Full course description

February 23, 2015 – March 30, 2015

This course will introduce participants to issues and concepts around the topic of ethical communication in media. Participants will examine social media and new technologies that influence ethical journalism. Lessons and course materials include evaluation of important ethical conflicts in the media.

News media around the globe must balance a shared goal of providing truthful accounts for citizens with the pressures constantly applied by governments, business, religion and other social forces. A vocabulary and consensus about ethics has emerged in the past half century in countries relatively free of government control to guide news organizations in that balancing act. This course examines the idea of ethical communication, considers the pressures on ethical journalism because of social media and new technologies and places three important ethical conflicts in its spotlight: How can the truth be gathered and shared in rapidly changing circumstances? How can the news media honor fairness and justice when social forces challenge that goal? Can an institution that feeds on violence also play a role in minimizing harm?

Course Objectives:

  • identify an ethical dilemma, describe the choices faced by the moral agent, and explain the moral implications of each choice;
  • apply key concepts of truthfulness, fairness, respect, autonomy, integrity, and transparency in resolving a dilemma;
  • evaluate ethical decisions in class forums, drawing on a careful analysis that takes into account levels of fact and historical and social context; and
  • show how new and evolving forms of technology affect ethical considerations.
NOTE: The first five weeks of the course will be led by the instructor, after which enrollees can access all content and self-direct their learning through the course.

Roger Simpson

Roger Simpson, PhD

Professor Emeritus University of Washington School of Communications

Journalism has been central to my interests for all of my adult life. Reporting for a national newspaper, a metro paper and several small community papers provided a great education in the ethics of giving citizens information. The subject followed me easily into my teaching at the University of Washington. I introduced ethics instruction in the UW communication program in 1985 and have taught the course on the Seattle campus at least once a year since. My book Covering Violence is a study of the ways journalists report on traumatic events as well as a blueprint for ethical reporting about those who suffer violence. In 2001, I received the national Distinguished Teacher Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, recognition of the introduction of emotional training into journalism instruction.