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Panel discusses media ethics

DeGroot, Tricia | Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Mendoza College of Business has designated this week “Time out for Ethics” in the hopes of encouraging discussion of moral matters among faculty and students both in and out of the classroom.Each session has facilitated discussion on different ethical matters, including Wednesday’s forum, “Ethics and the Media.” The discussion was moderated by David Hayes of the Mendoza College of Business’ Gigot Center and featured Jim Behling, the president of WNDU-TV, John Dille, the president of Federated Media and Tim Harmon, the managing editor of the South Bend Tribune.Behling began the discussion by addressing the lengths to which shows such as “Good Morning America” and the “Today Show” go in order to land a good interview. He then raised the question of whether this activity could be considered exploitive or ethical. “Utilizing and praying upon the emotions of victims of tragedies is something we hear about all the time,” Behling said, but he questioned whether exploiting and taking advantage of the grieving in order to get the key interview could be considered ethical behavior.Harmon followed Behling’s discussion and brought light to ethical matters that newspapers face. He spoke of how the media has become more powerful in recent years as a result of pressure. According to him, newspapers become better, more responsible, more inclusive and more responsive teams, but that these positive implementations do not necessarily overshadow some of the negative attention the media receives. According to Harmon, people don’t trust the media like they used to because it has become too expansive. Harmon used a cover of The Globe Tabloid, which calls attention to the Kobe Bryant case, to illustrate an example of sensational media, with which mainstream media is grouped.”Mainstream media has jumped in with the worst of them,” said Harmon.Harmon brought up some examples of what he referred to as a series of disasters in the media, calling attention to Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg and Dan Rather of the CBS team. He said that his company has stressed values such as truth, accuracy, consistency and fairness in the workplace.Dille ended the forum by discussing regulation and questioning. He cited two stories adhering to regulation and concluded with recent government action as a result of the Janet Jackson incident at last year’s Super Bowl. As a result of this event, Dille predicts the government will increase fines for such offenses. Dille called into question, though, the ethical nature of increasing fines without defining the offense.The panel was then opened up for questions.”Sports and the Media: An Examination of the Ethical Elements,” will conclude this year’s business ethics week tomorrow in the Giovanni Commons.