Monday, December 14, 2009

Chloe's dilemma

My ethical dilemma for the blog is:

In the early 1970s Les Kinsolving, the religion writer for The Examiner, wrote several articles about Peoples Temple (a cult in San Francisco led by Jim Jones who later took his people to South America and made his followers drink Kool-Aide laced with cyanide resulting in the death of 900 people) prior to the mass suicide he had written several articles that went unpublished. The Examiner was censoring due to government restraints and threats from the temple. Was it ethical for The Examiner to censor in order to protect themselves rather than the people who eventually died in the cult?

Check out the published and un-published reports from Kinsolving -

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A video was taken of 16-year-old Derrion Albert being beaten to death on a Chicago street. The video was taken by a person whose sister attended the same public school as Albert, but was not involved in the fight. Questions were raised when this said person contacted Chicago's WFLD-TV station to sell the video for cash. Was it "ok" to puchase the video which contained raw and gruesome footage? (see link of video below) WFLD-TV's vice president and news director on editorial process, Carol Fowler, asked why the "videographer" did not do anything to help the teen Albert but only film the fight? In the Poynter article Fowler discussed why she decided to air the video in the news (after providing the police with a copy of the video).
As a journalism ethics student do you agree with the station's purchasing the video ($250) and then airing? As a sidenote, when aired on the news a warning was put on before the video for its violence.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Laura's Ethical Dilemma

On the front page of a Sunday morning New England paper, three woman are shown shooting up heroine in a gazebo. The story is about the epidemic of heroine addiction in the peaceful town of Willamantic, New England. According to a report, reporter Tracy Fox and photographer Brad Clift earned the trust of these addicts after spending months in town. The photograph was part of a five part series. Critics are claiming the photograph was set up and the woman were paid to shoot up heroine in front of the cameras.

What do you think of the photograph? Do you find it offensive? Should the photograph be put on the front page? Does the fact the photograph takes place in a small town in a small town newspaper make the circumstances change rather than if it were on a more nationally known newspaper?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina people took every measure in order to survive. The flooded streets signaled abandoned stores, full of whatever stock had not floated away. It was common for people to raid stores in search of food or anything else they could find. The Associated Press ran a few stories that featured photos of those who took from local grocery or corner stores. One photo featured a black male treading through the water with a plastic bag full of groceries; the other portrayed two white people, waist high in the flood water, carrying groceries as well. The two photos are almost identical and if you were to look at them you would assume both the white pair and the single black male are doing the exact same thing. Wrong. In the text attached to both photos the black male is allegedly “looting” while the white people have simply “found” these groceries. Apparently the photos came from two different news sources who captioned them differently. Regardless, should the AP have altered both captions? What are some of the ethical implications here? You can click on the picture to see the images up close.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kevin's ethical dilemma

On Poynter, there is a link that tells about journalist Alysia Sofios, who let four members of a family traumatized by murder, abuse and incest into her home after she had done an initial story about them for Fox affiliate KMPH in California. She never told her news director about the arrangement.

After growing compassion for the criminal's (Marcus Wesson) relatives during her coverage of the story, she received a call from Wesson's wife asking for help. 8 months after Sofios let the Wessons into her home, Marcus Wesson went to trial and Sofios was asked to report on them again. Her boss asked whether she could cover the family objectively, and Sofios said she could.

Was this unethical of her? Should she have told her boss right away about the living arrangement? Is it even possible to cover a situation like this "objectively" if you were in Sofios' position?

