Media Ethics Initiative

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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Journalism Ethics and Social Media

The Media Ethics Initiative Presents:

We are All Gatekeepers Now: Journalism Ethics for an Unfiltered Age


Dr. Mary Bock, Assistant Professor of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin

February 16, 2017 — 3:30-4:30PM

Room: CMA 5.136 (LBJ Seminar Room)

Journalistic ethics are no longer just for journalists. The digital media environment has flattened the information playing field, giving long-standing news institutions the same access to an audience as extremist propaganda, citizen bloggers and you: yes you. We’re all gatekeepers now, whether or not we want the job. This presentation will propose and explore three rules for ethical participation in social media: First, seek the best information. Secondly, speak honestly. Third, serve the larger good. Living without an information “middleman” is both liberating and fraught with responsibility. A better digital information environment starts with us.

Mary Bock is a former journalist turned academic with an interest in the sociology of photographic practice, the rhetorical relationship between words and images, and digital media. Her previous career was spent primarily in local television news. She has also worked as a newspaper reporter, a radio journalist, and public relations writer. Most recently, Bock co-authored Visual Communication Theory and Research with Shahira Fahmy and Wayne Wanta. Her 2012 book, Video Journalism: Beyond the One Man Band, studied the relationship between solo multi-media practice and news narrative.  She has published articles in Journalism Practice, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Journalism, Visual Communication Quarterly, The International Journal of Press and Politics, and New Media and Society.

Free and open to the UT community and general public

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud

Journalism and Media Bias

The Media Ethics Initiative Presents:

American Journalism’s Ideology: The Question of Bias in the Media


Dr. Robert Jensen, Professor of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin

January 31, 2017  —  2-3pm

Room: CMA 5.136 (LBJ Seminar Room)

The routine assertion that mainstream journalism outlets are disproportionately staffed by liberals, producing a liberal bias in mainstream news, misses the more deeply embedded conservative nature of corporate commercial journalism. In this talk, Professor Robert Jensen will provocatively argue that most journalists reproduce the dominant ideology of the contemporary United States—involving world affairs, economics, and ecology—which can be best understood as forms of fundamentalism and therefore dangerous to a meaningful conception of democracy.

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and a board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin and the national group Culture Reframed. He is the author of The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men (Spinifex Press, 2017). Jensen’s other books include Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully (Counterpoint/Soft Skull, 2015); Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialogue (City Lights, 2013); All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009); Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film “Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing” (Media Education Foundation, 2009), which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist. Jensen’s writings can be found here.

Free and open to the UT community and general public

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud

Ambedkar, Social Justice, and Buddhist Right Speech

The Media Ethics Initiative Presents:

Who Speaks for Ambedkar? The Debate over Navayana’s Edition of Annihilation of Caste and the Buddhist Teaching of Right Speech

     Dr. Christopher Queen, Harvard Universityposter1950s

January 24, 2017  —  1-2:30PM  —  Room: BMC 5.208

Following the 2013 release of Navayana’s annotated critical edition of B. R. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste with an introductory essay by Arundhati Roy, Dalit (ex-Untouchable) activists angrily charged that Roy and the publisher were unqualified to write on Ambedkar by virtue of their high-caste backgrounds. We examine this war of words in the context of Ambedkar’s career as the leading voice for Untouchable human rights and as principal draftsman of India’s Constitution. We compare the attack on Navayana’s Annihilation of Caste to the original attack on Ambedkar’s 1936 speech (original speech here).

Given Ambedkar’s historic conversion to Buddhism, along with millions of this followers, we examine the teaching of Right Speech, the fourth step on the Eightfold Path, found in the early sayings of the Buddha. We learn that criteria for choosing speech or silence do not include the caste, gender, ethnicity, or expertise of the speaker, but rather the truth, timeliness, tone, and benefit of the words. Whether the words need to be “gentle” or “harsh” depends on the situation, according to the Buddha.


Christopher Queen lectures on World Religions and Buddhist Studies at Harvard University Extension and Summer Schools, where he also served as Dean of Students and Alumni Affairs for Continuing Education for 20 years. His holds degrees in religion, theology, and the history and phenomenology of religion from Oberlin College, Union Theological Seminary, and Boston University. His

publications center on socially engaged Buddhism and the Buddhist liberation movement of Dalits, the ex-untouchables of India, spearheaded by B. R. Ambedkar – scholar, activist, and father of the Indian Constitution. Queen co-edited four anthologies on contemporary Buddhism and has published numerous articles, chapters, and reference entries on Ambedkarite Buddhism and Socially Engaged Buddhism. He is the former board president of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, and co-founder of the Dharma Chakra Mission and Academy, serving low-income citizens in Bodhgaya, India.


Supported by:

Ambedkarite Buddhist Association of Texas

South Asia Institute (UT Austin)

Free and open to the UT community and general public

Closest Parking Garage

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud

Trump, Clinton, and the Race for the Presidency

The Media Ethics Initiative Presents:

Trump, Clinton, and the Rhetorical Construction of Democracy in Campaign 2016


Dr. Martin J. Medhurst, Distinguished Professor of Communication & Professor of Politics, Baylor University

November 2, 2016 — 1-2:00PM — CMA 5.136 (LBJ Seminar Room)

From their announcement speeches to the final debate, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have rhetorically constructed portraits of American democracy in their campaign rhetoric. What do those portraits look like? How are they constructed? What assumptions lay behind them? And what implications for democracy going forward attend their acceptance or rejection? Through a close reading of their presidential nomination acceptance addresses, I identify the kind of democracy called into being by each of the candidate’s speeches, the ethical implications of endorsing such a portrait, and the portents for democratic governance that each speech suggests. By focusing on rhetorical form, I shed light on political content.

