Thursday, April 24, 2014

Media Ethics & Issues: Ch. 3

Strategic Communication: Does Client Advocate Mean Consumer Adversary?

This chapter talks a lot about how susceptible audiences are to advertisements. It's interesting how the evolution of technology, public relations and advertising project new ethical issues that the public is not entirely aware of. The chapter begins by discussing how cookies and Web Beacons are used to gain insight into how to best market their product based on a user's interests. I think the relationship between "a room of requirement" and "a system of values" comes into play in regards to technology. Technology is great, but it can so often be used against us in order to fuel another's financial gain. I especially am interested in the fact that there isn't a solution to this other than thinking in terms of communitarianism, privacy, utilitarianism, etc. The solution relies on too many individuals to have an answer. The bigger picture of the chapter is more or less a reality check in regards to where we are heading in terms of advertising and public relations especially when the majority of audiences are supremely unaware of this new wave of strategic communication.

Communitarianism can be applied in explicit relation to the TARES process that does focus on the betterment of the public. What remains scary is the choice that advertisers have to abide by this system. Since communitarianism does focus on the individual and his or her acts, it circles back to their individual choice that may or may not influence the greater good of society. The choice also involves Kant's categorical imperative by recognizing advertising as a means to an end. Again, it is whether or not the means is used in a productive way to a positive end. In that sense, Utilitarianism can be applied to recognize the consequences of said action of advertising and marketing companies. What remains is a trial and error process involving this strategic communication that will ultimately determine the most ethically effective ways to engage audiences without undermining a lack of information and relinquishing productive and necessary tact.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Media Ethics Issues & Cases: Ch. 10

The Ethical Dimensions of Art and Entertainment

I like this chapter on a whole, but I mostly agree with the line that states, "Today, mass media have become the primary cultural storytellers of the era." I also agree that popular culture continues to elicit a decline in critical thinking skills. It is more than true that popular art is not nearly as thought provoking as it once was. There is a lack of motivation, not only by the artist to embed art with a critical edge, but as individuals to seek something more from art. Social media makes us lazy. Even in the way marketing and advertising firms rely on social media to do the work for them. There just seems to be a lack of quality to how we live our lives. We now find quality in numbers now. In social media, a quality post is one that gets a lot of likes. But who are we catering to with these likes? Do they make us individual or simply one in the same?

Ultimately, we cater to the masses. Through which we subconsciously attempt to universalize our thoughts in order to be applicable to the thousands. It's an accomplishment for a thousand people to relate to your post by liking it! I find it to be a bit ironic though. We think we are being unique by creating a funny text post or posting a selfie. Aren't we really just posting about something everyone already found funny or taking pictures in the same position and lighting as another picture that got a thousand likes? Are we artists in the respect that we are reinventing ideas in a relatable way?

To be an artist used to mean something. Poets were treated like celebrities and almost carried a heavier weight to their thoughts and ideals than political figures. Now, some crazy number, like less than 7% of people actually read poetry for leisure. Artists don't exist anymore because original thought doesn't matter. If individuals cannot see the message within something almost instantaneously, they won't take the time to look for it. Our culture is lazy.

I think that is primarily why the lines between entertainment and news have been blurred so much. News is competing with entertainment. The entertainment industry that is making news fun! Therefore, news outlets must in someway conform to the entertainment value of Steven Colbert or Jon Stewart in order to garner viewers. Through this we don't think about seeking truth anymore, rather we seek viewers. How many views can we get on this story? Does the story matter? Probably not, but we are going to make it matter even though war is going on and nobody really knows the ins and the outs of it because that political stuff is boring.

