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SAGE Publications

Cover Image: Media Ethics at Work: True Stories from Young Professionals
  • Date: 09/11/2012
  • Format: Print Paperback
  • Price: $57.00
  • ISBN: 978-1-4522-2784-9
  • Pages: 336
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Media Ethics at Work: True Stories from Young Professionals
Lee Anne Peck, University of Northern Colorado
Guy S. Reel, Winthrop University

Media ethics books today tend to examine the dilemmas faced by seasoned media managers and ignore situations likely to be faced by young adults as they enter the media workforce.  Peck and Reel believe that students will show more interest and see more relevance in case studies involving their peers, as opposed to those experienced only by senior professionals.

Here are the kinds of ethical dilemmas that confront early career professionals working in media:

  • Your boss at a P.R. firm wants you to promote a hip-hop act by going online pretending to be a teenager.
  • A graduate of your university wants you to remove an old story from the student newspaper’s online archive because it’s hurting her job prospects. 
  • A bar owner says he might finally buy an ad in your publication if you’ll just come back tonight and hang out at the bar.

Students may not recognize the ethical implications of a situation at work. Even if they do, and even if their intentions are good, they may not know how to reason through the problem, or what options exist beyond their gut reaction, or where to go for advice from their lowly position in the organization.

Media Ethics at Work: True Stories from Young Professionals helps students assemble a tool kit for dealing with ethical issues on the job. At the heart of the book are 23 cases, true stories of problems encountered by young professionals working in news, advertising and public relations. Each story is presented as a narrative so readers can ponder: “What would I do if this happened to me?”  Introductory material provides a foundation in philosophical theory and moral reasoning, so by the time they’ve finished the book, students will feel prepared with an array of theoretical and practical approaches that will equip them with strategies for thinking on their feet.

Other ethics books focus on the big-name, high-level cases that make news – and hurt media credibility.  Media Ethics at Work takes a fresh, new approach, aiming to build integrity in a time of media change through the small and large ethical decisions that entry-level media professionals make every day. 

Within each case, readers will find:

  • Tool for Thought—how a theory or professional ethics code clarifies the case’s central ethical issue.
  • Tool for Action—practical how-to tips.
  • Thinking it Through—discussion questions.
  • What If?—an alternative scenario for students to think through.
  • Go Online for More—web resources for further information.
  • First-Person Ethics—chapter interludes in which experienced media professionals detail a specific ethical challenge and how they dealt with it.
New to this Edition
This is the first edition of this work.

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Table of Contents

About the Editors
About the Contributors


1. Tools for Ethical Decision Making
     Lee Anne Peck
2. The Morally Developed Media Professional
     Deni Elliott


3. Confronting Others’ Violations: The Case of the Manipulated Photo
     Donica Mensing
4. Focus Group Dilemma: The Case of the Compromised Tagline
     Nancy Furlow
5. OMG! This Band Is SOOO GR8! The Case of the Phony Teenager
     Richard D. Waters
6. Solo Judgment Calls: The Case of the One-Person “TV Crew”
     George L. Daniels
7. Real Estate Boasting: The Case of the False Figures
     Jacqueline Lambiase
8. The Importance of Fact-Checking: The Case of the Self-Plagiarist
     Donica Mensing
9. Seeking Answers for Students:  The Case of the Undercover Reporter
     Joe Mirando


10. Free Speech, Official Pressure: The Case of the Visiting Foreign Student
     Daniel Reimold
11. Sins of Omission: The Case of the Not-so-Free Pet Party
     Giselle A. Auger
12. Desensitized to Violence: The Case of the Newsroom Reality Check
     Rick Kenney
13. Sensitivity and Professionalism:  The Case of the Perils of Facebook
     Guy Reel
14. Please Don’t Use the Video: The Case of the Fatal Accident
     Ray Niekamp
15. Source Remorse: The Case of the Requests to “Unpublish”
     Michael O’Donnell
16. Hard Questions, Big Backlash: The Case of the Train Track Death
     Barbara S. Reed and Dan Bracaglia
17. Contacting the Family of a Killer:  The Case of the Sensitive Reporter
     Glen FeigheryN IV


