Courtney Milham Being Ethical

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For the past year, Penn State students have been going through something that no other school has. It has been almost a year since the news came out that Jerry Sandusky had been, allegedly sexually abusing young boys. Over the summer we found out that Jerry Sandusky was found guilty for these horrifying acts and that Penn State Football would be banned from any post season play for the next four years. Close to fifteen Penn State football players left this summer, however, I am not going to talk about the players that left. Instead, I am going to talk about the ethical choices of the wonderful men who stayed and supported their school.


Many will write about their passion and inspiration for our dance marathon. Of course, I am inspired by our funds to help find a cure for childhood cancer, but today I can't help but concentrate on the ones who may have given up a lot to stay true to their school. I personally know many of the football players at Penn State, but these players aren't just made of large muscle, they have big hearts as well. They may not have made certain "ethical choices" as us journalists will have to make in the future, but to me, I think these men deserve some recognition for their ethical choices.


I believe that the Penn State Football players that stayed should be well respected and deserve much appreciation. As we know, our players were given an opportunity to go to another school. Silas Redd, one of our best players, transferred to USC to try and make himself better. Justin Brown, another one of our great players, transferred to Oklahoma to better himself as well. Almost 15 students left the Penn State Football program to try and go somewhere else that they thought would help them in the long run. Just because these players went to schools that are ranked in the top 15 and are able to go to a bowl, does not mean they necessarily made the correct choice.


First, lets start with our fearless leader, Bill O'Brien. I'm sure it is hard to transfer into a school after following the late Joe Paterno. O'Brien not only stepped up to this position but took the challenge and made something pretty amazing. He could have left, or went to another NFL team, yet he stayed here, right in Happy Valley. People said he couldn't do it, people said he couldn't make Penn State football a great program, but I think he's beating all of the odds. He is not doing this to better himself, he is doing it to help a falling school pick themselves back up. He is doing it to make these Penn State Football players the best they can be. He is doing it because he cares and wants to help others. I believe he has shown in numerous ways how great and ethical of a person he is.


Now, we move on to our beloved Nittany Lion football team. Michael Mauti, and Michael Zordich, two seniors at Penn State stuck around and showed true leadership in a time of need. They got many players to stay true to their school instead of leaving and going somewhere else. We know almost every football players dream is to win a national championship in college, and head straight to the NFL once they are out of college. As I previously mentioned students believed they needed that national championship title to make their dreams come true, however they may have no chance, since everyone is looking right at us. 

Our players who stayed at Penn State not only showed their loyalty to Penn State, but they showed numerous acts of ethical greatness. They believed they needed to stick by their team instead of trying to better themselves. They believed they could help bring our school back up to the great, high standards we once had. It has been a challenging year for every Penn Stater, but I can't help but be inspired by these men. These men not only stayed, but now, they are conquering. They will not have a chance to play in the Big Ten Championship game in December, and they will not be able to go to a bowl game in sunny Florida or California over new years. But I think they were given a much better opportunity than all of those options. They have shown us what teamwork is. They have shown us how loyal you should be. They have shown us what it means to overcome the challenges, and last but not least, they have showed us what it means to love your sport, and your school and those around you. If they were in it for the sport, they would have left, but as we all know...they stayed.


I know this isn't the ethical blog that was expected, but I think this is a very important point to all of us. You can be ethical in any thing you do, by making the correct choices, by showing right and wrong, and of course by moral decisions.  Every Saturday I think the Penn State Football team and their wonderful coach, Bill O'Brien, show us what it means to be ethical. I am truly inspired by their acts to stay at Penn State. I can only imagine the challenges they have all faced over the past year, and will continue to face in the next few years. All in all, I believe this team shows us what it means to make good decisions and to be ethical in what you choose. 

Blog 2: "Shattered Glass"

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The movie Shattered Glass is a movie about how the infamous Stephen Glass used deception, and fabrication to create stories for The New Republic magazine. Glass began fabricating quotes, settings, and events to become the most outstanding journalist at the magazine company. He became so good at deception that he actually started to believe his own lies. As I watched the movie, in awe of the distortion of the stories I began thinking of ethical issues.

One of the issues that came to mind was did glass falsify stories to please the audience? As an ethical journalist, you have a responsibility to the audience to do the right thing. Glass was pleasing the audience, but had to resort to deception in order to do so. He felt like if he could fabricate stories and get away with it, and they were witty enough he could be the best journalist ever. Witty as they were, his stories were not witty enough to cancel out the distrust the audience had in him after they found out the stories were fraudulent. As a student studying journalism, seeing a journalist commit an atrocity such as creating dishonest stories is disheartening. As an audience, when you find out that the stories are distorted, you lose respect and credibility towards the journalist.