I think communitarianism is most applicable to the situation simply because it allows journalists to understand their institutional role and to evaluate their performance against shared societal values. For instance, the competition for reporting valuable news while seeking the truth is undermined by a reporters "right" to create news when there isn't any. Is reporting for entertainment value doing anything to help the community? Not really. From a utilitarian stance, if we recognize the ethical downfall of our actions based on future consequences, will we then recognize that there is a lack of community in mind? I don't know.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Media Ethics & Issues: Ch. 9

New Media: Continuing Questions and New Roles

I liked in this chapter that it combined the distinction of professionalism and how it effects the public's greater participation in a democratic society. The internet is a great place to learn about politics and gain a greater knowledge base for America's political system. However the capacity to develop a well rounded construct is eliminated when everything on the internet becomes personalized.

It is crucial, just as Sunstein says, that "people must be exposed to materials that they would not have chosen in advance." I question the ethical value in advertisers and Google using algorithms to track what specifically might pertain to an individual. In doing so, they perpetuate a society that relies on short term gratification without thinking about a desirable end. John Mill's utility principle evaluates the outcome to an action as the "rightness" of the initial act. I think today especially, everything moves at hyper speed eliminating the opportunity to find an end that determines the "rightness" of these actions. We will all look back in 10 years and think, what have we done? I have no doubt a lot of our world will change for the better, but this sense control over political framing ultimately eliminates democratic values that are pertinent to sharing an accurate depiction of our political systems.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Media Ethics Issues & Cases: Ch. 8

Picture This: The Ethics of Photo and Video Journalism

There is a lot of power that comes with photojournalism. Now days, seeing a photo paired with a catchy title is more or less the deciding factor in reading an article. It is unfortunate, but ultimately true. With this, photojournalists have to make decisions in terms of the victims being the primary stakeholder. This is conflicting when your loyalty does not necessarily lie with the victim. Or rather your sympathetic loyalties do lie with the victim, but your boss enforces a direction that pressures you to run a photo that isn't the most ethical.  It is too often the case that someone else's misfortune is good fortune for the photojournalist. Thinking back to the news report in which the body of a young boy was lying on the ground after a hit and run renders a negative and insensitive reaction. The station abused a traumatic event for the sake of a decent news story.

I think Gary Bryant created a good checklist to follow that allows photographers to perform their duties without invading the privacy of the victim. Had the news station respected the grieving family member and the dead boy under the advised checklist, the reported event would have been just as effective. I think there is a time and a place for such images to make a large impact, but photojournalists must be smart in their tactics for garnering intense images that inadvertently dramatize an unfortunate situation.

When it comes down to it, Kant's categorical imperative is the most important principle to consider if a photo rides the line of ethics. For example, the photo run in the University of Florida newspaper, did not follow the principle. In my opinion, despite the editor's claims, the photo was used as a means to an end rather than an end to a means. Running the photo with a dead baby is never ethical, especially when the story alone provides the desired effect on the readers.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Media Ethics Issues & Cases: Ch. 7

Media Economics: The Deadline Meets the Bottom Line

What struck me in this chapter was the final section titled, "Social Responsibility in the New Millennium." The story of Brad Clift who went to Somalia on his own will was inspiring. Then I thought, why is it so inspiring to be independent? Why aren't all journalists driven to go places and find truth that could benefit the world?

Under the code of ethics there are two "guiding principles" that speak directly to ethics of media economics that tell journalists to seek the truth and act independently. Why is such a simple concept so hard to comprehend? Our society has become so money driven with cut backs and seeking profit instead of seeking the truth. On the one hand, people aren't willing to take the risk when these larger conglomerates continue to monopolize all of the media. Under the stakeholder theory, a look at what benefits the community is more of an important factor instead of funneling money into large media conglomerates. It's sad that more journalists aren't taking the initiative like Brad Clift, or if they are, they are not being recognized as such. At the end of the day, the communities are left with only information sifted out through these media conglomerates that maybe aren't as important as other stories.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Media Ethics Issues & Cases: Ch.6

Mass Media in a Democratic Society: Keeping a Promise

There are three topics my mother taught me to always avoid in conversations. The first is money, the second religion and third politics. I've found that with the right company, you can get away with a lot. However, as a personal preference I tend to steer clear of politics as a general rule. It's not because I'm bored by the topic or uninterested, rather I simply don't know my facts. I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that facts and truth regarding politics are hard to come by. This chapter does a great job of highlighting how the mass media effects our understanding of politics and agendas as a whole.