18. Friend of the Victim: The Case of the Murdered Student
     Lois A. Boynton and Adam Rhew
19. Journalists’ Judgments Versus Audience Clicks:  The Case of Web Analytics’ Influence
     Gary Ritzenthaler
20. Losing Balance: The Case of the Anchor Blogger
     Ray Niekamp
21. Are Public Officials Always on the Record? The Case of the Councilor’s Blog
     Jan Leach
22. On the Record or Off? The Case of the Cranky Professor
     K. Tim Wulfemeyer
23. No PR Picnic: The Case of the Disengaged Alumni
     Ron Boyle
24. Come Up to My Apartment: The Case of the Client With a Hidden Agenda
     Lee Anne Peck
25. Along Came a Better Offer: Two Cases of Job Hunting Ethics
     Scott R. Hamula

Appendix: Links to Ethics Codes

“I feel strongly that the proximity of the experiences to the challenges faced by student journalists and rookies will cause my students to take the cases more seriously and spark critical thinking. My students would enjoy this book. They would like the fact that the cases were relevant to them. I thought the questions within each chapter would be very helpful to class discussions.” - Kevin Stoker, Texas Tech University

“I think the book’s use of situations faced by young media professionals in their early years of employment is a terrific idea and I like its mix of cases that concern journalists, advertising and public relations professionals I was impressed with how seamlessly the chapters, though written by various authors, fit together. I was especially pleased to see chapters on such issues as Web analytics, use of social media, blogs and sources, and removal of materials from websites. These are increasingly important issues for our students.” - Lorna Veraldi, Florida International University

“The book will be extremely useful in helping students confront ethical situations initially, and then think through them with a higher level of moral reasoning. I believe students would find this book very readable and engaging. At times, I could not put the book down until I finished reading a case. The authors built up a sense of suspense in how the case is resolved in many of the chapters. I think students will see themselves facing similar situations and also be spellbound.” - Shannon A. Bowen, University of South Carolina

“The overall concept of the text is appealing because students will relate to the experiences of recent graduates and they’ll enjoy the storytelling quality of the narratives and the relative brevity of each case. Chapter authors do a good job delineating questions students should consider as they’re grappling with the issues raised. It offers a good combination of practical tips and theoretical models to help guide thinking.” - Pam Fine, Knight Chair in News, Leadership and Community, University of Kansas

“Very impressive collection, nicely written, well edited, and very timely. Its greatest strength is the case selection. They’re not the often-told instances of major wrongdoing; instead, they are precisely the kind of low-bore ethical challenges young journalists are most likely to actually confront. The work is very readable and surprisingly uniform in tone and style. It hits the right balance of gravitas and readability.” - Edward Wasserman, Knight Professor of Journalism Ethics, Washington and Lee University

"An obvious advantage of the book's focus on the real-life ethical dilemmas of young professionals is that students can relate to people who are, in many cases, their peers. Just as guest speakers in classes often focus on their current responsibilities, needed skills, internship and job hunting tips, and career trajectories, the book's case studies include these kinds of insights as well." - Wendy N. Wyatt, Journal of Mass Media Ethics
Lee Anne Peck, University of Northern Colorado
Lee Anne Peck, Ph.D., is associate professor of journalism and mass communications in the School of Communication at the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley. Lee Anne Peck has taught English, journalism, and communications courses since 1988. Before teaching at UNC, she was assistant professor of international communications at Franklin College Switzerland, Lugano. Over the years, she has advised three student newspapers. Peck’s professional experience began in 1976 as a correspondent for the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch. She then edited and then managed the Northern Colorado Choice Magazine of the Front Range. In the mid-1980s, she edited and wrote for publications in Indiana and Delaware; she has worked for the Fort Collins Coloradoan as an editor, a columnist and writing coach and for the Rocky Mountain News as a copy editor. Peck has also worked at the Tampa Tribune’s online product, Tampa Bay Online, and for Microsoft’s online publication, Denver Sidewalk.

Guy S. Reel, Winthrop University
Guy Reel, Ph.D., is associate professor of mass communication at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. A former newspaper reporter and editor for The Commercial Appeal of Memphis, Tenn., Reel teaches journalism and mass communication and has written extensively about issues in journalism and communication history. He is author of The National Police Gazette and the Making of the Modern American Man, 1879-1906 (2006), a study of portrayed masculinities in 19th Century tabloids. He received his Ph.D. from Ohio University, his master’s from the University of Memphis and his undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee.
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