A second ethical issue that came to mind was once Glass was caught, why did he continue to be dishonest instead of immediately telling the truth? Although what he did was wrong and he was trying to cover the situation up, Glass might have been more respected if he came out and said he fabricated his stories from the beginning. Glass did not see things this way; he thought if he kept lying, eventually he would evade his way out of it. As a journalist, editors can always go back and track your stories to the sources. After tracing the stories back it was found that 21 of the 47 stories he wrote were fabricated. Glass was a smart guy, but being an unethical journalist will never get you too far as the movie showed.

The New York Times wrote an Article entitled Journalists Dancing on the Edge of truth. In the article David Carr uses Glass as an example of writers who made stuff up. In a comparison of online journalism and print journalism Carr tells us not to blame the web for the plagiarism of stories, when writers such as Glass fabricated stories before web was a hot commodity.

A possible solution to Glass' problem is to have told his editor he was having trouble finding stories and they would have slowed his work pace down. He wanted to get to the top fast, and in moving too fast he made major mishaps and committed a terrible crime in journalism. Slow and steady wins the race as they say, and Glass wanted to be the hare instead of the turtle. A lesson I learned through this movie is never get rid of your ethical values just to reach a higher position in life. Good things come to those who wait.



Carr, D. (08, 2012 19). Journalists dancing on the edge of truth. Retrieved from

Blog 5: Reflections on this course

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"There are two aspects to ethics. The first involves the ability to discern right from wrong, good from evil, and propriety from impropriety. The second involves the commitment to do what is right, good and proper," says ethicist Michael Josephson.

This course has taught me many ways to be an ethical journalist and how to practice, and commit to ethical decision-making in everyday life. Out of all the ethical lessons we touched on there are two that I believe are most important are Rule-based thinking and Making Decisions: A Three-Step Template.

Rule based thinking is the idea that it is your responsibility to do the right thing no matter what, and without doubts about future ramifications. Rule based thinkers obey the code of ethics regardless of the situation. This ethical lesson is important to me, because after learning this through the textbook readings I started to think of myself as a rule based thinker. For example 3 days ago I was taking the bus from the stop to class, and while sitting on the bus, a student next to me opened his wallet to put his bus card in the wallet, and ten dollars fell out. I noticed the ten dollar bill on the floor, and knew I could just smoothly step on the bill and wait for him to leave the bus and keep it to myself; but after reading about Rule based thinking, I knew it was my duty to do the ethical thing. I kindly asked if the bill was his, and after he confirmed I gave him his ten dollars. If you are a person who follows rule based thinking, you are known as a deontologist. Through the ethical issues that have arisen in my life, I'd like to think of myself as a deontologist.

Making decisions is a crucial aspect of life. If you cannot make decisions in life, there is no way you can expect to make good ethical decisions. Another lesson I learned in this course is how to make decisions in privacy cases. The three steps are to analyze the information, analyze the likely harm, and most importantly make the decision! In the journalism field this is very important because as journalists we will be faced with private information and we have to know how to handle that when it comes about.

This course is essential for every journalist, so that they learn how to make proper decisions and practice ethics so that it becomes natural to them. In the future as a journalist, I will think back to this class and remember the ethical issues and case studies and how being ethical affected the individual in a positive or negative way. This will aid me in being the most ethical journalist I can be.

As a whole this course was very interesting, and it is definitely a course where you can learn something if you listen. If it were up to me this class would be mandatory for all students so they could learn to practice better ethics, and become more well-rounded people. The way the class is structured is fun and hands-on for the students. I really appreciated the class, and all it had to offer to me as a student and future journalist.


Foreman, G. (2009). The ethical journalist. (p. 76, 223). Pennsylvania State University, USA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Blog #5- Course Overview

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I found this Comm409 class to be particularly interesting because it dealt with real-life situations that a journalist, or other media personnel, would have to deal with in the business world. The morality of the media today is highly scrutinized, especially in the United States. Since we will hopefully become the next generation of media professionals, this class is important in training us now in the ways of ethical reasoning. I personally am minoring in ethics so I believe that having a strong ethical background is a great skill to work in any field that has the potential to influence the opinions of other individuals.

One aspect I found interesting in the class was when we discussed whether or not something would be ethical to publish--such as graphic pictures.  It was interesting that we agreed certain pictures could be shown in certain countries or areas that would find them more acceptable than others. Publishing pictures or names of rape victims is also another very controversial issue that is still debated over in newsrooms. This class brought about the issue of a journalist having to detach his or herself to the story he or she is covering. When those barriers are to be broken is also a fine line.

