Mass Communications Ethics



Mass Communications Ethics focuses on moral character, social values, and professional practices within the field of mass communications and in the relationship of the media to other societal institutions.


Christians, Clifford G., et al. Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning. 6th ed. New York & London: Addison Wesley Longman, 2001.

You should also read and annotate an article related to each day's topic. Your annotation should be approximately150 words, and you should be prepared to discuss the article in class. Among academic journals which have scholarly studies of issues in communications ethics are Journal of Communication, Journalism Quarterly and Journal of Mass Media Ethics. Various professional publications also print discussions of ethical problems from time to time, and among the most important are Editor & Publisher, Broadcasting, Advertising Age, AdWeek, Public Relations Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Washington Journalism Review, News, Inc., The Quill and The Bulletin of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.WWW sites related to media ethics can be found at Media Ethics Online.


You are to prepare a paper of the subject matter and quality of articles published in Journal of Mass Media Ethics (approximately 10 -12 pages). In preparing the paper you are to follow APA style.

Papers will be presented in class on the dates noted on the schedule that will be distributed later.

In your paper, you should apply ethical principles to practical situations. You should choose a specific topic from among the following, though I will allow variations or a topic of special interest to a student.

Ethical considerations in

Parts of the paper will be due in stages:
o the topic will be due on Thursday, January 31; provide a title and a paragraph in which you tell what you intend to study;
o a bibilography of books, articles and any other materials you intend to use is due on February 21;
o a preliminary report of your findings is due on April 2; it should include a statement of the specific problem, the ethical issue involved, and discussion;
o the final paper is to be turned in on April 25.

Students will present their papers to the class on April 30, May 2 and May 7, according to a schedule to be worked out later. For each presenter, one respondent will be chosen to make a critique. Criteria for critiques will be provided.

All written material is to be typed, double space in a 12 point, serif type face (preferably Times). Letters must be dark and clearly readable.


The case study method will be used throughout the semester. We will take up at least one case in each class, and each will be carried out as a role-playing exercise. Each participant is expected to be fully prepared. Your preparation should include clear knowledge and understanding of the pertinent facts; an analysis of the alternative courses of action possible, taking into consideration a) the personal and/or institutional values involved; b) the principles that might apply, and how; c) the effect on individuals/groups to whom loyalties are owed; d) your decision as to which course of action ought to be taken; and e) the rationale.

Your grade in the course will be determined by your participation in case studies (40%), annotations (15%), critique (10%) and term paper (35%).

The listserv for this course is cmmna703051. Everyone should subscribe to it and regularly check for messages.

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We will adhere to the following schedule during the semester. Readings are to be completed before the class for which they are assigned.

Date Topic Chapter: Cases Other activity
1/17 Introduction to the course
1/22 Ethical foundations Christians: Intro
1/24 News: Business pressures 1: 1, 2
1/29 News: Business pressures 1: 3, 4
1/31 News: Truthtelling 2: 7, 8 Paper topic due
2/5 News: Truthtelling 2: 9, 10
2/7 News: Reporters/Sources 3: 11,12
2/12 Mardi Gras holiday
2/14 News: Reporters/Sources 3: 13, 14
2/19 News: Social justice 4: 15, 16
2/21 News: Social justice 4: 17, 18 Bibliography due
2/26 News: Invasion of privacy 5: 19, 22
2/28 Advertising: Special audience 6: 23, 27
3/5 Advertising: What to advertise 7: 28, 30
3/7 Advertising: How to say it 8: 33, 37
3/12 Research hour: No class
3/14 Advertising: Media considerations 9: 41, 42
3/19 PR: Macro issues 10: 43, 44
3/21 PR: Truth-telling in organizations 11: 48, 49
3/26-3/28 Easter holiday
4/2 PR: Truth-telling in organizations 11: 50, 52 Preliminary report: due
4/4 PR: Conflicting Loyalties 12: 53, 54
4/9 PR: Social responsibility 13: 57, 58
4/11 PR: Social responsibility 13: 59, 60
4/16 Entertainment: Violence 14: 61, 63
4/18 Entertainment: Profits, wealth. public trust 15: 67, 68
4/23 Entertainment: Media scope/depth 16: 72, 74
4/25 Entertainment: Censorship 17: 77, 78 Paper due
4/30 Presentations
5/2 Presentations
5/7 Presentations

Updated September 1, 2000

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