Politics aren't politics anymore because of the mass media. Appealing to the masses doesn't mean anything. Everything is a ploy to get votes. It's so frustrating how campaigns are run by "political characters", rather than actual politicians. Politicians aren't people who possess real values or have a legitimate opinion anymore because an opinion, in part, would mean it might disagree with the majority. Therein lies my biggest qualm; politicians are losing themselves to the media by stretching values in a way that will appease the majority. Honestly, if you have to stretch your value system and "perform" for the camera as this character, I don't want you leading our country.

In which case, I agree with Bok that an investigation of private character is necessary for the public to know. I think the criteria listed is valid as well. Invading the privacy of someone who prospectively wants to run our country is a "need to know" factor. However, I don't agree with campaigning tactics that are utilized to sabotage another candidates' credibility. If it happens to be the case that one candidate recognizes the other is truly a bad person, leave it to reporters and journalist to expose the truth. Hardcore truth is what we, as a public domain, are missing.

The chapter says that "most ethicists agree that the media's primary function is to provide citizens with information that will allow them to make informed political choices." I just have a hard time seeing past the drama of it all. It is a constant "food fight" between politicians trying to look better than the other, grazing over serious matters while they batt their eyes.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Media Ethics Issues & Cases: Ch. 5

Privacy: Looking for Solitude in the Global Village

In this global village that we live, privacy continues to become more and more obsolete, thus leaving our own thoughts the only private sanction of our lives. Our culture is driven by sharing the news through social media, news shows, reality shows and tabloids. The relevancy of information changes every second due to the mass influx of updated everything.

The scary thing, however, is that our information does not remain wholly within Alan Westin's controlled view of privacy through the "circles of intimacy". The figure might as well be a detailed spider web shooting off in every which way because, the fact is, we don't know where all our information goes and who can see it. What's more, is that our society is so numb to that thought. As informed as I am about the implications of displacing personal information on the web, I do it everyday. It's truly a disease in its own right. I mean, kids as young as 10 use social media outlets. There whole life story will be readily available for anyone to access if the use of these devices continues like it does.

I feel like the true meaning of privacy is lost. Even when I'm alone, in my room, with my own thoughts I'm still connected to the world through my phone. This chapter really made me stop and think about the principle of privacy and the genuine necessity there is for it. Philosopher Louis W. Hodges writes on the need for privacy saying that "without some degree of privacy civilized life would be impossible" (Hodges 1983). This degree of privacy, and the idea of privacy in and of itself, continues to shift and mold to different standards surrounding our changing societal construct leaving little of the original idea behind.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Media Ethics Issues & Cases: Ch. 4

Loyalty: Choosing Between Competing Allegiances

Loyalty is a funny thing. I always kind of thought loyalty was a cut and dry concept; either you are loyal or you are not. Of course everything is situational and I think in certain instances it is ok to break an established sense of loyalty. It's always a tough judgement call taking a step back to weigh the consequences knowing someone or something will ultimately be effected for the worse by your decision.

Recently, I was placed in a situation that forced me to establish my loyalty in regards to an agreement made out of necessity. Long story short, my roommate and I agreed to room with one of our five current suite mates but had to withdraw our agreement after a series of events that lead us to believe we had a potential better option. Based on lack of communication, from all parties involved, it came down to a decision from my roommate and myself to settle our rooming situation next year.

