


...Blood pours from his scalp as he reaches into his hip pocket, just above his trapped legs. Grabbing his handphone, he clicks on the quick-dial button, giving him a direct connection to a blog server. He clicks on "video" and starts pumping live action online.

"This is Nakasuri Hirito, trapped in the train that has just derailed in Amagasaki, Osaka, Japan. There are bodies all over," he says, as he pans over the inside of the wreckage.

Within seconds, JapanTV gets a sms to check out nakasuri.blogspot.com. The picture of the tragedy unfolding shocks them.

"We are receiving news of a train disaster in Amagasaki, Osaka," says the newscaster, as she interrupts the news bulletin. Within minutes, the blurry picture being generated by Nakasuri's 3G video handphone, is broadcasted live. Controls rooms in Atlanta, London and Kuala Lumpur, pick up the newsbreak and buy the broadcast.

Moments later, CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera switch over. The world holds its breath as the unknown Nakasuri Hirito beams the inside story of the battle to stay alive in carriage number 3.

The world has changed...

Former journalist Premesh Chandran says journalists must find ways of working with, instead of competing against, citizens reporting the news through their video/mobile phone cameras and blogs.

MORE here

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Lying as psychological warfare

Our own JCOM grad in US Army fatigues, Leon D'Souza, has a frank take on the government's PR ethics here:
Infoganda: The Politics of Make-Believe News.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


This should help clear up any confusion about the real Dith Pran and the actor who played his part in The Killing Fields. (Thanks, Unca Google!)


The portrayal of Dith Pran in "The Killing Fields" won an Oscar for fellow Cambodian Haing Ngor, who had also escaped the violence of the Khmer Rouge. But Ngor escaped the genocide in Cambodia only to be shot to death in this country. He was killed on a street in Los Angeles. Now Dith Pran, who's working in New York as a photographer for The New York Times, wants to make sure people never forget the genocide in Cambodia. He has compiled a collection of personal essays by survivors of the killing fields.

-- from http://www.cambodian.com/interview.htm (transcript of an MSNBC-TV interview with the real Dith Pran)


Dith Pran (born September 27, 1942 ) is a photojournalist best known as a refugee and Cambodian Holocaust survivor and was the subject of the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields. (He was portrayed in the movie by first time actor Haing S. Ngor, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.)

In 1975, Pran and New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg stayed behind in Cambodia to cover the fall of the capital Phnom Penh to the communist Khmer Rouge forces. Schanberg and other foreign reporters were allowed to leave, but Pran was not permitted to leave the country. When Cambodians were forced to work in forced labor camps, Pran had to endure four years of starvation and torture, before finally escaping to Thailand.

He has been a photojournalist with the New York Times in the United States since 1980. Pran has worked for recognition of the Cambodian Holocaust victims. He received an Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 1998 and is founder and president of The Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project, Inc.

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dith_Pran


Dr. Haing S. Ngor ( March 22, 1940 –February 25, 1996 ) was a Cambodian American physician and actor who is best known for winning a 1985 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in the movie The Killing Fields, in which he portrayed journalist and refugee Dith Pran in 1970s Cambodia, under the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Ngor himself lived through the Cambodian holocaust, and survived by hiding the fact that he was an obstetrician and gynecologist. As an educated person and a professional, he would have been killed under the harsh regime and purges of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. After the collapse of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, Ngor worked as a doctor in a refugee camp inside Thailand, and left for the United States on August 30, 1980.

In 1988, he wrote Haing Ngor: A Cambodian Odyssey, detailing his life under the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. In the second edition Survival in the Killing Fields, Roger Warner, Ngor's co-author, adds an epilogue telling the story of Ngor's life after winning the Academy Award.

On February 25, 1996 , Ngor was shot to death outside his apartment in Los Angeles, California, by members of a street gang who demanded the locket around his neck. The locket contained a picture of his late wife; none of the money in his wallet (reportedly a few hundred dollars in cash) was stolen. There was some speculation at the time that the gang members were acting at the behest of Khmer Rouge sympathizers in the U.S., but this was never proven.

Three 19-year-old members of the Oriental Lazy Boyz street gang were arrested and charged with Ngor's murder. They were separately tried and convicted in the Superior Court of Los Angeles. Tak Sun Tan was sentenced to 56 years to life; Indra Lim to 26 years to life; Jason Chan to life without parole. In 2004, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted Tak Sun Tan's habeas corpus petition, finding that prosecutors had manipulated the jury's sympathy by presenting false evidence. This decision was reversed and the conviction was ultimately upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in July 2005 .

Ngor survived incredible dangers during his life in Cambodia only to die violently in his adopted homeland, but he told a New York Times reporter after the release of The Killing Fields, "If I die from now on, OK! This film will go on for a hundred years."

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haing_S._Ngor