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Develop a code of ethics for Internet advertisers. Include the 5 ethical principles from Ch. 17 in The Dynamics of Mass Communication. Create a code of ethics with 8 to 10 ethical standards for Internet advertisers. Consider the following while creating your code: How do ethics influence Internet advertising? How do ethics influence advertising in general? What ethical issues does advertising on the Internet raise? Provide two examples of Internet advertisements, based on your code of ethics, that would meet these criteria, and two examples that would violate your criteria. Identify which of the principles are used in your examples. Provide specific examples of how the advertisements converge with or diverge from your ethical code. Refer to codes of ethics from other forms of media to create your advertisement code and to defend your opinions. Include an introduction and a conclusion to your paper and code of ethics. Create a 12 slide Microsoft® PowerPoint®presentation, a website, brochure, or another format approved by your faculty member. Present your presentation to the class. For online students, submit your presentation, with detailed speaker notes or voice-over. CHAPTER 17 The Principle of the Golden Mean Moral virtue lies between two extremes. This philosophical position is typically associated with Aristotle, who, as a biologist, noted that too much food as well as too little food spoils health. Moderation is the key. Likewise, in ethical dilemmas the proper way of behaving lies between doing too much and doing too little. For instance, in the restaurant example mentioned earlier, one extreme would be to cancel the story as requested by the restaurant owner. The other extreme would be to run Page 411the series as is. Perhaps a compromise between the two would be to run the series but also give the restaurant owner a chance to reply. Or perhaps the story might contain information about how the restaurant has improved conditions or other tempering remarks.Examples of the golden mean are often found in media practices. For example, when news organizations cover civil disorders, they try to exercise moderation. They balance the necessity of informing the public with the need to preserve public safety by not inflaming the audience.The Categorical Imperative What is right for one is right for all. German philosopher Immanuel Kant is identified with this ethical guideline. To measure the correctness of our behavior, Kant suggested that we act according to rules that we would want to see universally applied. In Kant’s formulation categorical means “unconditional”—no extenuating circumstances, no exceptions. Right is right and should be done, no matter what the consequences. The individual’s conscience plays a large part in Kant’s thinking. A categorical imperative is discovered by an examination of conscience; the conscience informs us what is right. If, after performing an act, we feel uneasy or guilty, we have probably violated our conscience. Applied to mass communication, a categorical imperative might be that all forms of deception in news gathering are wrong and must be avoided. No one wants deception to become a universal practice. Therefore, for example, a reporter should not represent him- or herself as anything other than a reporter when gathering information for a story.The Principle of Utility Utility is defined as the greatest benefit for the greatest number. Modern utilitarian thinking originated with the 19th-century philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. The basic tenet in their formulations is that we are to determine what is right or wrong by considering what will yield the best ratio of good to bad for the general society. Utilitarians ask how much good is promoted and how much evil is restrained by different courses of behavior. Utilitarianism provides a clear method for evaluating ethical choices: (1) Calculate all the consequences, both good and bad, that would result from each of our options; then (2) choose the alternative that maximizes value or minimizes loss.Looking at the mass communication area, we can easily see several examples of utilitarian philosophy. In 1971 the New York Times and other papers printed stolen government documents known as the Pentagon Papers (see Chapter 16). Obviously, the newspapers involved thought that the good that would be achieved by printing these papers far outweighed the harm that would be done. (Note that the Kantian perspective would suggest a different course of action. Theft is bad. Newspapers do not want the government stealing their property, so they should not condone or promote the theft of government property.) Or take the case of a small midwestern paper that chose to report the death of a local teenager who had left town, turned to prostitution and drugs, and been murdered. The paper decided that the potential benefits of this story as a warning to other parents outweighed the grief it would cause the murder victim’s family.The Veil of Ignorance Justice is blind. Philosopher John Rawls argued that justice emerges when everyone is treated without social differentiations. Everybody doing the same job equally well should receive equal pay. Everybody who got an 80 on the test should get the same grade. Rawls advocated that all parties in a problem situation be placed behind an imaginary barrier, the veil of ignorance, that conceals roles and social differentiations and that each participant be treated as an equal member of society as a whole. Rawls’s veil of ignorance suggests that we structure our actions to protect the most vulnerable members of society. It is easy to see the relevance of this principle to the workings of the mass media. If we applied the veil of ignorance to the problem of hammering out the proper relationship between politicians and journalists, the blatant adversarial relationship so often found between the groups would disappear. Behind the veil all news-makers would be the same. Inherent cynicism and abrasiveness on the part of the press would disappear, as would mistrust and suspicion on the part of the politicians. On a more Page 412specific level, consider the case of a financial reporter who frequently gets tips and inside information on deals and mergers that affect the prices of stocks and passes these tips on to friends who use this information for their own profit. The veil of ignorance suggests that the reporter must treat all audience members the same. Personal friends should not benefit from inside information.The Principle of Self-Determination This principle, closely associated with the Judeo-Christian ethic and also discussed by Kant, might be summarized as “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Human beings have unconditional value apart from any and all circumstances. Their basic right to self-determination should not be violated by using them as simply a means to accomplish a goal. A corollary to this principle is that no one should allow him- or herself to be treated as a means to someone else’s ends. Suppose that sources inside a government investigation on political corruption leak to the press the names of some people suspected of taking bribes, and the press, in turn, publishes the allegations and the names of the suspects. The principle of self-determination suggests that the press is being used by those who leaked the story as a means to accomplish their goal. Perhaps those involved in the investigation want to turn public opinion against those named or simply to earn some favorable publicity for their efforts. In any case, the press should resist being used in these circumstances. The rights, values, and decisions of others must always be respected.
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