EDIT - I realized I didn't link the article for more info. Sorry.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Michael Tomasky, an American editor-at-large for the UK Guardian recently posted this video on his blog:

In the video he discusses a new poll of New Jersey democrats and republicans. According to the poll, an astoundingly high amount of republicans in New Jersey think that President Obama is the Antichrist, or aren't sure but speculate that he might be. According to the video, in the same poll a large percentage of democrats that that former President Bush had prior knowledge of September 11th. I have many questions about this poll and the choice to publicize it. How valid was the poll? How was it executed? Was it a fluke or can it be checked? Does Tomasky have an ethical obligation to tell us a little bit more about the poll before reporting on it? Should the report contain more information than just the statistics on a poll and editorializing? On a more fundamental level, what are the ethical ramifications of giving this poll so attention when there are so many other things happening in the world? Discuss.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Does a murder involving someone from Harvard or Yale deserve more coverage than someone from another university, even someone from USF? It appears so. The murder of Yale University grad student, Annie Le, has received A LOT of media attention. As reports,

"The New York Times, one of several Ivy League house organs, has already published five articles about Le's disappearance and murder and the apprehension of suspect Raymond Clark III. The Boston Globe has published at least six stories about the case, and the Washington Post has run at least three briefs from the Associated Press. The Times of London, published five time zones away, can't seem to sate its appetite for Annie Le news. Even the proletarian New York tabloids—the Post and the Daily News—have gone ape for the story."

But why? Is there something about an Ivy League student/professor that is more alluring to the public? Are they worth more because their IQ’s are above average? Is it the public that is obsessed with the Yales and Harvards of the nation, or is it the media’s fixation? Furthermore, is it ethical to give more coverage to one murder over another based on something like the location it took place at or the person who was killed?

Here’s some articles about the crime itself… Just google “Annie Le” and thousands more come up.

This article says Le’s brother was overwhelmed by the media coverage of his sister’s death:

Here’s some discussion of whether Ivy League murders are more newsworthy:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

OTTUMWA, IA - AUGUST 13: Atari's Space Invader...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Jonny's Ethical Dilemma

My ethical situation involves Jeff Gerstmann, former writer for upper division gaming site GameSpot.

I've included multiple mediums to soak up this dilemma. For the readers of the class:

For the video watchers:

Aaaaand for the comic enthusiasts:

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Message Ethics: Can You Be Too Entertaining with what you have to say? I've heard about the noise-to-signal ration. How about the fun-to-signal ratio?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Ethics seems too refined a term to describe the professional shortcomings of this sports column.

But any writer can fall in love with her/his own cleverness. But how did the copy editing/editing corps let this through? Do they hate the guy??

The kicker:

And ballplayers, who always invent the slang no matter what ESPN would have you believe, came up with an expression for a home run that you might appreciate.

Congratulations, Jaycee. You left the yard.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Backing away from ‘multimedia specialist’ self branding

Some advice from a working reporter: Be a reporter first, to which you add multimedia skills.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Here's Brian's ethics post. I'd put this as my first question. What are the ethical implications *for the news organizations*? Is there any ethical concern for them? Brian raises some important legal questions. But is there an ethical dimension?????

From Brian:

Journalism Organizations Protest Big Ten Restrictions on Game Coverage

Yes another sports story but very interesting. They are putting restrictions on what journalists can use, including pictures and video, from college football games. They are severely restricting online journalists and bloggers.

Can these journalists argue based on their first amendment rights? / Do they have a realistic argument for protest?
Why are they being restricted in the first place?
What are the implications if they continue to be restricted?
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Number one thing: This ad is fun, and you may well empathize. But the story behind it could certainly inspire some ethical discussion, though perhaps nothing of relevance to journalism.

Except maybe this: Journalists don't stage events. (Except except, sometimes TV recreates certain news events. Damn.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What news media ethical issues does this raise? You may have to do a little research to understand Pitino's remarks fully.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Reading the newspaper: Brookgreen Gardens in P...Image via Wikipedia
0166-420-01/American Journalism Ethics
Fall 2009

Dr. Michael Robertson
Office: 502 University Center
Phone: 422-6250 (office); 510-836-4870 (home)

Office Hours: Monday & Wednesday 3:30p-430p. If you need to see me, don't hesitate to ask for a time convenient for you. (Coffee in Crossroads is always pleasant.)

