If it were left to me to decide whether we should have a government without a free press or a free press without a government, I would prefer the latter.  

Thomas Jefferson 

Ethics for Public Communication 

COM613-001/-900: Seminar

Winter '14-15; T; 6:30 pm - 9:20 pm, on-campus/online

Lawrence Souder; Ellen Bernhard

Voice: 215-895-2730

Classroom: Curtis Hall 250

Office Hours: PISB Glass Tower, T, 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Office: #47, Room 324

E-mail: LS39 @ drexel.edu

Description: This course is about ethical decisions is public communication, which includes: news writing, mass media, advertising, and public relations. Through the analysis of case studies and the examination of ethical frameworks this course will explore ethical issues in such topics as:

This course articulates with the content and goals of other courses in the Department of Culture and Communication, specificially COM 605 (Sports Journalism), COM 660 (Investigative Journalism), and COM 680 (PR Writing & Strategies).

Objectives: If you successfully complete this course, you will be able to:


Selected journal articles

Grading:  This course will proceed as a seminar. As such, it will require you to take an active role in presenting and discussing ideas in class. No midterm or final exams will be given. Your final grade will be computed on the basis of the following components:

Scores and grades will be computed as follows: 98-100% = A+; 93-97% = A; 90-92% = A-; 87-89% = B+; 83-86% = B; 80-82% = B-; 77-79% = C+;  73-76% = C; 70-72% = C-; 67-69% = D+; 60-66% = D; <60 = F.

Assignments: Each class meeting will require you to prepare a reading and a writing assignment. Most readings are articles from research journals. Click on their author designators in the Reading Due column of the Assignment Schedule for study guide questions to help you focus on their key terms and concepts.

Most writing assignments are opportunities to apply the perspectives and principles explicated in the readings to your own case studies. Click on the items in the Writing Due column of the Assignment Schedule for specific details. Late assignments will be penalized one letter grade increment for each class day late.

In addition to the ongoing reading and writing assignments, each of you will give a formal presentation at some point in the course. Click on the link to presentations for details.

Academic Honesty: It is assumed that the work you submit for this course, whether written or spoken, is your own. Any attempt to represent someone else's work as your own is plagiarism. Plagiarism includes copying another student's work on papers or tests, copying without attribution the ideas or words from published sources, submitting papers written in previous semesters, and referring to notes during exams. For more clarification on plagiarism, see Drexel's Student Handbook. Such academic misconduct will result in a failing grade for the assignment, a probable failing grade for the course, and a report to the Dean for possible disciplinary action. Be advised that internet services such as EVE 2.3 and Turnitin.com make the detection of plagiarism easy.

Attendance: You are expected to attend all classes. Attendance is important to your progress and your classmates'. Much of what you learn will come from discussions and interactions with your fellow students. A formal presentation for which you are absent will be graded as an F. If an emergency prevents you from attending class (such as a personal illness or family emergency), please contact me in advance of your absence. You may miss one class without penalty; any additional absences will reduce your final grade. [on-line students exempt]

Course Add/Drop/Withdrawal: Refer to the University's policies to add, drop, or withdraw from this course.

Special Needs

Students with disabilities requesting accommodations and services at Drexel University need to present a current accommodation verification letter (AVL) to faculty before accommodations can be made. AVLs are issued by the Office of Disability Services (ODS). For additional information, contact the ODS at http://drexel.edu/disability/, 3201 Arch St., Ste. 210, Philadelphia, PA 19104, V 215.895.1401, or TTY 215.895.2299. Other resources for students with special needs are available from the following:

Assignment Schedule










Are the Media Liberal?






Plaisance (2007); Elliott; Souder




Media Ideals I

Plaisance (2000); Murphy

Proposal 1




Media Ideals II

Ugland; Oates





Cenite; Whitehouse

Project 1




Fiduciary interests

Martin; Craft; Wakefield




Public relations

Tilley; Marsh





Maciejewski; Fitzpatrick

Proposal 2




Competing interests

Cooper; Hickey





Hayes; Singer; Ward; Horsfield





Project 2