Using examples of plagiarism from real high-profile individuals in the industry, and also case studies that occurred in real life, the lessons we learned on the power points were applied to real situations. I think that this type of format makes the content in the text book become more relative to the students. Also, showing the implications that occur in real life for not following ethical standards (by plagiarizing or accepting bribes, for example) helps deter individuals from trying to do such activities in the future.

Also, working on the group project with other members of the class taught us a great skill in networking. Networking is extremely important in the communication industry, and gaining the skills needed to work with other people to get a job done is important in this field. I thoroughly enjoyed working with my group mates because both of them were hardworking individuals and will definitely succeed in their careers one day. We coordinated schedules and had discussions on how to make the most successful presentation. It was an enjoyable learning experience.

Overall, I believe that this class is one of the most beneficial I have taken at Penn State so far that really applies to my future career. I hope to become a magazine editor in the future, but I also have an interest in the new media platform of blogging and personal promotion. I work with a lot of fashion blog writers and editors who have started their own companies. I am inspired by what they have done as a result of the changing media interface. I hope that I can take the lessons I have learned in Comm409 and apply them to my future career aspirations to makes them a reality. Thank you. 

Blog #5: A Semester In Review

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Ethics and ethical issues will come up within any business or industry, but they are especially important within journalism and the media. Because it is the job of the media to report the news to the public, something that is a necessity within any society, ethics hold a special importance in the media and need to be followed closely at all times in order to be a successful and a moral journalist. Throughout this course, we have touched on a number of subjects related to media ethics, but there are two that stand out in my mind when I consider and review this semester.

The first subject that we touched on that I found to be extremely important was conflict of interest. There will always be conflicts no matter who the journalist is and what subject they cover. Conflicts of interest are unavoidable, but what I learned is important is recognizing them when they arise and handling them in the correct way by recusing yourself from the story and speaking with your editors. The second ethical issue that I think is most important is that you must always report the truth and nothing else. Sensationalizing a story for the purpose to making it more exciting is unethical, and even more unethical is lying as we saw with the film we watched in class that documented the career of Stephen Glass.

This course should be very important in my future career as a journalist. Having a strong background in media ethics before going into the industry after graduation gives us students a leg up on other entry-level writers that may not be as well-versed in media ethics. And it is also great to have studied ethics of any kind in terms of life outside of journalism. Ethics can be applied to just about any situation in life, and many of the subjects that we covered in this course will be helpful both within and outside of our careers.

I believe that this course is very well-structured and that the use of quizzes, papers, and blogs forces us to thoroughly learn all of the material that we study both in class and in our book. One of the issues that I found to be a negative aspect with the course is that I sometimes struggled to find an ethical message or lesson within some of the lectures. For example, our class on Wednesday that covered new media and technology was very interesting, but it did not relate to ethics at all. Perhaps there was an ethical lesson in there somewhere, but it was not blatantly specific and I don't think that you discussed ethics within the lecture. Having said that, I think that this was a great course for the most part and was very informative. I feel like a better journalist for making it through this semester in Comm. 409.

Blog #5 - Semester Reflection

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Four months have gone so quickly. With the spring semester upon us, it's only right to take a look back at a semester of ethical lesson-learning, examine what has been learned which will effect my future and any negative impacts the class has had on me. 

One ethical lesson I learned this semester was about confidentiality. I never knew a solid answer to how journalists and reporters distinguish certain cases from others as far as when to and when not to use names. Their seems to be a double standard, here, with when it's appropriate to use names and when it is not. For example, survivors of rape, naturally, should not have their names plastered across the front page, but survivors of physical abuse will have their names, age, and location places in an article. This would depend and be up to the discretion of the paper or magazine. It's not a gender double standard, but it's a "physical assault double standard," we'll say. I hope the confusion isn't a problem I'll face in the future! I feel that either party should have more protection against the releasing of names and other personal information, rather than one case being more sensitive than the other. 

Another lesson I learned from this course was how to deal with problems which can arise from conflicts of interest. I think it's a shame that people are bribed by companies, institutions, even other publications in order to make appearances, speeches, or provide better press. Bribery exists in various forms from dollar signs to free plane tickets and exclusive access to something in exchange. When faced with these forms of bribery (and any other sort of bribery), it must be tough to think ethically and make the right decision. But from learning about the different situations which may occur from this, I'll be better able to make a more informed, just decision. 

This course will affect my positive decision making in the future. If I am cornered by a tough decision involving ethical values, I'll have a chip on my shoulder about having taken this class which will encourage me to do the right thing. From this class, I have more knowledge about what it takes to run a successful publication based on morals and ethical standards. As someone who is striving to be a magazine editor and eventually own her own magazine, having a strong ethical foundation will be the key to my publication's success and longevity. 

