Research Paper. 4000 words. On Copying and Distributing Digital Media Digital Media Ethics, chap. 3. You will first develop a one-page prospectus outlining your plan for the organization and goals of this paper, to be approved by the instructor. A successful paper addresses a prominent specific issue about today’s journalistic or social media while synthesizing relevant information gained in the course (lectures and readings), information from a selected body of secondary literature, and the student’s academic experience.
Ethical standards for valuable communications are needed more than ever. Internet ethics is for everyone, as we have become information generators and broadcasters too. Disinformation, propaganda, and ideology are disseminated by the people more effectively than any government. How can the value of free speech be preserved in our “post truth” world, without resorting to censorship? The media ethics of journalism upholds high standards of accuracy and honesty despite social and political pressures. Fake news and faked images are proliferating, requiring digital media ethics. A new global media ethics brings spotlights upon the causes of freedom, security, and justice for all peoples.
This new course meets either a Philosophy or Humanities Core Area requirement OR a Professional Media and Communications concentration elective.
Students will examine ethical questions at the intersections of communications, media, internet, society, and politics, and study interdisciplinary approaches and answers to those questions.
Communication Ethics. We are all communicators, generating and repeating perspectives on what we observe and judge about other people and the world. Communication’s human function is to strengthen social community. This principle exposes how any of us can mis-use communication methods, media, and technology to instead serve selfish aims, partisan advantages, or anti-social agendas. Ethics must be built into all communication.
Internet Ethics. In this internet age when people can easily reach and influence the minds of others, motivations and agendas behind social media behavior must be scrutinized. Disinformation, propaganda, and ideology are easily and quickly spread to millions of people by the same people themselves, more effectively than any government’s own broadcasting. Can social media apply its own restraints, to filter itself better before governments impose censorship? Free speech isn’t what it used to be during a by-gone era of newspapers and podiums. What is the value of free speech in our “post truth” world, while the internet is leaving many minds less free?
Media Ethics. The role of a journalist is provide information about matters of public importance to the public in timely and understandable ways. Duties to the Public: Social Importance, Accuracy, Non-Bias, Honesty, Civility. Duties to the Profession: Treatment of Sources, Information Gathering, Conflicts of Interest.
Digital Media Ethics. On the internet, anyone can report and spread “news”, including AI and bots. Genuine journalism in the cybersphere of social media must figure out what is authentic and significant, filter out deception, fakery, and propaganda, and reach the online public with information that people can access and use.
Global Media Ethics. Traditional media objectives include (a) making government more transparent and accountable, (b) shining spotlights on suffering and injustice, and (c) covering issues important to minority and disadvantaged groups. Global objectives now add (d) reporting information needed on international and global scales, (e) exposing criminal and dangerous activities of countries that affect their citizens or their neighbors, and (f) supporting the causes of freedom, security, and justice for all peoples.
Students will additionally achieve individualized learning objectives while completing their assignments, with opportunities to:
explore how controversies over journalistic integrity have many more dimensions in our times, complicating efforts to maintain journalism as a true profession;
take multiple perspectives on the public’s engagement with media, asking whether “consumers” of media content should receive what they want to hear, or what they need to hear;
imagine how entertainment goals of social media could be more compatible with the public service aims of journalism; and
join their own voices to ongoing debates about ethical and political controversies surrounding journalism and social media by contributing their well-informed assessments for academic consideration.
Charles Ess. Digital Media Ethics, 3rd edn. Polity, 2019. ISBN 9781509533435
Philip Patterson et al. Media Ethics: Issues and Cases, 9th edn. Rowman and Littlefield, 2019. ISBN 9781538112588
Alexander Klimburg. The Darkening Web: The War for Cyberspace. Penguin, 2018. ISBN 9780735222830
You are expected to do the readings, observe lectures, and engage with the course material in depth. Your responsibilities include completing all the assignments. Participation is essential to your success in this class. Students should spend approximately 12 hours per week on the work for each module.
Class Participation. Regular attendance at classes, participation in Discussion via Canvas, and a ten-minute presentation to the class in May about your research paper topic. 200 points possible. 20% of total grade.
Commentary Piece. 1000 words. A commentary piece, typical for a magazine or blog, offers insight and commentary on an issue of public importance, composed for a broad audience. Students will choose a current controversy related to a matter raised during the first six weeks. This commentary will either (a) support optimism about the public’s ability to protect their personal information and privacy despite all of their online activities, or the commentary will (b) support pessimism about the public losing more and more privacy no matter how much they try to mange their online activity. 100 possible points. 10% of total grade.
Analytical Essay. 2000 words. This essay will fulfill two goals: (1) first explain how the media is expected to uphold standards of fairness and ethics while covering a major story of national or international importance; and then (2) explore why it can be very difficult to meet those expected standards while also trying to fulfill the responsibility of serving the public’s best interests. 300 possible points. 30% of total grade.
Research Paper. 4000 words. On an issue of students’ choice from the course’s topics, except for issues already addressed by your previous assignments. You will first develop a one-page prospectus outlining your plan for the organization and goals of this paper, to be approved by the instructor. A successful paper addresses a prominent specific issue about today’s journalistic or social media while synthesizing relevant information gained in the course (lectures and readings), information from a selected body of secondary literature, and the student’s academic experience. 400 possible points. 40% of total grade.
Citation Style: The APA Style (APA Publication Manual 6th Edition) is used widely in SCS courses. Consult http://pitt.libguides.com/citationhelp/APA (Links to an external site.)
This tentative schedule is subject to change as necessary.
Ethical Issues in Digital Media
Digital Media Ethics, chap. 1, 6
No class on Monday Jan 17 – MLK Day
Privacy in the Digital Era
Digital Media Ethics, chap. 2
Copying and Distributing Digital Media
Digital Media Ethics, chap. 3
Who is a Friend Online?
Digital Media Ethics, chap. 4, 5
Information Ethics–We are all Journalists Now
Media Ethics, chap. 1, 2
No class on Monday Feb 21 – President’s Day
Strategic Communications in Business
Media Ethics, chap. 3, 7
Feb 28: Commentary paper due
No class on March 7 – spring break
Loyalty–Who deserves Protection and Justice?
Media Ethics, chap. 4
Democracy–Mass Media or Individualism?
Media Ethics, chap. 5, 6
Photo and Video Journalism, Art and Entertainment
Media Ethics, chap. 8, 10
Information for Social Justice
Media Ethics, chap. 9, 11
The War for Your Cyberspace
The Darkening Web, parts 1, 2, 3
No class on April 18 – Easter break
The Global War for Cyberspace
The Darkening Web, parts 4, 5, 6
April 25: Analytical paper due
complete Research paper
May 10: Research paper due