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COURSE NAME: "Media Ethics"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Antonio Lopez
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: TTH 4:30-5:45 PM

This course focuses on the study and application of ethical standards and practices in a variety of communication environments. Classical ethical frameworks and case studies in communication will be studied, as well as alternative methods and ideas aimed at evaluating and responding to communication problems in the context of global media. This course investigates how media ethics apply to professional practice and also explores how consumers and producers of media can respond to the media environment by engaging in cultural citizenship.

By applying media analysis tools to case studies, students will explore the evolving standard of truth and fake news in an age of changing media production environments, and the rise of new activist strategies resulting from the breakdown of legacy media system models. In the first half of the course, we start with an investigation into the philosophical foundations of media ethics, and then apply them to diverse organizational contexts. There will be an emphasis on the power of visual culture to shape global cosmopolitanism. We will study how ethical conflicts vary, depending on the structure of media organizations (such as for-profit, nonprofit, public and audience-supported media). In the second half of the course, students will examine in more detail how ethics play out in daily practice, both from a professional and nonprofessional perspective. This interactive class will include topical discussions raised by both the instructor and students. Lectures and in-class viewing of various media will round out class activities.



The course outcomes and method of evaluation are aligned with the core mission of the communications department. Students should be able to:


  1. Identify the major debates, controversies, dilemmas and conflicts in media studies.
  2. Debate the ethical dilemmas of contemporary media practices.
  3. Apply multidisciplinary theoretical perspectives to specific media case studies.
  4. Critically assess institutional and individual media practices.
  5. Interpret ethical representation in media texts.
  6. Demonstrate competency in media literacy (information, visual, technological and textual).
  7. Communicate effectively in a variety of formats (oral, written and multimedia).
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Handbook of Mass Media EthicsLee Wilkins and Clifford G. Christian (eds.)Routledge 978-0805861921  
Media and MoralityRoger SilverstonePolity978-0745635040 please use Almost Corner Books.

Midterm group presentation Students will form groups to investigate the ethical practices of different media organization models. Group presentations will present their findings by focusing on case studies and ethical scandals. 25%
Midterm paper Write a memo to "Global Media Corporation" (a fictional company) that proposes a change in policy in which five concrete ethical policies can be implemented. 25%
Research projectCurate an ethical media scandal using a news curation tool on the web. Create the website and write an evaluation paper.35%
Reading quiz 10%
Attendance and participation More than three unexcused absences will result in an automatic loss of a letter grade and will impact your final evaluation. 10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

More than three unexcused absences results in an automatic loss of a letter grade.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Course Organization

1          Intro to basic concepts in media ethics                

                        Journalism Code of Ethics http://tinyurl.com/ylfb554

                        Marketing Code of Ethics http://tinyurl.com/yktg9pq

                        Short History (ch. 2)                   Handbook

                        Moral Development (ch. 4)           Handbook

“Blogging and the Emerging Media Ecosystem,” John Naughton (PDF)         

2          Overview of moral and ethical philosophy                                 

                        Buddhist Moral Ethics (ch. 21)      Handbook

                        Search for Universals (ch. 5)         Handbook

                        Freedom of Expression (ch. 23)     Handbook

3          Normative theories of media                 

                        Communitarianism (ch. 22)          Handbook

                        “Democracy and Mass Media Revisited,” James Curan (PDF)

Normative Theories of the Media, ch. 1 (PDF)

Assessing Communication Rights (PDF)

4          The media commons and organizational structures

                        Media Ownership in corporate age (ch. 24)  Handbook

Global media ecology (ch. 28)                  Handbook

5.         Public vs. private media

                        "A public service for all" (PDF, read only pp. 12-23)

Changing Media: Public Interest in the Digital Age (PDF, read only ch. 10, pp. 257-85)

African Charter on Broadcasting   (PDF)   

6          Mediapolis and image ethics—Challenges of globalized media space                    

Chpts. 1-2          Media and Morality

                        Start research for midterm project 

7          Mediapolis and image ethics cont.— Ethics of seeing and being seen

Chpts. 3-4         Media and Morality       

                        Cont. research for midterm project

8          Mediapolis and Image Ethics cont.— Cosmopolitism and the rhetoric of evil          ; hospitality and justice; responsibility

Chpts. 5-7         Media and Morality

Cont. research for midterm project

9          Midterm Presentations


10        Citizen Media                          

                        Why Diversity Matters (ch. 8)       Handbook

                        Eroding Boundaries (ch. 13)         Handbook

                        Introduction to Citizen Media       http://tinyurl.com/yenzvyf

                        Essential Shared Values (ch. 3)     Handbook

                        Digital Ethics (ch. 18)                 Handbook

11        Truthiness and Fake News

Conflict of Interest (ch. 17)          Handbook

                        Transparency (ch. 16)                  Handbook

                        Truth and Objectivity (ch. 6)         Handbook

                        Photojournalism Ethics (ch. 7)      Handbook

12        Social Justice and Journalism               

Justice in Journalism (ch. 15)        Handbook

Peace Journalism            (ch. 19)             Handbook

                        Feminist Media Ethics (ch. 27)      Handbook

                        Media in Evil Circumstances        Handbook

Privacy and the Press (ch. 20)       Handbook

13        Going Mediactive


Mediactive  (pt. 1 pp. 1-60), Dan Gillmor (PDF)

14        Visual Activism

                        Chpts. 6-7, Afterward       (How to See the World, PDF)