All in all, this wasn't a bad course by any means. Any class can use improvement, and I'm glad you are open to hearing this directly from students. In the future, I think the guest speakers should be people (ladies and men) who are more interested in what they're talking about. I gained little from listening to these speakers who have such great backgrounds in journalism. They seemed bored to talk to us and disinterested in being in our class, which I think is really unfortunate.  Next, it would've been cool to have hands on assignments of some sort to get a physical, memorable sense of how to act/think ethically. Other than this, thank you for teaching - you're a good  professor and public speaker! 

Rebekka Simko- Blog 5- Reflection of Semester

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Overall, I have learned a tremendous amount from this Comm 409 course and Dr. Z.  This is one of the first Communications courses I have taken specifically for my major here at Penn State.  I declared my major this semester as Broadcast Journalism, but did not fully know what I was getting myself into by choosing that option.  This course helped me understand journalism better in general, what one can and cannot do as a journalist, and how to be a successful journalist in the future.

Before taking this course I did not realize how serious plagiarism and fabrication were taken in the journalism world.  The Shattered Glass movie, discussions and paper all opened my eyes and made me really think about how big of issues plagiarism and fabrication really are.  What started as one small fabrication led Stephen Glass to making up facts, stories and eventually making up a website with phony people and phone numbers.  Once he started getting positive feedback his fabrications began to increase and spread like wildfire.  His career went up in flames and his identity was ruined.  This story had a huge impact on me as a journalist and person.  I now know how serious of issues plagiarism and fabrication are and how they can absolutely destroy not only someone's career but their character as well.

Another ethical issue that I learned in this class was that as a journalist one must be an observer, not a participant, in almost every situation.  As we discussed in class, journalists have moral duties as human beings but they also have duties as professionals.  It can be extremely hard to determine the line and how to stay away from crossing it.  But as a journalist one must not take even a slight chance of crossing the line into bad territory.  I learned that if a journalist intervenes in a situation they change the way people look at the event and it is no longer considered authentic.  By involving oneself the audience may think the journalist has a bias and therefore not trust what he or she writes.  But, in a situation that the journalist can save someone's life or is the best-qualified person around; they must act morally and help the person in need.  This was a huge surprise to me because before this discussion I would have thought that it was O.K to intervene in any situation.  I did not realize the importance of being a professional at all times and how as a journalist one cannot always just act impulsively.

            This course helped me better understand so many ethical issues that had never even crossed my mind.  As a future broadcast journalist, everything we discussed from the Five Ethical Principles, to the Decision Making Theory, to the Conflicts of Interests, will be extremely important in my career.  When I begin my first internship this summer I will have to remember and apply these ethical principles I have learned so that I get a good reputation and start my career path in a positive direction.  I am very confident that the discussions we have had in class will help me in the real world as a professional broadcast journalist.

            Lastly, my favorite project we did this semester was the Case Study Panel.  My partner (Lindsey) and I had a good time talking and sharing our opinions about how photographs in the media are extremely controversial, especially when dealing with print media verses online media.  I also learned a lot from listening and participating in the other groups Case Studies.  One thing I wish we did more of was going through the book and looking at what it had to offer, especially when it came to the online quizzes.  But, overall I really enjoyed this course and am grateful to have taken it, learned so much, and had a professor with an open mind to everyone's individual opinions!

Rebecca Rice: Blog 5---Reflections

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I cannot say I learned one in particular ethics lessons over this course but I can say that it has helped me accurately define where the line is journalistically and moralistically.  Whether its defining my rights as journalist, a code of ethics, knowing when to disclose a conflict of interest---and what that actually means---, when to be empathetic, and to know what a privilege it is to be a journalist in modern society with ever-changing technology and policies. I came into the course thinking ethics was always a black and white situation. I now know that to be false, and have actually reminisced on previous situations I have been on or currently in and think is this the right thing to do?


I definitely think this course will have an impact on my future and career. I wish to have a career working for non-profits doing mainly communication work for them. I believe ethics plays a major part in non-profits. You have to maintain integrity and, in today's world, use all available networking available--whether through traditional or non-traditional (social media means). Ethics plays a big role in that because it is so easy to cross the line (aka Glass) to try to get ahead.


Additionally, I believe ethics will play a crucial role in my future because I plan to focus on helping "at-risk youth".  I believe there will be times where my morals and ethics will be called upon in very gray situations and I will call upon lessons I have learned in this class to help decide the correct course of action.


