Media Ethics Initiative


Rhetorics of the Good Life

The Media Ethics Initiative Presents:

Rhetorics of the Good Life: Social Ontology, Ethics, and Communication



Dr. Omedi Ochieng

Assistant Professor of Communication

Denison University

May 3, 2017 — 3-4:30PM

CMA 5.136 (LBJ Seminar Room)


How ought we to think of the meaning of “ethics” in light of global climate change, resurgent white supremacy, and the everyday cruelties of neoliberal capitalism? In this presentation, I outline what I describe as a non-ideal social ontology as the background against which a robust understanding of ethics ought to be understood. In contrast to the dominant views of ethical interaction which list toward idealism, moralism, and parochialism, a non-ideal social ontology allows for an expansive vision of the “ethical” as a way of life – and thereby invites wide-ranging inquiry into what constitutes good societies and good lives in the twenty-first century. Finally, this presentation seeks to open up space on how we ought to participate in and engage with constitutive institutions such as mass and social media in an age when truth is increasingly seen as partisan, justice is dismissed as utopian, and freedom has been tribalized.

Dr. Omedi Ochieng, an Assistant Professor at Denison University, is the author of Groundwork for the Practice of the Good Life: Politics and Ethics at the Intersection of the North Atlantic and African Philosophy (Routledge, 2017). His areas of specialization include the rhetoric of philosophy, comparative philosophy, and social theory. He has published articles in the International Philosophical Quarterly, Radical Philosophy, and the Western Journal of Communication.

Free and open to the UT community and general public

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud



Moral Psychology and Media Practice

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The Media Ethics Initiative Presents:

Moral Psychology and Media Practice: Keys to Ethical Behavior in News, Public Relations, & Advertising

Dr. Patrick Lee Plaisance

Professor of Journalism & Media Communication

Colorado State University

Editor of the Journal of Media Ethics

April 10, 2017 — 1:30-3:00PM — Room: CMA 5.136 (LBJ Seminar Room)

Moral psychology theories and methodologies offer exciting opportunities for work that advances media ethics research in new ways. From brain scans to ‘life story’ interviews to survey data, these opportunities are being explored with diverse populations in multiple disciplines. As empirical researchers increasingly interact with moral theorists, moral psychology research is able to explore the relationships among psychological/individual factors and organizational-level structures and influences, and thereby illuminate the forces that help or hinder virtuous work. Similar lines of research with media workers is critical if media ethics theorizing is to continue to mature.

Dr. Patrick Lee Plaisance worked as a journalist at numerous American newspapers for nearly 15 years in Virginia, New Jersey, California, and Florida. After receiving his Ph.D. from Syracuse University, he joined Colorado State University as a faculty member. His research focuses on media ethics theory, journalism values and media sociology, and moral psychology. He is author of Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice (SAGE, 2009; 2nd ed. 2014) and Virtue in Media: The Moral Psychology of Excellence in News & Public Relations (Routledge, 2014). He is editing the forthcoming volume, Handbook of Communication Ethics (DeGruyter, 2017). He is the current editor of the Journal of Media Ethics, a leading outlet for research on media ethics. He has published his own research in various scholarly journals, including Journal of CommunicationCommunication Theory, Communication Research, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, and Journalism Studies.

Free and open to the UT community and general public

Supported by the School of Journalism (UT Austin)

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud

Stressing Ethics in an Unfiltered Age

By Brooks Gonzales (public relations junior at UT Austin)
With additional material by Megan Copeland (public relations senior at UT Austin)

AUSTIN, Texas – It is more important than ever for members of the media to stay ethical and informed, according to Mary Bock, associate professor of in the School of Journalism, during a talk at the Moody College of Communication on Feb. 16.

Bock’s talk was a part of the Media Ethics Initiative speaker series that brings in different speakers to discuss and share ideas about ethical choices and values in communication.

Bock gave the talk to inform the public and students that journalism ethics are not just for journalists anymore, as the ability to disseminate information is available to the news media and everyone in between.

“Sharing is so much easier than it used to be,” Bock said. “We are all able to commit acts of journalism, and it’s actually probably a good thing.”

She pointed out, however, that the ability for everyone to become a journalist does not mean that everyone is also ethical.

The news has long been a visual experience, a trend that has intensified through the ability to alter and create images on the internet.

“The cues [in images] that used to tell us that somebody was giving us a hoax, [or was] an extremist, are gone,” Bock said. “People will remember a visual even if you tell them it is false.”


Photo: Brooks Gonzales

Bock gave three tips for media professionals and citizens alike to live by: seek the truth, be honest and serve the community. In other words, seek trustworthy and transparent sources, provide evidence, and consider the impact of your contributions.

The talk attracted students and top faculty from the university.

“Journalism ethics is now something that applies to everyone, and it is important to learn the [ethical] rules for participation [in] any form of social media,” said Janelle Davis, a junior majoring in public relations. “We have the power to create a better media environment that can be trusted.”

Also attending the talk was Minette Drumwright, an associate professor in the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations, who studies ethics in advertising, public relations and business.

“If we’re going to have a culture change [back to ethical journalism], it has got to be because speech professionals, who have so much influence and power, are being responsible and ethical,” Drumwright said.

Before becoming a professor with the Moody College of Communication, Bock worked as a newspaper reporter and radio journalist. Her research is centered on the relationship between words and images in digital media. Bock recently co-authored the book “Visual Communication Theory and Research.”

“Bock’s talk made me completely rethink about how I read news online,” said Callen Hamilton, a junior in public relations. The talk encouraged me to be a lot more cautious with the news I consume and to look into sources in depth before believing them.”

