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COMM002: Media and Society

Unit 11: Media Law and Media Ethics   Ethics, someone once said, govern your behavior even when no one is looking. In today’s world of mass communication, someone is always looking and all too eager to point out your bad behavior. In a way this is good. The reporter who makes stuff up, the photographer who fakes a picture, even the student who rips off someone else’s work, are much less likely to get away with it, thanks to the millions of eyes that might be watching and the efficient search engines at our command. Mass media can do great harm or great good, and today we all have that massive power at our command. This unit will take a too brief look at ethical and legal considerations surrounding mass communication.

Unit 11 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 14 hours.

☐    Subunit 11.1: 45 minutes

☐    Subunit 11.2: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 11.3: 3.25 hours

☐    Subunit 11.4: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 11.5: 4.5 hours

☐    Unit 11 Assignments: 1 hour

☐    Unit 11 Assessments: 30 minutes

Unit11 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - discuss the two main ethical models employed by journalists and summarize journalism’s ethical code; - analyze ethical problems in the online world; - summarize the legal concepts, such as libel, censorship, and intellectual property rights; and - describe possible effects digital media might have on the democratic process. 

11.1 Ethical Issues in Mass Media   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 14, Introduction: TMZ, Tabloids, and Celebrity Gossip: Freedom of the Press or Invasion of Privacy?” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 14, Introduction: TMZ, Tabloids, and Celebrity Gossip: Freedom of the Press or Invasion of Privacy?” (PDF)
 
Instructions: In his introduction to Chapter 14 on pages 626-628, the author discusses the role of celebrity and how that has skewed our view of what is news. Read it carefully, and then apply it to the subunits below.
 
Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
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11.1.1 News About News   - Web Media: TEDTalks: Alisa Miller’s “The News About the News” Link: TEDTalks: Alisa Miller’s “The News About the News” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: In this short talk, Alisa Miller graphically shows how our view of the world might be skewed, judging from our news coverage. Try to connect what she is saying with The Daily Show excerpt in the next subunit and John Hockenberry’s article “‘You Don’t Understand Our Audience’: What I Learned about Network Television at Dateline NBC” from subunit 8.2.6.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to TED, and the original version can be found here.

11.1.2 Time Magazine’s US Edition   - Web Media: Comedy Central: The Daily Show with John Stewart: “TIME Magazine’s US Edition” Link: Comedy Central: The Daily Show with John Stewart: “TIME Magazine’s US Edition” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Jon Stewart of The Daily Show plays it for laughs, but inside the comedy is a serious demonstration of how our own media goes for what sells. Stewart compares the covers of TIME’s foreign editions with what we see in the United States. What does this say about our culture and the cultures of other countries?
 
Watching this video should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
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11.1.3 The Internet’s Data Bubble   - Web Media: TEDTalks: Ethan Zuckerman’s “Listening to Global Voices” Link: TEDTalks: Ethan Zuckerman’s “Listening to Global Voices” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: If the mainstream media insist on pandering to what it thinks we want, rather than giving us news we need, maybe the Internet will save us. It might, but only if we work at it. Ethan Zuckerman provides information on how we live in a data bubble on the Internet.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 20 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to TED, and the original version can be found here.

11.2 Round Up the Usual Suspects: Race, Gender, and Sex   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 14, Section 1: Ethical Issues in Mass Media” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 14, Section 1: Ethical Issues in Mass Media” (PDF)
 
Instructions: In Chapter 14, Section 1 on pages 628-639, the author talks about portrayals of race, gender, and sex in the “legacy” media, especially television. He centers his discussion on how race, gender, and sex are represented, and how these representations promote stereotypes. Read this section carefully and apply it to the following subunits.
 
Reading this section should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

11.2.1 Racism in the Media   11.2.1.1 Stereotyping the Black Male   - Reading: Yale Political Quarterly: Stephen Balkaran’s “Mass Media and Racism” Link: Yale Political Quarterly: Stephen Balkaran’s “Mass Media and Racism” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read Stephen Balkaran’s article; he believes the media has “stereotyped young African-American males as gangsters or drug dealers.” And he doesn’t limit this charge to entertainment; the news media, he writes, spend “too little time to describing the background problems of African-Americans,” instead “enumerating the wounded.”
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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11.2.1.2 Sports Has a Built-In Bias   - Reading: University of Central Florida: Richard Lapchick’s “The 2010−11 Associated Press Link: University of Central Florida: Richard Lapchick’s “The 2010-11 Associated Press Sports Editors Racial and Gender Report Card” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Find the link to the 2011 Associated Press Sports Editors report to download the PDF document. Read the overall findings and skim the results. Lapchick writes, “It is important to have voices from different backgrounds in the media,” and yet he finds the sports departments of Associated Press member newspapers to be overwhelmingly white. What sports news organization seems to have done the best job of hiring minorities and women?
 
Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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11.2.2 Spreading Hate Against Women   - Reading: Forbes: David DiSalvo’s “The Horrific World of Online Sexual Violence Against Women” Link: Forbes: David DiSalvo’s “The Horrific World of Online Sexual Violence Against Women” (HTML)
 
Instructions: David DiSalvo indicts the online world as being a place where the worst possible depictions of violence against women are readily available. Ask yourself, who’s watching this stuff?
 
Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
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11.3 Competing Models: Utilitarianism vs. the Moral Imperative   - Reading: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Journalism Ethics: Stephen J. A. Ward’s “Approaches to Ethics” Link: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Journalism Ethics: Stephen J. A. Ward’s “Approaches to Ethics” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Before we go further, read this summary of various ethical models. Those in the media must strike a balance between duty and care for others. For example, a television reporter has a duty to report corruption in government, but these reports usually affect the people involved. When the story is less important to the greater good, the decision to report something that might harm someone becomes harder to make. After this subunit, you can apply what you’ve learned to the news media in the next subunit.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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11.3.1 News Media, Objectivity, and Truth   - Reading: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Journalism Ethics: Stephen J. A. Ward’s “Nature of Journalism Ethics” Link: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Journalism Ethics: Stephen J. A. Ward’s “Nature of Journalism Ethics” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read on, as Stephen J. A. Ward continues his discussion of ethical models as they apply to the news media in the first reading of this subunit.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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11.3.2 Ethics for the Working Journalist   - Reading: University of Minnesota, Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law: Geneva Overholser’s “High Hopes and Dire Warnings: In Search of a Credo for Today’s Journalist” Link: University of Minnesota, Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law: Geneva Overholser’s “High Hopes and Dire Warnings: In Search of a Credo for Today’s Journalist” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Scan the webpage for the title above, and click on “PDF” to open the reading. Geneva Overholser, a former newspaper editor for Gannett, takes the discussion to a more personal level, that of the journalist on the job, who often faces an ambiguous and difficult world to report.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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11.3.3 Putting the People First   - Reading: The Poynter Institute: Bob Steele’s “The Ethics of Civic Journalism: Independence as the Guide” Link: The Poynter Institute: Bob Steele’s “The Ethics of Civic Journalism: Independence as the Guide” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute discusses civic journalism, a form of journalism that seeks to put people in the community first. It is a style of journalism that many in the news business believe strays into the realm of making news, not just reporting it. What do you think? How far should a journalist go to tease out the news that affects everyday people?
 
Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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11.3.4 Journalism Codes of Ethics   Note: Each organization concerned with journalism has its code of ethics. As you read over these various ethics codes, look for the rules of conduct these organizations hold in common. Look for those principles that are grounded in duty, such as telling the truth and avoiding plagiarism, and those that are based on caring for others.

11.3.4.1 SPJ   - Reading: Society of Professional Journalists: “Code of Ethics” Link: Society of Professional Journalists: “Code of Ethics” (HTML)
 
Instructions: The SPJ writes that its code of ethics is “intended not as a set of ‘rules’ but as a resource for ethical decision-making.” Keep in mind the idea that ethics cannot be governed by “rules” because every situation has its own set of variables.
 
Reading this text should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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11.3.4.2 NPPA Code of Ethics   - Reading: National Press Photographers Association: “Code of Ethics” Link: National Press Photographers Association’s “Code of Ethics” (HTML)
 
Instructions: The NPPA website says the aims of its code of ethics are “to promote the highest quality in all forms of visual journalism and to strengthen public confidence in the profession.” Quality and public confidence often are at odds with creating a striking image. Which do you believe should be emphasized?
 
Reading this text should take about 15 minutes.
 
