Last Ethics Blog Entry

Coming into this ethics class, I expected to learn about different case studies, but I did not expect to leave with a whole new sense of my personal ethics. This course opened my eyes to understanding my personal values and how I can come to an ethical decision that is both representative of the situation and weighs my own values and loyalties using the Potter Box model. The Potter Box model helps to show all views and definitions of a situation not just my own. It also helps organize each side’s values, the relevant principles and one’s loyalties to give a comprehensive outline of a dilemma.

Since taking this course, I find myself already referencing the things I have learned and applying them to my life. I also learned that I tend to alter the ethical principles I see as appropriate based on the situation rather than sticking with one, ridged view point as I would have assumed I’d do in the beginning.

I believe this class has allowed me to better see opposing view points when it comes to media and my future as a communications professional. The case studies brought up dilemmas in public relations that I had never even considered. If faced with these dilemmas in my professional career I feel as though I would not have the insight to make a proper ethical decision. Now, understanding ethical principles and the Potter Box model I am much better equipped to handle ethical dilemmas in real life. Being able to make ethical decisions is invaluable as a communications professional.


Ethics Blog Week 9

On April 9, 2017, a video went viral of two security officers forcibly removing  a passenger from a United Airlines flight to Chicago. This incident sparked widespread public outrage and turned into a major public relations debacle. The video was caught by several passengers using their mobile phones.

The passenger was asked, along with three others, to give up his ticket so a United crew member could take his seat. When he refused the security officers violently wrenches him from his seat, bloodying his face and dragged his limp body off the plane.

The officers were later fired for “improperly escalating the incident” and for deliberately removing material facts from their reports. Two others received short-term suspensions and one of them eventually resigned. United apologized for the incident and later reach and undisclosed settlement with the passenger. The airline released multiple statements each one more apologetics than the last.

The first response from United blamed Dr. Dao, the passenger, and only apologized for the overbook situation. The public outrage kept accelerating and the public started to threaten a boycott. Finally, United changed their tactics and released a statement taking all responsibility for the incident. In another statement released, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz claimed that he had reached out to the victim to apologize but the doctor’s daughter said that never happened.

United was following policy and within their rights. Overbooking is not illegal and passengers can be involuntarily de-boarded. “Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like tis. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you,” United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said in an internal memo.

While I think United Airline’s protocol is flawed, I personally feel a lot of it is the security officers’ faults for making the situation violent. As for the PR response, it contains some of the largest mistakes possible in crisis communication. In multiple releases, United stated incorrect facts and proceeded to pass blame. This is a deflection and always looks worse to the public. It is also unethical to lie or try to cover up the true nature of an incident. Kant’s Categorical Imperative would conclude that these actions were undoubtably unethical. Judeo-Christian ethics would say that showing compassion and love in this situation would go far to help the public and the victim.

Another mistake United made was waiting to truly apologize. Only after public uproar and the threat of a boycott did they become remorseful. This is one of the most simple yet overlooked aspects in crisis communications. We see this mistake time and time again. Companies need to act as the bigger person and admit to fault. More often than not this calms situations and allows companies to come back from bad PR, while those who deny it become cowards in the public eye.

In a world where information travels like wildfire and a simple video of an incident can become a nightmare for a company it is important to act fast and respond properly informed and take ethical considerations.


Ethics Blog Week 8

As a public relations practitioner, or anyone in the communications field, it is extremely important that a crisis be handled swiftly and effectively. Honesty and transparency are also imperative in a crisis. Getting ahead of the situation and informing those effected should be the first priority of PR professionals. It is important to have protocol in place to make sure things are handled properly.

In this scenario, there has been a breach of a database with personal information gathered from homeless shelters and free clinics in Colorado. This demographic is extremely hard to track down and reach, which only ads to the complexity of the situation.

The first thing to do in this situation is to see what can be done to protect the information from being accessed on the computer that was taken. This can be complicated because it depends whether the information is on a server or accessed through the internet. After all avenues have been looked at, if it is found that access to the information cannot be stopped without getting the laptop back the next step would be to contact the locations where the information was gathered. It is possible that the same people would return to a location and be able to be informed. Contacting the facilities and asking them to put up a sign or inform patrons of the breach would probably be the best way to reach those whose information may be compromised.