Cosmopolitan Media Ethics

The Media Ethics Initiative Presents:

Cosmopolitan Media Ethics and the Global Imaginary


Dr. Clifford Christians

Research Professor of Communications

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

April 4, 2017 — 3-4:30PM — Room: CMA 5.136 (LBJ Seminar Room)

In this research talk, Clifford Christians explores how media ethics must change to meet the demands of new communication technologies. Today’s information era, with upheavals across the globe, requires a new theory of communication ethics. Our cosmopolitanism cannot be a neoliberal arc or homogenous technological network, but a multicultural transnational imaginary. What is a media ethics of universal human solidarity, philosophically and professionally?

Media ethics to be credible must be radically international. The technological revolution has created a networked globe, so that the world mind is no longer for the elite, but a possible imaginary for the public as a whole. For media ethics, in theory and in institutions, it means more than extending one’s individual autonomy to envision the globe. The nation-state boundaries and homogeneity of Habermas and Rawls is also inadequate. An ethical theory will be presented that originates in universal human solidarity and entails basic principles such as truth, human dignity, and nonviolence. The necessary concepts for constructing this theory are located in Taylor’s multiculturalism, Benhabib’s feminist universalism, and Heidegger’s dwelling.

Dr. Clifford Christians is one of the leading voices in the study of media ethics. He is a research professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he also served as the former director of the Institute of Communications Research. He has been a visiting scholar in philosophical ethics at Princeton University, a research fellow in social ethics at the University of Chicago, and a fellow in ethics at Oxford University. He has authored or co-authored many scholarly books, including Good News: Social Ethics and the Press, Communication Ethics and Universal Values, Moral Engagement in Public Life, Normative Theories of the Media, and Key Concepts in Critical Cultural Studies.

Free and open to the UT community and general public

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud

Ethical Issues in the Fight Against Revenge Porn



The Media Ethics Initiative & the Graduate Communication Council Present:

Ethical Issues in the Fight Against Revenge Porn

Dr. Scott R. Stroud, Associate Professor of Communication Studies

University of Texas at Austin

March 21, 2017 — 3-4:30PM — Room: CMA 5.136 (LBJ Seminar Room)

There has been an increasing legislative and academic dialogue over the growing online plague of revenge porn, or the posting of nude images without a depicted subject’s consent. Most of the dialogue about this awful phenomenon assumes that it is a simple activity with straightforward ethical problems speaking for its total moral and legal condemnation. While most instances of revenge porn are harmful, non-consensual, and have no socially-redeeming worth, the complexity of this phenomenon must be acknowledged. After detailing what revenge porn is, some of the ethical issues it raises will be discussed. The challenges of balancing restrictions on harmful communication with the imperatives of free speech will be explored. Additionally, ambiguity over issues of informal consent and the future use of shared digital content will be detailed. Much previous scholarship has overlooked these nuances in the race for legislative action, but the present talk encourages us to resist simple narratives about this new problem in digital media ethics.

Dr. Scott Stroud is the Director of the Media Ethics Initiative and an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His research covers a range of topics in communication and philosophy. He is the author of John Dewey and the Artful Life (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011), Kant and the Promise of Rhetoric (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014), and A Practical Guide to Ethics: Living and Leading with Integrity (co-authored with Rita Manning, Westview Press, 2007). He has published work on a variety of topics in media ethics, including blogging ethics, revenge porn, and the online activism of Anonymous.

Free and open to the UT community and general public

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud

Journalism Ethics and Social Media

The Media Ethics Initiative Presents:

We are All Gatekeepers Now: Journalism Ethics for an Unfiltered Age



Dr. Mary Bock, Assistant Professor of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin

February 16, 2017 — 3:30-4:30PM

Room: CMA 5.136 (LBJ Seminar Room)

Journalistic ethics are no longer just for journalists. The digital media environment has flattened the information playing field, giving long-standing news institutions the same access to an audience as extremist propaganda, citizen bloggers and you: yes you. We’re all gatekeepers now, whether or not we want the job. This presentation will propose and explore three rules for ethical participation in social media: First, seek the best information. Secondly, speak honestly. Third, serve the larger good. Living without an information “middleman” is both liberating and fraught with responsibility. A better digital information environment starts with us.

Mary Bock is a former journalist turned academic with an interest in the sociology of photographic practice, the rhetorical relationship between words and images, and digital media. Her previous career was spent primarily in local television news. She has also worked as a newspaper reporter, a radio journalist, and public relations writer. Most recently, Bock co-authored Visual Communication Theory and Research with Shahira Fahmy and Wayne Wanta. Her 2012 book, Video Journalism: Beyond the One Man Band, studied the relationship between solo multi-media practice and news narrative.  She has published articles in Journalism Practice, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Journalism, Visual Communication Quarterly, The International Journal of Press and Politics, and New Media and Society.

Free and open to the UT community and general public

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud

Journalism and Media Bias

The Media Ethics Initiative Presents:

American Journalism’s Ideology: The Question of Bias in the Media



Dr. Robert Jensen, Professor of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin

January 31, 2017  —  2-3pm

Room: CMA 5.136 (LBJ Seminar Room)

The routine assertion that mainstream journalism outlets are disproportionately staffed by liberals, producing a liberal bias in mainstream news, misses the more deeply embedded conservative nature of corporate commercial journalism. In this talk, Professor Robert Jensen will provocatively argue that most journalists reproduce the dominant ideology of the contemporary United States—involving world affairs, economics, and ecology—which can be best understood as forms of fundamentalism and therefore dangerous to a meaningful conception of democracy.

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin and the national group Culture Reframed. He is the author of The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men (Spinifex Press, 2017). Jensen’s other books include Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully (Counterpoint/Soft Skull, 2015); Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialogue (City Lights, 2013); All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009); Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film “Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing” (Media Education Foundation, 2009), which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. Jensen’s writings can be found here.

Free and open to the UT community and general public

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud

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