Ethics 2012: The Wrap


I thoroughly enjoyed our ethics discussion this week. Everyone had good ideas, and it was interesting to see how many of you either fought fiercely for your beliefs are had your initial reaction change completely the more the you considered the situation.

To wrap up the assignment, I wanted to share with you a few nuggets from each case study. These might be how the actual case turned out (we talked about most of these) or it might be a little extra information you might find interesting.

In any event, I have grouped each of these extra bits of information below by the case study it applies to. Enjoy.

— Mr. T.

Case Study #1: Cooperating with the Government

In Arizona, all of the major news organizations agreed to wait until the standoff ended before publishing many details or any names they might learn from other sources. They held off on interviewing relatives of the inmates they suspected might be the captors. Media were not allowed within half a mile of the prison; the airspace was closed to helicopters. After the standoff, the inmates were charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault, escape and sexual assault, which gives you some idea of what went on during the standoff. The names of the guards weren’t made known until some time after they were released.

Case Study #2: The Sting

Here is a link to the website discussed in this case study:

Case Study #3: Offensive Images

Want to know what the cartoons in question actually looked like? Well, check out this page from Wikipedia. It shows exactly what that Danish newspaper printed. My personal opinion, these cartoons were nothing to get excited about.

An anecdote: One group of mass communication ethics students, when presented with this scenario, was ready to decide not to reprint the offending images, just described to them. Then one student located the caricatures on the Internet and called them up on her computer. The class, after looking at the images, changed its mind 180 degrees. The cartoons, they explained, weren’t as offensive as they had imagined they were. Lame, perhaps, and not very funny, but hardly anything to get excited about.

Case Study #4: A Media-Savvy Killer

Epilogue: Dennis Rader, who admitted to being the BTK Killer, was arrested Feb. 25, 2005, by Wichita Police. On June 28, 2005, he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of murder.

Here is what Rader looks like:

Here is a link to The Wichita Eagle’s special section about BTK:

On it you can even read Rader’s confession, though it is very graphic so do so with caution.

Case Study #5: A Congressman’s Past

The Oregonian did pursue the story, just three weeks before the election. It also made its decision-making part of the story. And Michael Arrieta-Walden, the newspaper’s public editor, wrote a very long follow-up column on Oct. 17, explaining the decision point-by-point. More than 350 readers called or wrote to criticize the story; several canceled their subscriptions.