The company should also inform authorities and as many places as they can to have the information flagged and double-checked as to help stop identity theft. Ultimately, Data-Time Inc. is responsible for the breach and should release a statement within 72 hours informing the public. The company should continue to monitor the situation and try to stop further harm caused by the data breach.

Data-Time Inc. should also put in place new protocol to help stop this from happening again. In the future, Data-Time Inc. should make the information only accessible through a password that changes regularly. The laptop should have location trackers or a way to wipe the information from the computer in the case that it is stollen or missing. Preferably, the company should also limit which employees have access to the data or a laptop.



Ethic Blog Week 7

Is it ethical to break a story using only one source?

  • Often with controversial stories sources are hard to get on the record. Initially, I thought that in most cases it would be okay to use only one source as long as their story is backed with plenty of evidence and the source can be trusted. However, according to the SPJ Code of Ethics all information should be verify before being released, and if their is only one source it can’t fully be verified. As with most facts in a story they should be clarified and fact-checked from a human source. Therefore, I believe using only one source goes against a journalist’s duty to society and the truth. If a story could potentially cause harm or be disruptive then extra steps should be taken to ensure the information is correct. In the case study sited this week, I think the motive of the source may have been a conflicting issue as well, and should be evaluated before even being run as a letter to the editor.

Would finding evidence of the story on social media be enough to run with a story that has only one source?

  • Depending on the type of social media post or use, I believe a photo or written post on facebook that is published publicly can assist in a story when there is only one source. If it is a temporary post such as with Snapchat or something that cannot be seen publicly it should not be used out of protection for the publisher. If the social media doesn’t definitively support what a source is saying beyond reasonable doubt, then I don’t think the story should be run. I think social media can be used as a point of reference in a story, but should not be considered a reason to run a story or make up for having only one source.

Is breaking a story through a letter to the editor ethical?

  • Using Kant’s Categorical Imperative one could say that this is unethical to break a story as a letter to the editor because it is deceptive. To do this in order to not loose the story while not having enough information to publish it as a real news story is deceitful. I think this is a break in journalistic integrity. If a journalist or publisher hasn’t done their in research or cannot definitively say whether it is true they shouldn’t disguise it as an opinion piece or letter to the editor.

Ethics Blog Week 6

Facebook currently collects data on its users to help advertisers target their clients. The clients are paid advertisers. Therefore, Facebook is indirectly selling their users data and information. In this situation, Facebook is mining users posts and actions to predict big events in their life such as a break up. Facebook simply using the data to place posts in priority positions such as things that singles do or how to move on is also different than Facebook using that information for its clients.

Facebook most likely values there right to the information because users are putting it out there to be seen on their platform. This could be seen as a free market right. The clients who benefit form the information value the knowledge it gives and the positive effect it has on their business or goal. It makes it easier to target audiences and avoids putting ads in front of audience who are disinterested. Society values privacy and restraint and  many may not appreciate the events in their lives being used for money or sold to the highest bidder.

With the use of people’s online data Kant’s Categorical Imperative and Qualitative and Quantitative Utilitarianism come to mind. Kant would say that for Facebook to help its clients make money with the data would be using people as a means to an end and therefore ethically wrong. However, utilitarianism could be used to explain that the information gathered goes toward making a person feel better. It will help better the lives of many people and cause minimal harm. It can bring happiness, or at least help, to the common good.

Ultimately I think it is ethical for Facebook to mine it’s users data and posts to help select content they will like, but I do not think it is justified to sell it or use it to sell products. Using a person’s misfortunes to make money is unethical by many standards. Even if a product can bring about happiness for someone it is hard to quantify how much and is still using them.

I think other companies may do similar things, but the depth at which Facebook goes and the extreme personal nature of it makes it more violating. However, I’m not sure that what other companies are doing is ethical either. I think it should be taken on a case by case basis.


Ethics Blog Week 5

In all professions there are things that are ethically acceptable and things that are not. With communications professionals such as journalists and advertisers their power to spread content and knowledge to society is even stronger than most. Therefore understanding ethical reasoning is extremely important to these individual’s careers.