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11.3.4.3 Digital manipulation and credibility   - Reading: NPPA Special Report: “Ethics in the Age of Digital Photography” Link: NPPA Special Report: “Ethics in the Age of Digital Photography”
 
Instructions: Read all the sections of this article. The code of ethics for digital manipulation is all about protecting the profession. John Long of the NPPA discusses what is unethical and what is merely bad taste – an important distinction – and makes a case for limiting digital manipulation to protect the credibility of photojournalism.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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11.3.4.4 RTDNA   - Reading: Radio Television Digital News Association: “Code of Ethics” Link: Radio Television Digital News Association: “Code of Ethics” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Broadcast journalists have a special obligation: to use the public airways to broadcast in the public interest. How do you think the migration to digital cable or satellite digital television, with hundreds of channels, has affected this sense of duty?
 
Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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11.3.4.5 IGDA   - Reading: International Game Developers Association: “Mission and Code of Ethics” Link: International Game Developers Association: “Mission and Code of Ethics” (HTML)
 
Instructions: The gamer’s code of ethics warns against “[d]iscrimination or the tolerance of discrimination of any kind, whether on the basis of race, gender, creed, age, sexuality, family status, disability, or national origin.” Think back to Anita Sarkeesian’s experience with proposing a study of games from a feminist perspective. Does the code of ethics square with what you’ve read about the gamer culture and its treatment of women?
 
Reading this text should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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11.4 Ethical Considerations of the Online World   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 14, Section 3: Ethical Considerations of the Online World” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 14, Section 3: Ethical Considerations of the Online World” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Chapter 13, Section 4 on pages 654-664 summarizes the main issues involving your relationship with Internet service providers and Internet sites such as Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook. The subunits below will take a different approach: your ethical responsibilities as a web user.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

11.4.1 Virtual Bullying is Real Bullying   - Lecture: Internet Safety Technical Task Force: Michele Ybarra’s “Social Networking Sites, Unwanted Sexual Solicitation, Internet Harassment, and Cyberbullying” Link: Internet Safety Technical Task Force: Michele Ybarra’s “Social Networking Sites, Unwanted Sexual Solicitation, Internet Harassment, and Cyberbullying” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Watch this video lecture in which Michelle Ybarra provides definitions and some numbers on cyberbullying and sexual solicitation online. It’s a good grounding in the subject that you can apply to the readings in the next subunits.
 
Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Michele Ybarra, and the original version can be found here.

11.4.1.1 The High School Scene   - Reading: Stuyvesant High School’s The Spectator: “Virtual Bullying, Real Life Consequences” Link: Stuyvesant High School’s The Spectator: “Virtual Bullying, Real Life Consequences” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the editorial from the Stuyvesant High School’s The Spectator for a more visceral account of cyberbullying. After all, students are much closer to the issue than academic researchers.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
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11.4.1.2 Cyberbullying Goes to College   - Reading: BU Today: Caleb Daniloff’s “Cyberbullying Goes to College: Online Harassment Can Turn Campus Life into a Virtual Hell” Link: BU Today: Caleb Daniloff’s “Cyberbullying Goes to College: Online Harassment Can Turn Campus Life into a Virtual Hell” (HTML)
 
Instructions: If you think you are immune from cyberbullying because you are an adult, the story from Boston University Today tells a different story. What ethical duty does a social media company, such as Facebook, have in preventing the harm cyberbullying can inflict on a person?
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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11.4.2 The Long Tail of the News and Requests to “Unpublish”   11.4.2.1 A New Challenge for Online Journalists   - Reading: Associated Press Media Editors: Kathy English’s “The Long Tail of News: To Unpublish or Not to Unpublish” Link: Associated Press Media Editors: Kathy English’s “The Long Tail of News: To Unpublish or Not to Unpublish” (PDF)
 
Instructions: After clicking the link above, find and click “Download the Report.” Kathy English, Public Editor for the Toronto Star, addresses an issue that should be on the minds of every online journalist and blogger. The “long tail” refers to the thousands of small newspapers and websites that together account for millions of readers. These small news organizations used to be difficult to find, but today a Google search of a person’s name will turn up everything, even long forgotten newspaper articles about past offenses. Read about the increase in subjects asking for stories to be “unpublished” and English’s nuanced approach to the problem.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
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11.4.2.2 Taking Care of Yourself   - Reading: Google Webmaster Central Blog: Susan Moskwa’s “Managing Your Reputation Through Search Results” Link: Google Webmaster Central Blog: Susan Moskwa’s “Managing Your Reputation Through Search Results” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Google steadfastly maintains that it doesn’t censor the Internet, but it does offer advice on how to protect your reputation from the “long tail.”
 
