Clifford G. Christians, Mark Fackler, Kim B. Rotzoll & Kathy Brittain McKee (2001). Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning (6th ed.). xv + 333 pp. ISBN 0-8013-3338-5. $55.26. (New York: Longman). Chapter notes, recommended readings, index.
Although there are literally dozens of textbooks in the field of media ethics-a welcome change from the situation only a few years ago-this one apparently is becoming the standard undergraduate text. Written by a combination of philosophers, scholars and journalists, it avoids many of the pitfalls of being either too pedantic or too "applied."
It has been previously reviewed in MEDIA ETHICS, of course, and its 5th edition is criticized and defended in this issue of the magazine. Its purpose is to provide the tools needed by those entering upon careers in journalism.
Starting with a brief discussion of ethical foundations and perspectives (including the Potter Box model, how to use ethical principles, five ethical guidelines, and two important questions: to whom is moral duty owed? and who ought to decide?), nine-tenths of the book deals with news, persuasion in advertising, persuasion and public relations, and entertainment. There are 78 case studies incorporated in the 17 chapters of the main part of the book. Chapters in the news section deal with: business pressures, truthtelling, reporters and sources, social justice and invasion of privacy. Those in the advertising section deal with: special audiences, what to advertise, how to say it, and media considerations. The public relations section discusses: public communication, telling the truth in organizational settings, conflicting loyalties, and the demands of social responsibility. Finally, the entertainment section considers: violence, profits, wealth and public trust, media scope and depth, and censorship.
A useful history of the evolution of the field of applied media ethics in the United States could be constructed from a content analysis of both the text and the case studies provided by the various editions of Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning published since 1983. We've come a long way.
The above article was published in Media Ethics , Fall 2003 (15:1), pp. 48-49.