While I feel I have learned a lot in this class I do think there is slight room for improvement.  During the group presentations, I felt the criteria for choosing a case study and directions about the presentation and paper were not clearly defined.  The professor seemed to have certain expectations but gave somewhat vague or interpretable instructions that led to misunderstandings about the project.  Additionally, while I enjoyed the incorporation of multimedia throughout the semester, I became genuinely frustrated that we would never watch an entire segment. The ceaseless skipping around made the clips often made the video seem disjointed and after a couple skips honestly failed to keep my interest. I understand the reason for skipping around, there is a limited amount of time and an abundance of material to cover, but it really just distracted me. Maybe put links to the videos on Angel so the class could view them in their entirety?


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This semester I learned a lot from our news media ethics class discussions. One topic that I felt plays a part in a journalist's daily life is decision making. There will be a moment in every journalist's career in which they will face a difficult ethical dilemma.

For example, this week the New York Post published a front page cover photo of a man who was about to be crushed by a moving subway. Many people were alarmed and taken aback by this graphic photograph. Social media blew up that day and New York Post was actually trending on Twitter because many readers were angry about the image on the cover of the newspaper.

We discussed one day in class whether or not some things should not be shown to the public. I remember in class when we watched the video of the trapeze artist's rope breaking and him falling many stories to his death. This was heart wrenching to watch and left an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. We spent awhile discussing whether or not readers needed to watch this video in order to understand what happened. The answer is not always clear, but one thing I learned about decision-making is you must first follow your gut reaction. Reflection and reasoning also plays an important part.

This New York Post photograph also raised the issue of whether or not journalists are participants or observers. Many readers argued that if the photographer had enough time to snap an image then he must have had enough to save the victim's life.

After taking this class, I learned that I personally as an editor would never run this disturbing photo. Readers can get an understanding of what happened without seeing the photograph. In the end I think it harmed the paper's reputation and it hurt the family of the victim.

Also, another ethical dilemma that we discussed in class that resonated with me was the idea of conflict of interests. I didn't fully understand before taking this class that accepting plane tickets from the College of Communications at a university when you're covering their team is unethical. After taking this class, I learned I would be aware of accepting gifts as well as money. Accepting nice hotel reservations or first class plane tickets can affect the way you write and as a journalist you may subconsciously be more biased than normally. As a journalist, I hope to be as neutral as possible in my writing.

This class will help me be more mindful or the way I behave as well as more mindful about the articles I publish. I will be a more ethical person in my daily life as well. Overall, I think I learned that you need to gain the trust of your readers and the only way to do that is if you have good ethics and morals.

Also, I think the class sparked interesting conversation - we watched shocking videos, learned interesting case studies and heard everyone in the classes' diverse opinions on issues. I feel this opened my eyes and I learned that there's not always a correct answer. Problems don't always have a simple yes or no answer. One thing I would change, however, is I would not do as many group projects. I personally find it a bit difficult to meet up with members of a class and find a time to work together.

Final Blog - Tara Brzycki

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Throughout my time in COMM 409, I have learned a lot of new and useful information on ethics in the media.  One of the most important lessons I learned in class this semester is about being unbiased.  Although it is common knowledge that journalists must always be considered unbiased and should never put opinion into most news stories, this class has more clearly defined this issue for me.  Learning about how journalists can seem biased to their audience, even when they are not trying to, was very helpful as well.  I learned that it is important to always appear unbiased, as well as legitimately be unbiased in your writing.  The issue I found to be most useful in this class, however, is the issue of a journalist always remaining a bystander and outside observer.  Again, I knew that journalists are not to intervene when researching or reporting for a story, but it was interesting to see where that line is really drawn.  At some point, many journalists will intervene in a bad or dangerous situation.  It is about learning when you should stop becoming just a journalist and intervene.


I think that this course will have a significant impact on my professional life in the future.  A class on ethics is of utmost importance before one enters the professional world of journalism.  Without a strong background of ethics, no journalist is reliable, and will, therefore, be without a job.  I think that through this class I have learned what ethics means in the media and how to intelligently approach difficult ethical dilemmas.  An ethics class of any sort is definitely helpful in one's personal life as well.  Because I now know many different methods of approaching difficult ethical situations, I am able to make good and well-informed decisions in my personal life as well.


In terms of improving the class for future students, I do not know if I have many suggestions.  I thought that this course was well taught and I learned everything in an easy and understandable way.  Something that I enjoyed about the course was the use of case studies.  Case studies were always helpful in fully understanding the ethical lesson that we were learning about that class.  As I said before, I feel as if this class will be helpful to me and I think that without it I would not be able to be successful as a future journalist.  This course has shown me how important ethics are when working in the media.  

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