When the ball was left in our court we laid all the facts on the table eventually determining that our second option was the most financially pleasing and would make us happiest. The conflict continued as that required us to sacrifice our principles and values in regards to having already made an agreement. My roommate continued to seek options that would please everyone while I was much more determined to sacrifice the principle of the agreement for my own happiness. (Call me selfish, but I have been that person to sacrifice my absolute happiness one too many times to waste a full year of tuition in a situation I knew I wouldn't be pleased with. Also, withholding the fact that we preferred the second option would elicit a dishonest behavior that I wanted to dispel.) So, after calling outside sources - our parents - I agreed to break the news, with a heavy heart, that we would have to abandon the initial agreement and go with another option.

Despite the emotional decision and risk of losing a friend, the situation resolved itself as best it could. She understood and decided it was for the best. Not to mention, she appreciated the honest apology.

I think what made this so tough is that we truly care about her. Also, having been that friend that gets sort of screwed over made the situation that much harder from my perspective. Setting certain values and principles aside was a dagger knowing how it would effect her. Having to define my loyalties really tested my ability to be truthful, but I am happy that the truth surfaced instead of a false sense of complacency that could have ultimately been the downfall of a really good friendship.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Media Ethics Issues & Cases: Ch. 2

Information Ethics: A profession Seeks the Truth

This chapter discusses the problematic ideal of truth in that it extremely fickle in all accounts of life situations. No matter what truth is more than just a collection of facts and it means different things to different people. In the media objectivity and framing limits what an absolute truth may be. Packaging a story does more for a news station than it does for the public receiving the information. A focus on “current events” only to increase viewers and engage a larger audience now trumps the whole of a story that may prove a long standing issue. Lying and concealing the truth ultimately threatens the whole of our societal knowledge. 

Are we ever really getting the whole story? Probably not. To me, that is extremely scary. I wish I could say that turing on the news would help me to understand our national and world problems, but it doesn’t because not enough time is focused on the absolute truth. All for what, news ratings? I feel that the issue runs deeper into the completely skewed priorities of our country. Forget about learning the truth, give the people entertaining tidbits that will do nothing to further our growth as a nation.   

A changing view of truth:
  • Pre-Socratic Greek [alethea]: existed in a time when information was only spoken (oral culture). By repeating messages, songs, or stories truth was kept alive for future generations. This was discarded when ideas were written down. --> We now believe what we see.
  • Plato's Cave: links human rationality and intellect; it could not be touched or verified. We are all living in a cave.
  • Medieval: What the king, Church or God says.
  • Milton: competing notions of the truth should be allowed to coexist, with the ultimate truth eventually emerging.
  • Enlightenment: divorced the Church, and developed correspondence theory stating that truth should correspond to external facts or observations. (Journalistic ideal of objectivity).
  • Pragmatists: knowledge and reality were not fixed by but instead were the result of an evolving stream of consciousness and learning.

Enlightenment Cont.
  • Journalists view objectivity as refusing to allow individual bias to influence what they report or how they cover it. It is in journalism that all facts and people are regarded as equal and equally worthy of coverage.
Pragmatists Cont.
  • Truth lost much of its universality, but it was in remarkable agreement with the American value of democratic individualism and provided a challenge to objectivity. 

[ Pragmatists challenge Enlightenment because it questioned the absolute idea of there being and objective/detached reporter while truth remains subjective.]

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Media Ethics Issues & Cases: Ch. 1

As chapter one was primarily an introductory chapter that comprised the broad topic of ethics, it was quite informative. I was most intrigued by the multitude of theories presented in the chapter. It makes sense that there are as many as there are due to varying perspectives concerning ethics as no two situations are ever alike, but I never realized the breadth of them. The book broke them down in a way that categorized the ethical, moral and principle means specific to each theory allowing for a deeper understanding of my own ethical principles. I appreciated the myth busting section engaging the idea that ultimately there are no right answers under the jurisdiction of ethics. Finally I was really intrigued by the case study of the picture shown at the end of the chapter. It brought about a different perspective concerning visual context in relation to ethics and the multi-angled prism of presented dilemmas.