Dr. Martin J. Medhurst is Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric and Communication and Professor of Political Science at Baylor University. He is the author or editor of thirteen books, including Rhetorical Dimensions in Media: A Critical Casebook (1984 and 1991, with Thomas W. Benson), Cold War Rhetoric: Strategy, Metaphor, and Ideology (1990 and 1997, with Robert L. Ivie, Philip Wander, and Robert L. Scott), Communication & the Culture of Technology (1990, with Alberto Gonzalez and Tarla Rai Peterson), Landmark Essays on American Public Address (1993), Dwight D. Eisenhower: Strategic Communicator (1993), Eisenhower’s War of Words: Rhetoric and Leadership (1994), Beyond the Rhetorical Presidency (1996), Critical Reflections on the Cold War (2000, with H.W. Brands), Presidential Speechwriting (2003, with Kurt Ritter), The Rhetorical Presidency of George H. W. Bush (2006), The Prospect of Presidential Rhetoric (2008, with James Arnt Aune), Before the Rhetorical Presidency (2008), and Words of a Century (2009, with Stephen E. Lucas). Dr. Medhurst is a frequent contributor to communication journals, including The Quarterly Journal of Speech, Communication Monographs, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, Communication Education, Communication Quarterly, Communication Studies, Western Journal of Communication, and the Southern Communication Journal, among other disciplinary outlets.

Open to the UT community and general public

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud


Advertising, Ethics, and Culture


The Media Ethics Initiative Presents:

Habitus, Doxa, and Ethics: Insights from Advertising in Emerging Markets in the Middle East and North Africa

Dr. Minette E. Drumwright, Associate Professor of Advertising & Public Relations

October 13, 2016 — 3:30-4:30PM — BMC 5.102

How do advertising practitioners in other cultures confront ethical issues? Building on research conducted with Sara Kamal, Professor Drumwright employs Bourdieu’s theory of practice to examine how the perceptions, practices, and discourses of advertising practitioners in Middle East and North Africa influence the advertising field’s habitus and doxa. Through this investigation into culturally inflected media practices, our understanding of the ethical problems of advertising is enhanced by examining them as macro, meso, and micro phenomena.  Understanding how these three levels interrelate, interact, and reinforce one another is critical to understanding the habitus of advertising practitioners. Underlying biases that shape the doxa can be explained by ideas central to behavioral ethics. A better understanding of the forces that shape the habitus and doxa with respect to ethics is key to moving toward a culture that encourages ethical advertising practices.

Dr. Minette E. Drumwright previously was an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and a senior lecturer in the U.T. Marketing Department. Her current research involves studies of social responsibility in business, particularly in marketing and advertising. Her research interests also include services marketing, marketing strategy, and business ethics, and she has written articles and cases for various books and journals, including Journal of Marketing and Marketing Letters. She has won two school-wide teaching awards at U.T. for her MBA course on services marketing. Outside the university, she has taught in corporate executive education programs in Mexico, Europe, and Asia as well as in the U.S. In between her undergraduate and graduate degrees, she worked in advertising and public relations for seven years.

Open to the UT community and public

For further information, contact Dr. Scott Stroud

Why Reflect on the Media?

The Media Ethics Initiative was founded in 2015 as a way to promote and publicize scholarly reflection on issues of media and communication ethics. One may ask, however, why do we need such an organization? Why do we need to reflect on the media at all? The answer to these questions lies in the importance we place on ethics, or the study of what makes actions, agents, and sets of consequences desirable or the right things to aim for with our actions. Ethics is undoubtedly an important endeavor, and our media use has only increased the chances for choices that matter. In a real sense, we use media and media uses–or shapes–us. We ought to think and reflect about what kind of people we are becoming and shaping with our engagement with the media, whether that is traditional news media or the latest in digital technology. Questions that will assume prominence in our reflections on the media, communication, and the sort of self we create through our actions are:

  • What role does journalism play in our democracy?
  • Does our privacy matter online?
  • Should we “pirate” online content instead of buying it?
  • How does our news media operate once it enters the online world of almost instantaneous news sharing?
  • Should we encourage or allow “hacktivism,” or the use of hacking for socially-desirable ends?
  • Is online anonymity a good thing, or does it enable incivility, hostility, and harmful actions?
  • How much freedom of speech ought we to allow in a democracy?
  • Are there topics that are off limits as too harmful to others we should care about in our communities?
  • How do we deal with disagreement in our interactions with others?

All of these and more are the sorts of issues that the Media Ethics Initiative will tackle in its activities. Some of these will consist of research presentations at the University of Texas at Austin, but other items will be addressed in the public sphere of the Internet on this website. In all of these activities, the Media Ethics Initiative aims to provoke more thought and reflection on how we use the media, and how our communicative media uses and shapes us.

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