Reading this article should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
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11.5 The Law and Mass Media Messages   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 15, Introduction: Facebook Versus the FTC,” “Section 1: Government Regulation of Media” and “Section 2: The Law and Mass Media Messages” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 15, Introduction: Facebook Versus the FTC,” “Section 1: Government Regulation of Media” and “Section 2: The Law and Mass Media Messages” (PDF)
 
Instructions: These sections of Understanding Media and Culture on pages 669-686 provide an analysis of the relationship of media to free speech and government regulation. The First Amendment says Congress shall make NO law abridging freedom of speech, but of course speech is highly regulated in many media settings. Read these chapter sections to learn why and how.
 
Reading these sections should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

11.5.1 Freedom of Speech   - Reading: Bill Kovarik’s Media Law (400): “The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights” Link: Bill Kovarik’s Media Law (400): “The US Constitution and the Bill of Rights” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Professor Kovarik lays out the constitutional protection of freedom of speech embodied in the First Amendment. As you read subunits below about government regulation of broadcasting, keep in mind that most speech is out of the government’s control; it is free.
 
Reading this section should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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11.5.1.2 Libel   - Reading: Bill Kovarik’s Media Law (400): “Libel” and “Libel Cases” Link: Bill Kovarik’s Media Law (400): “Libel” (HTML) and “Libel Cases” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read these two sections of Professor Kovarik’s website, paying close attention to what constitutes libel. Keep in mind that libel cases in the courts are civil cases; someone who believes he or she has been libeled must sue for damages. News organizations in particular want to avoid libel suits because they are expensive and because such suits hurt the organization’s reputation. But libel carries no criminal penalties. In the review of libel cases, pay special attention to the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan. This case established many of the precedents that protect the media in its coverage of government and public figures.
 
Reading these sections and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
 
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11.5.1.3 First Amendment Timeline   - Reading: First Amendment Center: “First Amendment Timeline” Link: First Amendment Center: “First Amendment Timeline” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Skim through the First Amendment timeline to get a sense of how this battle for free speech was carried out.
 
Reading this text and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
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11.5.2 Censorship and Freedom of Speech   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 15, Section 3: Censorship and Freedom of Speech” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 15, Section 3: Censorship and Freedom of Speech” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Many of the controversies over censorship arise from the special place broadcasting holds in communication law. Because radio and television stations use a limited resource -the spectrum of electromagnetic broadcast waves -they have been required to broadcast in the public interest under the watchful eye of the Federal Communications Commission. This section of your textbook on pages 686-696 discusses these issues in depth.
 
Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

11.5.3 Intellectual Property Issues in the Mass Media   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 15, Section 4: Intellectual Property Issues in the Mass Media” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 15, Section 4: Intellectual Property Issues in the Mass Media” (PDF)
 
Instructions: As you read this discussion of copyright and intellectual property rights in this section on pages 696-703, think back to previous units where these issues came up, especially the subunit on piracy of media.
 
Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

11.5.4 Digital Democracy and Its Possible Effects   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 15, Section 5: Digital Democracy and Its Possible Effects” and “Section 6: Media Influence on Laws and Government” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 15, Section 5: Digital Democracy and Its Possible Effects” and “Section 6: Media Influence on Laws and Government” (PDF)
 
Instructions: These sections on pages 703-713 cover the effects of media on the political process. Read them carefully and connect what you read to the subunits that follow.
 
Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

11.5.4.1 Super PAC Mania   - Reading: Columbia Law School Magazine: Robert Barnes’s “Super Pac Mania” Link: Columbia Law School Magazine: Robert Barnes’s “Super Pac Mania” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Robert Barnes of Columbia Law School addresses the massive amounts of money going into political campaigns from “super” political action committees. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent on advertising and social media. Some see this as a corrupting influence.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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11.5.4.2 The Silly but Serious Super PAC   - Reading: The New York Times: Jason Zinoman’s “Beneath a Deeply Silly Campaign, a Deeply Serious Performer” Link: The New York Times: Jason Zinoman’s “Beneath a Deeply Silly Campaign, a Deeply Serious Performer” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert sees the super PAC as an opportunity to have some fun while making a serious point about the nature of today’s politics.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
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Final Exam   - Final Exam: The Saylor Foundation’s “COMM002 Final Exam” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “COMM002 Final Exam”

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