I think ethical reasoning may be lacking in todays society because people no longer see others making ethics based decisions. People are in such a hurry to report the latest news that they cut corners. People are also realizing the power they have to influence others and bring about action. With high speed internet and new channels for communicating one person can have more reach than ever before.

Mass communications professionals need to consider their values in each decision that they make. There are so many opportunities for mistakes in judgment such as with sources, selling out to private businesses or being biased in journalism. Understanding long standing ethical principles and the Potter Box method can help guide decisions when faced with dilemmas. Knowing personal loyalties and one’s duties are also important.

If professionals in mass communication fields do not practice ethical behavior their actions can cause a ripple effect in society. That is why one’s duty to society is emphasized in these careers. Unethical behavior can (and has) caused mistrust in the industry and the only way to regain the trust is to conduct work ethically. One must be able to justify decisions and show that proper ethical consideration was given prior to the decision or action. It is impossible to be too accurate and there is no reason good reason to slack.

Ethical reasoning for public relations professionals is also important when taking on clients with questionable motives or who may represent people for the wrong reasons. As a professional it is important to maintain credibility and a reputation for honesty and morality. It can not be emphasized enough that building a career and successful business relationships can only be done through ethical practices.

Ethics Blog Week 4

1) The dilemma

The National Rifle Association has recently come under scrutiny because of extremely successful public relations and activism by the Florida Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting survivors. They have used their strong social-media skills and moral authority to further their campaign for tougher gun laws. The campaign has seen lots of success in recent days with the shift of corporate supporters away from the NRA, and most recently the Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods policy change. These companies will no longer sell firearms or ammunition to individuals under 21 years old.

The real dilemma comes from the NRA and other right wing gun advocate’s hardhanded responses to the shooting survivors. NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch at CPAC blamed the FBI for their negligence and the media for their sensationalism. This lack of blame for gun or lax gun laws was a poor PR move. Other right wing politicians have accused the students of being actors or pawns for the Democratic agenda.

I will evaluate the ethics behind the NRA’s reaction to the controversy and find a conclusion that either agrees with their current tactics or rebuts them as unethical.

2) The values

The NRA might value freedom and fairness because of their right to own and carry firearms in the United States. The students probably value nonviolence and humanness as that is what they are fighting for through tightening gun laws. The media values covering conflict and human interest stories, which includes this dispute.

3) Relevant ethical principles

The NRA may use Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance to eliminate the fact that those opposing them are children and victims. This would cause them to react as they would to any strong opposition against their beliefs. This is plausible because they often react very offensively to those who speak out against them. They may also consider Aristotle’s Mean where their reaction should be temperate and not extreme in either direction.

The student’s may see the situation from a Judeo-Christian Person as Ends perspective. This would mean they see everyone as personal rather than logistic as with Rawl’s. They may also see it from a Rule Utilitarianism point of view, and that their cause will provide the greatest good for general welfare by stopping future shootings.

4) Solution

I believe the NRA should have responded with a more temperate attitude towards the Florida shooting survivor’s opposition. This may have been achieved by following Aristotle’s Mean or a similar ethical principle. They could have still stood up for what they believe while being sensitive to the experience and opinions of the students. Throwing blame at others only exacerbated the poor optics for the NRA. I think the NRA would have a much better response from the public as well as their corporate partners if they were more civil and sympathetic with the students.

Ethics Blog Week 3

The dilemma of whether journalists should protests or rally has been a long standing issue. Should a journalist simply observe a protest or should they participate, especially if they are covering the topic? For the purpose of this assignment I will define protest as statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something. This includes public online posts and physical protests.

As with Kant’s Categorial Imperative, there are higher truths that are universal. Truthfulness begin a prominent universal value as well as duty. While it may be hard for the journalists to hold back their personal views, their duty to society, the organization they work for and their colleges out weighs the need to express their opinion on a public platform.

In this situation, the moral decision for journalists can be determined using the Potter Box and applying the basic principles. First to define the situation, the journalist must assess aspects such as the size of the protest, the magnitude of the controversy and their professional position. Next, the journalist would need to consider her values. She may value fairness, independence and the public’s right to know.

