COM880: Study Guide

Use these questions to guide your understanding of the assigned readings.


Cenite, M., 2009, "Ethical Learnings from Borat on Informed Consent for Make Benefit Film and Television Producers," Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 24:22–39.


1. What specific ethical issue arises between producers and participants in works of journalism, documentary and reality television?


2. What body of law are agreements between video producers and participants based on?


3. How are documentary ethics both similar to and different from journalism ethics?


4. What is the difference between a consequentialist perspective on documentary ethics and a deontological perspective?




Cooper, Thomas, and Tom Kelleher, 2001, Better Mousetrap? Of Emerson, Ethics, and Postmillennium Persuasion, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16.2 / 16.3


1. In what way is Emerson's comment about product quality Darwinian?


2. What does Emerson's position imply about the enterprises of advertising and public relations?


3. What issues arise in contemporary society that challenges Emerson's 19th century position?


4. How did McNeil Consumer Healthcare attempt to respond ethically to diverse and conflicting values?


5. Why did Nestle encounter resistance to their claims over their baby formula?



Craft, Stephanie and Charles Davis, 2000, New Media Synergy: Emergence of Institutional Conflicts of Interest, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 15.4


1. What about consolidation of news media is problematic for the practice of journalism?


2. How might corporations' goals color their view of journalism?


3. What do professional codes of ethics say or imply about institutional conflicts of interest?


4. What does Craft offer as a definition of institutional conflict of interest?


5. What have been two remedies for addressing institutional conflicts of interest?


6. What does Craft recommend for improving the efforts to address institutional conflicts of interest?



Elliott, Deni ; Getting Mill Right; Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Vol. 22, No. 2-3: pages 100-112.

1. What does Elliott find problematic about the simplification of utilitarianism to "the greatest good for the greatest number?"


2. Why does Elliott find Mill especially relevant to discussions about ethical media practices?


3. What for Mill is "the real morality of public discussion?"


4. What for Mill is happiness?


5. What is the difference between aggregate good and arithmetic good?


6. What five principles of justice does Mill offer to protect individuals from
being sacrificed for the happiness of the community?



Fitzpatrick, Kathy R. and Candace Cummins Gauthie, 2001, Toward a Professional Responsibility Theory of Public Relations Ethics, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16.2 / 16.3


1. What aspects of the public relations industry have led to its reputation for unethical practices?


2. What is the attorney-adversary model of public relations?


3. What is Fitzpatrick's view of this model?


4. What is the enlightened self-interest standard for public relations?


5. What is Fitzpatrick's view of this model?


6. What is the social responsibility theory of public relations?


7. What is Fitzpatrick's view of this model?


8. What is the principle of mutuality for ethical public relations practice?


9. What is Fitzpatrick's view of this model?


10. What is a public relations professional's fiduciary relationship with a client?


11. What does it mean that public relations professionals should serve as the client's public conscience?


12. What three principles does Fitzpatrick propose for exercising this public conscience?


13. What principles of ethical communication for the public relations industry does Fitzpatrick propose?


Gauthier, Candace Cummins, 2002, Privacy Invasion by the News Media; Three Ethical Models, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 17.1


1. What is privacy?


2. What moral good might override one's right to privacy?


3. How do Kantian, utilitarian, and the transfer of power model view invading the privacy of public figures?


Hayes, Arthur S.; Jane B. Singer, Jerry Ceppos; Shifting Roles, Enduring Values: The Credible Journalist in a Digital Age; Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Vol. 22, No. 4: pages 262-279.


1. What three broad values, according to Hayes, influence credibility in the media environment where journalists work alongside “digital native” communicators?

2. What does Hayes mean when he says of blog content, “[P]ersuasion and diversion are too easily confused with enlightenment and fact?”

3. What four criteria does Hayes review for defining a journalist?

4. Why does the criterion of institutional authenticity become problematic for aggregators and re-packagers of news?

5. How are accountability and transparency handled in online environments?

6. Why, according to Hayes, do today’s journalists find their autonomy challenged?



Hickey, Thomas W., 2003, A Masochist's Teapot: Where to Put the Handle in Media Ethics, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 18.1


1. What according to Hickey does moral reasoning rest on?


2. What source does Hickey draw from for developing his media ethics?


3. What is meant by the notions of the One and the Many?


4. How can the construct of the Trinity relate to the One and the Many?


5. What tensions exist between the One and the Many?


Horsfield, Peter, 2003, Continuities and Discontinuities in Ethical Reflections on Digital Virtual Reality, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 18.3 / 18.4

1. How does the notion of the seed illustrate the differences between reality and virtual reality?


2. How is the virtual used in human endeavors?


3. In what ways are digital virtual realities both continuous and discontinuous with older forms of representation like books, photographs, and amusement parks?


4. How is virtual space different from conventional notions of space?


5. What are some ethical questions that arise from the meeting between the human body in real space and the technologically mediated environment in virtual space?


