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.