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Living Ethics

Across Media Platforms

Michael Bugeja

Publication Date - August 2007

ISBN: 9780195188608

368 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Retail Price to Students: $149.99

Identifying principles that apply across media platforms, this award-winning text (2009 Clifford G. Christians Award for Research in Media Ethics) encourages critical thinking through examples that build, challenge, and enhance readers' value systems.


In a seamlessly wired world of television, computers, and BlackBerrys, where does ethics fit in? To address that question, Living Ethics calls for a moral convergence to complement the technological one. Identifying principles that apply across media platforms, Michael Bugeja has created a thorough and well-researched work that avoids the prescriptive language used by many texts; instead, he encourages critical thinking through examples that build, challenge, and enhance readers' value systems.

While many ethics texts focus almost exclusively on journalistic ethics, this award-winning text (recipient of the 2009 Clifford G. Christians Award for Research in Media Ethics) emphasizes unifying principles that collapse and transcend the boundaries of a wide variety of media sources--including newspapers, magazines, radio, television, public relations, photojournalism, advertising, and other forms of traditional and online mass communication. As readers will discover, the circumstances of ethical issues may vary, but the moral processes used to resolve them are basically the same.

Resolutely practical, Living Ethics is written in a clear and cogent style that helps readers:
* Understand unifying principles from historical, philosophical, and political perspectives
* Grasp the utility of principles that engage audiences and clients while respecting the diverse cultures in an increasingly global media environment
* Explore moral convergence through the eyes of more than 100 practitioners at major newsrooms, agencies, and organizations
* Examine ethical issues visually through more than 20 photos and illustrations
* Develop a set of principles to guide their careers across a multitude of platforms

About the Author(s)

Michael Bugeja is Professor and Director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. The recipient of the 2009 Clifford G. Christians Award for Research in Media Ethics (for Living Ethics), Bugeja is the author of twenty books, including Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age (OUP, 2005).


"This phosphorescent book puts communication ethics on a new order of magnitude. Living Ethics is destined to become a classic in the tradition of Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics, Jacques Ellul's Propaganda, and Jean Baudrillard's Simulations. Brilliant in content and spectacular in research, a master teacher and public intellectual are at work here. Establishing ethics discourse across media platforms is exactly what the field needs in a technological age and we'll never be able to think about ethics in static terms again. With formalism discredited and relativism simplistic, Living Ethics is an ingenious alternative."--Clifford Christians, College of Communications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"This is an important book--a comprehensive look at media ethics, drawing on vital and pervasive concepts, and blessedly relevant to multiple media venues, not simply publishing, electronic media or digital media. Big ideas about responsibility, fairness, bias, temptation are connected to specific examples, some powerful, some homely, but all useful. This is at once a treatise for serious readers and a text for students and professionals in a world where convergence is not only conceptual, but also part of the lives of people who work across platforms too. A very useful contribution to the literature, building on and greatly amplifying an earlier edition."--Everette E. Dennis, Distinguished Felix E. Larkin Professor of Media & Entertainment Industries, Fordham Graduate School of Business

"Living Ethics is full of wisdom and insight, featuring both the philosophical foundations that underpin ethics and real-life examples about how to apply ethics in our morally converged world. Talk about relevant! Rather than hypotheticals, the book is filled with real stories about plagiarism, graphic video, satire, sexual harassment, photojournalism, and direct quotes. It's the best ethics book in communications."--Paul Parsons, Elon University

"The best thing about this book is that it refuses to accept the old adage about leading a horse to water but not being able to make him drink. This book believes students can be taught both to understand ethics and to act ethically, and then outlines a way to do just that."--Gregory Lisby, Georgia State University

"[Bugeja] wants us to experience how it feels to have a guilty conscience, not just think about it in terms of an abstract philosophical framework. Such an emphasis has a place in the classroom because it calls for personal accountability."--Robin Riley, New Mexico State University