6. How has DVR been criticized for its distracting effects on humans?


7. What particular ethical concerns arise from the fact that most DVR content is produced and consumed by men?


8. What consequences has the virtual side of the global marketplace had on the actual world?


Maciejewski, Jeffrey J., 2003, Can Natural Law Defend Advertising?, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 18.2


1. What is meant by "natural law?"


2. In what sense does the free market relate to natural law?


3. In what sense does advertising relate to natural law?


4. In what sense is rhetoric natural?


5. Based on his notion of natural law how does Maciejewski judge the institution of advertising?


6. How can natural law be used to criticize the institution of advertising?


Marsh, Charles W. Jr., 2001, Public Relations Ethics: Contrasting Models from the Rhetorics of Plato, Aristotle, and Isocrates, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16.2 / 16.3


1. What is the two-way symmetry model of public relations?


2. How do journalistic and adversarial views of public relations ethics compare on the issue of truth telling?


3. What is the relationship between contemporary public relations and classical rhetoric?


4. In what ways does the two-way symmetry model for public relations reflect Isocrates's view of rhetoric?


Martin, Hugh J., and Lawrence Souder; Interdependence in Media Economics: Ethical Implications of the Economic Characteristics of News; Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 24(2/3): 127–145.


1. What two forces do Martin and Souder examine in the current production of news?


2. What condition of human communities do Martin and Souder point to as a basis for examining the ethics of news production?


3. What ethical perspective do they take in their ethical analysis?


4. How do the costs of reproducing and transmitting news make it different from other economic goods?


5. What does it mean to say that news is a public good?


6. What is the nature of market transactions?


7. What is the nature of administrative transactions?


8. What is the nature of status/grant transactions?


9. Why, according to Martin and Souder, are status/grant transactions closest to the ethical ideal of news production?



Murphy, James B.; Stephen J. A. Ward, Aine Donovan; Ethical Ideals in Journalism: Civic Uplift or Telling the Truth? Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Vol. 21, No. 4: pages 322-337.


1. What two virtues do journalists traditionally claim to abide by, but according to Murphy, have recently fallen short of?


2. In a journalist's struggle to report the news, what might "restrain the impulse to tell the whole truth?"


3. What does Murphy mean when he says, "The journalist occupies an epistemologically precarious position?"


4. What virtues does a journalist need in order to seek the truth?


5. What are three reasons for a journalist to choose truth telling over civic ideals where they conflict?


6. How does the civic value of patriotism complicate the job of a journalist?


7. What is Murphy's "democratic patriotism?"


8. What, according to Murphy, is "the democratic role of journalism?"


9. Given "the democratic role of journalism," what is Murphy's assessment of the particular case of "embedded reporters?"


10. What does Murphy recommend for the future efforts of "embedding news organizations?"


Oates, Thomas P.; John Pauly; Sports Journalism as Moral and Ethical Discourse; Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Vol. 22, No. 4: pages 332-347.

1. Why does Oates feel so strongly about the status of sports journalism?


2. According to Oates, what is the value of sports journalism if it can't provide citizens with critical information the way conventional journalism does?


3. Why is sports journalism regarded as "the sandbox of the newsroom?"


4. What are some of the narrative features of sports journalism?


5. Why does Oates say, "[M]edia outlets cover sports with a clear conflict of interest?"


6. How does Oates counter the accusation that sports journalism "lacks gravity" and is "ethically flawed?"


7. In what ways has the media coverage of end-zone celebrations offer moral judgements?


Plaisance, Patrick Lee, 2007; Transparency: An Assessment of the Kantian Roots of a Key Element in Media Ethics Practice; Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Vol. 22, No. 2-3: pages 187-207.

1. What is "transparent behavior?"


2. What role does secrecy play in moral communicative acts?


3. Why, according to Kant, it truth telling important?


4. What is Kant’s categorical imperative?


5. Why, according to Plaisance, is trust such an important ingredient in human communication?


6. Why is it that transparency "may not necessarily guarantee moral progress?"


7. Why is transparency not in "the top tier of the most highly ranked values" among journalists?


8. What is the "Rule of Transparency?"


9. What is Kant’s principle of humanity?


10. How have the Society of Professional Journalists, the Public Relations Society of America, and the American Marketing Association implied a regard for Kant’s principle of humanity?


11. According to Kant, why is it that we must "strive to treat others as ends in themselves and not solely as means for the attainment of personal goals or desires?"



Plaisance, Patrick Lee, 2000, The Concept of Media Accountability Reconsidered, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 15.4


1. What is the relationship between media accountability and media freedom?


2. What is the difference between responsibility and accountability?


3. How does Plaisance assess some of the current accountability systems?


4. How does Plaisance's notion of the "interactional element of accountability" supplement these current systems?


5. What views would a communitarian and a libertarian take in the discussion of media accountability?



Singer, J., & Ashman, I. (2009). Comment Is Free, but Facts Are Sacred": User-generated Content and Ethical Constructs at the "Guardian. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 24(1), 3-21.


1. According to Singer, what ethical challenges do the various forms of user-generated content on newspaper Web sites pose?