Course Description: American Journalism (4). Analysis of the ethical constraints and obligations of U.S. journalism and their grounding in the First Amendment. Current ethical and legal issues facing journalists. Development of systems and techniques for confronting ethical challenges. Offered once a year. American Journalism Ethics is the capstone course for the journalism minor. Students should take the course after the completion of Introduction to Media Studies, Journalism I, Journalism II and one 300-level journalism course.

Rationale: The First Amendment is the bedrock of American journalism ethics. Nothing is more compelling (I hope) than investigating its philosophical antecedents, particularly the way in which the philosophical, the political, the practical and the ideal intermingled to produce the constitutional right to a free press that some would argue guards all our other freedoms. Nothing is more vexing than a consideration of how that freedom, by its very nature, seems to produce ethical dilemmas, tangles, abuses and outrages that may threaten the continued existence of that section of the First Amendment that applies to the press. Much has changed since founders deemed a free press the guarantee of an informed and engaged electorate. Advances in technology; the rise of the so-called “objective” mainstream press; government control and suppression of information; media consolidation; the splintering of audiences resulting from rise of the internet – all have changed the nature of news gathering and distribution. This class will examine the background of the First Amendment and the special protections it affords the news media, as well as the responsibilities implied by the powers granted the press. It will pay particular attention to the ethical problems that arise when journalists, sometimes driven by the highest motives, find themselves tempted to do things that the law says they may do but which the community feels those journalists should not do. We shall also pay attention to those instances when journalists decide to break the law, going beyond the protections afforded by the First Amendment but acting in what they believe to be the spirit of the First Amendment. We will pay particular attention to the ethical tension between the ideals of fair and balanced journalism and the desire to use journalism as an instrument for social justice.

Texts: J. Herbert Altschull’s From Milton to McLuhan, The Ideas Behind American Journalism. Additional required reading is on electronic reserve at the library.

Additional Required Media. Subscribe to Romanesko’s Media News at Students are required to create a blog on which they will post at least once a week on issues of journalism ethics. (More about your blogging responsibilities will be described in a separate handout.)

Class meets twice a week. Students should expect to put in an additional six to nine hours a week in outside reading, writing, research and consumption of required media.

Reminder: Under the current policies of the Media Studies Department, a student will not get credit in the major for any course in which he or she receives a grade of less than C; that is, a grade of C-minus or lower means you must retake the course.

Academic misconduct: Instances of source fabrication or plagiarism will result in the most severe sanctions possible.

Deadlines: If you have any handicap or any other physical, emotional or personal problem that will interfere with your performance, you should discuss it with the professor by the end of the first week of the course or as soon as the problem arises. Every effort will be made to accommodate legitimate problems if they are discussed in a timely fashion. Some chronic problems may receive a sympathetic hearing but result in no adjustment to expectations for performance. A semester's-end revelation of personal problems will not improve your grade

Attendance: Regular class attendance is also expected. Two unexcused absences are allowed, but in class work missed through absence may not be made up although it may be excused. If you miss class for any reason, it is YOUR responsibility to find out what future class assignments are. Excused assignments will not be averaged into your grade; unexcused assignments will be -- as a zero. Excessive absences will factor into the class participation portion of your grade.

Assignments: Weekly written reports are required on certain of the assigned readings. Three essays of 1,000 words are also required. The topics for those essays are currently posted at the class blog. Due dates are the 4th, 9th and 12th weeks of the semester. Each will draw on assigned reading, class discussion, interviews with at least two working journalists and whatever additional research you deem necessary. In the category of working journalists I include reporters, editors of all kinds, news directors, station managers, news anchors and so on. Many (but not all) committed bloggers would be acceptable sources. If you have any doubt if a potential source is appropriate, check with me beforehand. During those interviews, you may explore not only the specific actions of those news workers but also the broader ethical philosophies upon which they base their decisions.

A major paper of 2,500 words on a topic chosen in conjunction with the teacher will be due December 5. There will be a midterm. There will be no final exam.