The principle applied in this situation is Kant’s Categorial Imperative because it focuses on universal truths of right and wrong. It priorities an individual’s duties above anything else. Leading into the next step of loyalties because a journalist has a responsibility or duty to society, the organization they work for and their audience over their duty to themselves.

There are a lot of factors and different situations where this may apply, but when faced with making an ethical decision it is best to use a Potter Box and not skip a step. I think in this instance, abstaining from protests can help control bias and journalists have a duty to society to be fair and unbiased reporting.


Ethics Blog Week 2

Justified: President Trump’s actions in restricting immigration and traveling from certain countries may be morally justified using Mill’s Principle of Utility. It could be said that he was seeking to protect (“make happy”) a large part of the population in which he is responsible for. He may have believed that keeping people who might want to hurt the United States out would protect a majority of United States civilians, which might justify his actions using the principle of utility. Considering what course of action will yield the best consequences for human welfare and the greatest balance of good over evil. Setting the situation for a Potter Box, many countries such as London had experienced recent bombings and the U.S. has been a target for Islamic terrorist attacks in the past. The values such as peacefulness, nonviolence and thoroughness may have guided this decision. Using the principle of utility to further justify the immigration restrictions and loyalty to the greater good and citizens of the United States.

Unjustified: President Trump’s action in restricting immigration and traveling from certain countries may be unjustified based on Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance. This principle is based on rights and fairness, and Trump’s actions may be seen as discriminating against muslims or an ethnicity. In this principle, these distinctions should be behind the “veil” or “barrier” when making a moral decision. With the same situation when thinking about a Potter Box the values may reflect humanness, fairness and freedom. Selecting Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance further show that the immigration restrictions are unjustified with loyalty to justice and society as a whole.

I do not believe his actions were justified because they were made out of bias and possibly poor interpretation of information. However, I do think I may be bias because I know that it didn’t work as far as keeping out any more criminals or terrorists. I believe it was not the most morally sound decision and I’m guessing he didn’t use a Potter Box when making it.

Ethics Blog Week 1

The three types of values I tend to prioritize when facing a moral dilemma in a personal situation are honesty, compassion and open-mindedness. This has been highly influenced by my family and up-bringing. My family has always emphasized these values and practiced them, which has set a great example for me.

It is important for me to identify how I prioritize my values and principles to help guide my moral decision-making process now and in the future. I do believe it’s subject to change over time, but it is important to outline my decision-making process as a reminder and point of reference.

I value honesty and integrity in a professional and personal setting because telling the truth, even when it’s ugly, is the right thing to do in most situations. Chances are if you are lying to others you are probably lying to yourself as well. Trust is also not easily built but easily lost and keeping ones word can be the difference between success and failure.

I value the virtue of compassion, or the relieving of other people’s suffering, because caring for others out of selflessness contributes to the overall wellness of the community. It improves empathy and can cause a domino effect of compassion. Being able to imagine yourself in someone else’s position can lend itself to much more than just compassion and is a wonderful attribute.

I value open-mindedness because it’s important to being well rounded and accepting of others. Accepting that you are not always right and that change occurs naturally is critical to being a productive and evolving professional. However, all of these have extremes the mean of which is the virtue I hold in esteem.

When discussing ethics in the past, I found that I often leaned toward Kant’s categorical imperative when discussing relevant dilemmas. “Act only on that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become universal law,” Kant said. This makes sense to me in that you shouldn’t do anything you wouldn’t want everyone to do. I also believe that there are higher truths that are innate to human nature, and I regard human life above all else.

I also try to take into account agape love. I believe this is because of my up-bringing in a Christian family and church community who not only preached unconditional love, but practiced it as well. The concept has been drilled into my head since I can remember and has become an important part of my personal moral code.

When looking at a situation I would outline the specifics, then I would evaluated what I value. For example, if a group member plagiarized on their part of a project I would consider resolving the problem in different was. First, I would analyze the dilemma and my values noting that it is illegal, dishonest, and unfair to the other group members. I would then look at the principle most relevant to the situation such as Kant’s categorical imperative, which is about duty. I have a duty to justice and the truth. Next, I would consider my loyalties. In this example I’m loyal to my colleagues or group members and my duty to the truth.