Syllabus for Journalism & Media Studies Courses: Media Ethics (CMS 402)

 

With the unbundling of Mass Communication programme in Nigeria, the face of communication education in the country has changed. The programme has transited into a full college/faculty while individual courses have adapted to the change. While several new courses now exist in the seven new departments, some of the courses you used to know before have also taken a new shape. We have done a thorough research on what these courses offer in universities across the world; and we have provided prototype syllabus for students to study ahead. This is also to assist lecturers who might be facing new challenges with several new courses to have an idea of what the syllabus of each course offers.

 

COURSE COMPACT

Faculty: Communication and Media Studies                          Department: Journalism & Media Studies

Course Code: CMS 402                                          Unit(s): 2                      Semester: Second

Course Title: Media Ethics

Lecturer:                                                       Programme: B.Sc.

 

(A). BRIEF OVERVIEW OF COURSE

This course exposes students to ethical and moral standards applicable to the media and communication professionals. Students will be taught the ethical responsibilities of individuals, groups, and organizations engaged in message construction, transmission or consumption, particularly in the field of news and public affairs, entertainment and persuasion. The course discusses ethical dilemmas that confront professionals in print and broadcast journalism, visual communication (photojournalism and graphic design), and strategic communication (PR, advertising, and other business communication). It further explains codes of ethics for various media professions and evaluates how these guidelines have and have not been applied in specific settings (using real life examples). This course also explores what constitutes ethical practices, what interferes with ethical practices, and what emerging ethical issues may challenge a professional in the media and journalism fields. At the completion of this course, students would have learned how to make professional ethical decisions in an organized and informed way in the line of duty. Students should also be able to identify a range of moral problems and issues frequently associated with the media in society as well as with careers in the media. This includes having the ability to analyze these problems and their components, and making informed judgments based in ethical theory.

 

(B). COURSE OBJECTIVES/GOALS

By the end of this course, students will have learned:

  1. Meaning of key concepts such ethics, media ethics, journalism ethics, code of conduct, etc.
  2. Ethical and moral standards of communication professionals
  3. Ethical dilemmas that confront media professionals
  4. Codes of ethics of various media professionals
  5. What constitutes or interferes with ethical practices
  6. How to make ethical decisions in an informed way
  7. Critical understanding of ethics and their application to journalism and other communications professions

(C). METHOD OF LECTURE DELIVERY

  1. Lectures
  2. Quizzes
  3. Assignments
  4. Practical Classroom Sessions

(D). COURSE OUTLINE

The course discusses ethical dilemmas that confront professionals in print and broadcast journalism, visual communication (photojournalism and graphic design), and strategic communication (PR, advertising, and other business communication). It further explains codes of ethics for various media professions and evaluates how these guidelines have and have not been applied in specific settings (using real life examples). This course also explores what constitutes ethical practices, what interferes with ethical practices, and what emerging ethical issues may challenge a professional in the media and journalism fields. At the completion of this course, students would have learned how to make professional ethical decisions in an organized and informed way in the line of duty.

1. Introduction

Meaning of key concepts – ethics, mass media ethics, code of conduct, journalism ethics).

Historical overview of media ethics

Common ethical principles

Why are Communication Ethics Needed?

The Challenge of Communication Ethics

The Goal of Communication Ethics

Difference between media ethics and moral

Course Overview

2. Ethical Theories

Meaning of ethical theories

Normative ethics

Meta ethics

Applied ethics

Deontological ethics

Virtue ethics

Kantian ethics

Moral relativism

Ethical egoism

Divine command ethics

3. Core Principles of Ethical Journalism

Truth and accuracy

Independence

Fairness and impartiality

Humanity

Accountability

4. Journalism Ethics & Professional Codes

Defining concepts (Journalism ethics, Professional codes)

Journalism ethics in Nigeria

Codes of ethics of various professional bodies in communication

Objectivity, journalism and false balance

Ethical challenges for journalists

The ethical public relations campaign

5. Application of Ethics in Communication Professions

Journalism (print, broadcast, photography/photojournalism, visual journalism, blogging and other online journalism platforms)

Advertising

Public Relations

Video/entertainment Industry

6. Communicating Sensitive Subjects

Reporting on sensitive subjects (sexual ethics, rape, abortion, suicide, victims of trauma, stereotypes, etc.).

Sensitive subjects and strategic communication (advertising, public relations)

7. Brown Envelope Syndrome

Conceptualizing brown envelope syndrome

Historical overview of brown envelope syndrome

Influence of brown envelope syndrome on journalism profession

The great debate: Is brown envelope really unethical or just a kind gesture?

8. New Media Ethics

Concept of new media

Various kinds of new media

Citizen journalism ethics

Social media and the ‘Fake News’ era

Digital Ethics: meaning, social implications, emerging problems, e-reputation

9. Ethical dilemmas of journalists (Seek Truth & Report)

Accuracy, Correcting Errors, Protecting Sources, Information

Gathering, Access to Information, Duty as Watchdog, Stereotypes & Opinion, brown envelope)

10. Summarizing Quick Ethical Concepts for Media Professionals

News Ethics

Health and Crisis Ethics

Business and Professional Ethics

Intercultural Ethics

Organizational Ethics

Social Responsibility

Ethics in the Public and Private Spheres

Ethics of the Reporter (professional integrity/Pillars of ethical journalism – seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent).

Censorship

11. Class activities and Assignments

(Case studies)

(E). RECOMMENDED TEXTS

Clifford, G., Christians, Kim, B. Rotzoll, Mark Fackler and Kathy Brittain McKee (2005). Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning, 7th edition, New York:  Pearson.

David Gordon and John Michael Kittross (1999). Controversies in Media Ethics, 2nd edition, Longman, New York.

Weston, A. (2006). A Practical Companion to Ethics, 3rd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press.

(E). IMPORTANT LINKS

Five principles of ethical journalism

Media Ethics in Journalism and Mass Communication

History and principles of media ethics

A brief history of Mass media ethics

Evolution of ethics within Journalism

What is visual journalism

Mass Media and High Suicide Rates in Nigeria! The Case of Contagion Self-Slaughter?

Study Suggests How Nigeria Media Should Cover Suicides

Overview of ethical theories

Digital Ethics and Privacy: A study about digital ethics issues, implications, and how to solve them

A Deep Study on the Concept of Digital Ethics

Differences in Media Ethics and Morals

 

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The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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