Final grade: Essays, 30 percent; weekly reading reports, 15 percent; blogging and blog comments, 10 percent; midterm, 15 percent; class participation, 10 percent; final project, 20 percent.

Semester Schedule Fall 2009

Week One What good is this class? An introduction to the
8.26.2009 Potter Box. Assignment: For next Monday present me with: 1) the exact words of the First Amendment, accompanied by; 2) a page essay giving your opinion of its most important ethical implications in regard to contemporary journalism

Week Two Finding your ethics. Assignment:
8.31.2009 You will have read Christians, et al., “Ethical Foundations and Principles”on the Potter Box and prepared a Reading Response, which is due at class time on Wednesday. Topic for the first essay will be discussed. The essay will be due in two weeks.

Week Three No Monday Class. What were the founders thinking and
9.9.2009 why? Assignment: You will have read Altschull, pages 1-29, and prepared a Reading Response, which is due at class time Wednesday.

Week Four Do the ends justify the means? The ethics of
9.14.2009 interviewing. Assignment: You will have read the
assigned essays on library reserve, but no Reading Response is required, although you will probably draw on those readings for citations in your First Essay, which is due at class time Wednesday.

Week Five The philosophical underpinnings of contemporary 9.21.2009 journalism ethics. Assignment: You will have read
Altschull, pages 33-64, and prepared a Reading Response,
which is due at class time Monday.

Week Six The philosophical underpinning of contemporary 9.28.2009 journalism ethics. Assignment: You will have read
Altschull, pages 101-135, 156-166, and prepared a Reading
Response, which is due at class time Monday.

Week Seven The rise of objectivity as the principal journalistic norm.
10.5.2009 Complicity in power: questioning objectivity. Assignment:
You will have read the assigned essays on library reserve and prepared a Reading Response, which is due at class time Monday. Discussion of second essay.

Week Eight No Monday Class. Midterm.

Week Nine Privacy: “A journalist is always selling someone out.” –
10.19.2009 Joan Didion. When journalism becomes “nonfiction,” does it acquire the privileges – and the excuses – of art? Assignment: You will have read the assigned essays on library reserve but no Reading Response is required. Second Essay is due Wednesday.

Week Ten When journalists bend the rules to do the job by going
10.26.2009 undercover: Do the ends ever justify the means? Assignment: You will have read the assigned essays and prepared a Reading Response, which is due at class time Monday. Discussion of the Third Essay, which is due in two weeks.

Week Eleven Photojournalism. Showing those things we should not
11.2.2009 show. Turning away from those things that should be seen. Assignment: You will have read the assigned essays on library reserve and prepared a Reading Response, which is due at class time Monday.

Week Twelve National Security vs. the public’s right to know.
11.9.2009 The patriotic press. Prior restraint. The Freedom of Information Act, the Patriot Act and the government control of information. Assignment: You will have read the assigned essays on library reserve, but no Reader Response is due. Third essay is due at class time Wednesday.

Week Thirteen Protecting sources. Advocacy journalism. Assignment:
11.16.2009 You will have read the assigned essays on library reserve and prepared a Reading Response, which is due at class time Monday.

Week Fourteen Diversity in the newsroom and in news coverage. If “news
11.23.2009 is what happens to editors,” what happens when the editors don’t reflect the demographics of the community? Assignment: You will have read the assigned essays on library reserve and prepared a Reading Response, which is due at class time Monday.

Week Fifteen Newsroom Codes of Ethics. The class builds its own.
11.30.2009 Assignment: You will have read the assigned Codes of
Ethics. For class time Wednesday you will have
prepared a brief essay describing the essence of your
own personal code of journalistic ethics, those rules
or guidelines or insights that you can draw upon when
you face what you think will be your own greatest
challenges as a working journalist. You will also post this
essay on your blog.

Week Sixteen Final Evaluation: Field Trip to Pig & Whistle

The term paper is due December 12. There will be no final exam.

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