2. What philosophical framework does Singer use to inform their analysis of professional norms in journalism?

3. What did Singer discover about authenticity and credibility among professional journalists?

4. What did Singer discover about freedom and autonomy among professional journalists?

5. What did Singer discover about responsibility and accountability among professional journalists?

6. What did Singer discover about dialogue among professional journalists?


Souder, L., (2010). "A Free-market Model for Media Ethics: Adam Smith's Looking Glass," Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Volume 25 Issue 1, 53 - 64.


1. Why, according to Souder, do the media present special ethical challenges?


2. Why should corporate-owned media be founded on sound media ethics?


3. Why does Souder think that Adam Smith's thinking could be the basis for a system of media ethics?


4. What analogy does Souder draw between the media system of information the economic system of wealth?


5. What analogy of Adam Smith's does Souder build on to advocate for transparency in the marketplace?




Tilley, Elspeth; 2005; The Ethics Pyramid: Making Ethics Unavoidable in the Public Relations Process, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Vol. 20, No. 4: pages 305-320.

1. What does Tilley hope to add to the the models that "only evaluate PR’s operational
and strategic effectiveness?"


2. What are some questions to ask that would help to develop a sense of virtue ethics in public relations settings?


3. How could a PR team assess their actitivies during a campaign from the perspective of virtue ethics?


4. What is a weakness of a virtue ethics perspective for assessing PR activities?


5. How can a deontological ethics perspective be incorporated into a PR campaign’s planning?


6. What are some deontological ways to assess the ethics of messages and communication?


7. What is a weakness of a deontological ethics perspective for assessing PR activities?


8. How could a PR team assess their actitivies during a campaign from the perspective of consequentialist ethics?


9. What is a weakness of a consequentialist ethics perspective for assessing PR activities?


10. What are the three stages for using the ethics pyramid to choose ethics approaches for assessing PR activities?


11. Why does Tilley think that the ethics pyramid improves ethical standards of PR practice?



Ugland, Erik; Jennifer Henderson; Who Is a Journalist and Why Does it Matter? Disentangling the Legal and Ethical Arguments; Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Vol. 22, No. 4: pages 241-261.

1. What, according to Ugland and Henderson, has made "the issue of journalistic identity more complicated and consequential?"


2. What are the two broad domains that require specification when definitions of the term journalist are offered?


3. What is the relationship between the contexts of law and of ethics?


4. In view of the differences over the definition of the term journalist inherent in the two contexts, what do Ugland and Henderson propose?


5. Does the US Constitution seem to favor an egalitarian or a communitarian view of the term journalist?


6. What special protections have the US Congress and the states granted to journalists?


7. What informal privileges have government officials provided to journalists?


8. What is the difference among what Ugland calls public communicators, second-level journalists, and top-level journalists?



Wakefield, Robert I. and Coleman F. Barney, 2001, Communication in the Unfettered Marketplace: Ethical Interrelationships of Business, Government, and Stakeholders, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 16.2 / 16.3


1. What is it about the global free market that requires new ethical constructs?


2. How does the free marketplace benefit producers, consumers, and society?


3. How can a free market regulate itself?


4. How does Maslow's hierarchy of needs apply to the denizens of the free market?


5. What are the traditional rationales for restraints on the free market?


6. Who are the stakeholders of any given corporation?


7. What moral obligations exist between producers and consumers?


8. What other responsibilities exist between the producers and other stakeholders?


9. What aspects of the global marketplace make tradition views of ethical business communication with stakeholders obsolete?


10. What responsibilities do stakeholders have when receiving information?


11. What are the four levels of truth?


12. What is the role of priority values in the assessment of business communication?


13. What agent or resource is available to protect disenfranchised stakeholders from harm from questionable business communication?


Ward, S. J. A. (2005). Philosophical foundations for global journalism ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 20(1), 3–21.


1. According to Ward, why do we need a system global journalism ethics?

2. What does Ward mean by a contractualist perspective on ethics?

3. In what sense does journalism create a social contract?

4. What are Ward’s three foundational principles for global journalism ethics?

5. What are Ward’s three imperatives for a cosmopolitan perspective on journalism ethics?



Whitehouse, Ginny, (2010). 'Newsgathering and Privacy: Expanding Ethics Codes to Reflect Change in the Digital Media Age', Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 25:4, 310 - 327.


1. Why does Whitehouse believe that rapid dissemination of information in the digital era demands development of new ethical guidelines?


2. What is the difference between secrecy and privacy?


3. What arguments have been used to justify the deception used in gaining access to a person's secrets?


4. What do various journalism ethics codes say about issues of privacy?


5. What special role do journalists assume that may persuade the public to accept journalistic deceptions?


6. What human toll is engendered by deception, even though it may be justified?


7. What ethical balancing test offers an effective ethical model for considering journalistic deception?


8. What long-standing journalistic separations between opinion and news threaten traditional distinctions between public and private space?


9. What special ethical challenges to social networking sites pose for journalists?