Table of Contents

    Part One: Building Your Ethical Base
    1. Influence
    Basic Concepts
    Basic Intentions
    Basic Influences
    The Influence of History
    The Influence of Language
    Illustration: "Trigger Words"
    Balance and Perception
    Illustration: "The Fine Line of Objectivity"
    Photograph: "Father Holding Son, Who Nearly Drowned," Jared Lazarus
    Journal Exercise--"Deprogramming Your Influences"
    2. Responsibility
    Basic Concepts
    Honoring Accountability
    Role Models, Mentors, Icons and Idols
    Broader Responsibilities
    Photograph: "Editors at the Mailbag," Highlights for Children
    Moral Relativism and Absolutes
    First Principles
    Journal Exercise--"You're Absolutely Courageous"
    3. Truth
    Fonts of Truth
    Objectivity as a Process
    Truthful Platforms
    Truthful Disclosures
    Visual Judgment Calls
    Photograph: "Grieving Family and Friends," Morris L. Manning
    Photograph: "Flight Nurse," Dennis Chamberlin
    Photograph: "Marine Funeral," Dennis Chamberlin
    Photograph: "Couple Kissing," Dennis Chamberlin
    Photograph: "Magdalena," Dennis Chamberlin
    Photograph: "Lanier," Dennis Chamberlin
    A Word about Satire
    Editorial Cartoon: "An Army of One," Jim Borgman
    Editorial Cartoon: "NASA," Carmen Cerra
    Illustration: "Bunny Bio™--Behind the Fur, Energizer Bunny™"
    Higher Concepts
    Journal Exercise--"Your Highs, Lows and Turning Points"
    Part Two: Testing Your Ethical Base
    4. Falsehood
    Basic Concepts
    Categories and Consequences
    A Word About Quote-Making
    Visual Lies
    Photo/Illustration: "Crossing the Line in Photojournalism," Diane Bugeja
    Questionable Lies
    Journal Exercise--"Just How Truthful Are You?"
    5. Manipulation
    Basic Concepts
    Brief History of the Hoax
    Categories and Consequences
    Defusing the Hoax
    Hoaxbusting Methods
    Journal Exercise--"Your Biases, Fears and Convictions"
    6. Temptation
    Dealing with Temptation
    A Plagiarism Primer
    Detecting Plagiarism
    Dealing With Conflicts of Interest
    New Media Conflicts
    Compassionate Conflicts
    Religious and Familial Conflicts
    Editorial vs. Advertising Conflicts
    Diversity Conflicts
    Visual Conflicts
    Photograph: "Brian," John Kaplan
    Journal Exercise--"Your Own Conflict Resolution"
    7. Bias
    Exploring Bias
    Exploring Stereotypes
    Dealing with Bias
    Illustration: "Anticipated vs. Received Message"
    Journal Exercise--"Taking Stock: Your Personal Bias Barometer"
    Part Three: Enhancing Your Ethical Base
    8. Fairness
    The Fairness Process
    Fairness-Related Concepts
    Corrections and apologies
    Journal Exercise--"Do You or Others Play Fair or Foul?"
    9. Power
    Power Bases
    Power of the Press vs. Profits
    Censorship vs. Self-Censorship
    Taste vs. Free Expression
    Illustration: "Child's Subliminal Ad"
    Two Cases of Sexual Harassment
    Photograph: "A Policeman's Torment," John Kaplan
    Photograph: "Floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina," AP photo/Vincent Laforet
    Essay: "Ode to New Orleans," by Charlotte Porter
    Photograph: "Roadside Memorial," by Diane Bugeja
    Photograph: "Final Moments," by Therese Frare
    Essay: "Lasting Moments," by Therese Frare
    Journal Exercise--"Your Path to Empowerment"
    10. Value Systems
    Personal and Professional Standards
    Creating Codes
    Photograph: "A Sampling of Codes"
    Journal Exercise--"Your Own Code of Ethics"