Case in Point: Crowdsourced News Tests Limits in Boston Bombings

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (2015), crowdsourcing can be defined as the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community. Crowdsourcing has been viewed as going hand in hand with social media, both existing because of the power of connections. In a fast-moving manhunt like the one for the two suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombings, the two terms collided in an attempt to serve justice. A real time stream of cellphone images and Twitter updates helped in complementing and informing mainstream news accounts. While these updates from civilians can be extremely helpful and form a sense of a unified community, they can also be disastrous.

Crowdsourced efforts during the bombing led to numerous false accusations, posting innocent bystanders as people of interest. Specifically, photographs of two innocent high school students were published on the front page of the New York Post labeling them as people of interest (Palmer, 2013). In addition, Reddit users focused their attention on a missing Brown University student as a potential suspect, who ended up having no involvement in the bombings. Eventually the FBI communicated their frustrations with the efforts, expressing that other photographs should not be deemed legitimate (Palmer, 2013).

While crowdsourced efforts can lead to negative outcomes and tarnish reputations, the efforts must be considered if in the end the good can outweigh the bad. In the wake of the bombings, it was an iPhone photo that provided the clearest image of one of the suspects (Akagi & Linning, 2013). When used effectively, crowdsourcing can engage audiences and gather information. Security services cannot be everywhere at once and occasionally obtaining information from the public can have its benefits.

In a world of real-time social media platforms, it is difficult to stop false claims. And with the opportunity to quickly spread these claims through retweets and sharing, information can be leaked to thousands of people in just seconds. Although false information can potentially tarnish lives, I believe that if the good outweighs the bad it is a risk that should be taken. There are a lot of evils out there, especially with recent terrorist acts from groups like ISIS. Therefore, if we have the technologies we might as well use platforms like social media and crowdsourcing to our benefit.


Akagi, K., & Linning, S. (2013). Crowdsourcing done right: Crowdsourced journalism showed its limits during the Boston bombing, but that doesn’t mean it lacks value. Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster. (2015). Definition of crowdsourcing. Retrieved from

Palmer, R. (2013, April 19). Reddit’s false Boston bombing suspect IDs show limits of crowdsourcing. International Business Times. Retrieved from

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Ethical Issues in “What Women Want”

Cartsonis, S., Davey, B., Matthews, G., Meyers, N., & Williams, M. (Producers) & Meyes, N. (Director). (2000, Dec 15). What Women Want [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures.

In the romantic comFeatured imageedy film, What Women Want, sexist, chauvinistic ladies’ man Nick Marshall acquires the ability to hear what women are thinking. The focus will not be on how he acquired this ability, but how he uses it and how it breaches privacy. Marshall, an advertising executive for a large agency, uses this new “gift” to eavesdrop on women’s thoughts and use their ideas as his own. Particularly, he listens in on the thoughts of his new boss, Darcy McGuire, who is on the hunt to acquire Nike as a new client. As the two brainstorm campaign ideas, Nick vocalizes all of Darcy’s thoughts on how to acquire Nike before Darcy can say them herself. In the end, Nick ultimately gets to pitch the advertising campaign to Nike and gets Darcy fired.  Hence, in this film there is more than one ethical issue to be looked at.

According to Plaisance (2014), “we develop our own sense of self through privacy” (p. 181). Privacy is essential to express one’s freedom, and it is a right that appears to triumph in society. However, when Nick is reading these women’s thoughts, he is breaching their own private thoughts, if they wanted to share them then they would simply say their thoughts out loud. He not only uses these thoughts to gain an advantage within his company, he also uses the thoughts to acquire women and excel in the bedroom. A few characters in the film even state their confusion, expressing to Nick that he almost knows what they want more than they do themselves. The freedom of these women is being compromised and without their knowledge they are losing control of their own information while also being manipulated.

Besides the issue of privacy being breached, Nick is guilty of plagiarism, stealing Darcy’s thoughts and using them as his own ideas. Although Nick’s intentions are to impress his boss, he impresses her with ideas that are not his.  As previously stated he uses these ideas in a campaign pitch to Nike, winning them over and making it appear that he was the “brains” of the entire pitch. Though Nick did not ask for this ability, he overall breaches countless women’s privacy, manipulates them and steals their own thoughts claiming them as his own. The film, although a romantic comedy, does a good job of raising ethical issues.


Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Ethics in the Media: Is There Any?

Thomas Cooper, a professor at Emerson College, is the author of several books about media ethics and criticism. His article Between the Summits, dives deeper into what Americans think about media ethics and how the public in general has become increasingly concerned about ethical practices in the mass media industries.

Through three separate elements; Cooper’s article, a case study on NBC’s firing of employees over the George Zimmerman case and casual interviews, it can be presumed that people are concerned about ethics in the media. Specifically, people are disturbed that they cannot trust news stations, as they can be inaccurate, unbalanced in their coverage and hype specific stories.

In contemporary society, it appears that ethical issues in media or communications are appearing more and more. Whether these issues are Brian Williams lying to the entire nation or reporters exaggerating about the interaction between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, conversations have been sparked.

One scandal that has provoked endless comments about the media was NBC’s coverage of the 911 call that Zimmerman made to police. The network has been under fire for supposedly going out of their way to make it appear that Zimmerman was racially motivated to kill Martin, a black teenager, even though Zimmerman claimed he shot the teen in self-defense. NBC aired numerous misleadingly edited audio clips, leading to backlash from the public and the firing of three reporters.

In Between the Summits, Cooper looked at a Los Angeles Times article that asked what Americans are most disturbed about in the news media. The top reasons that were linked to the perception of unethical practices included that the news was too sensational/hyped news, biased/not balanced in coverage, inaccurate/did not tell the truth and pushing their own agenda (p. 21). In the casual interviews responses about peoples’ perceptions of the media were almost identical.

Featured image

A photograph discovered while researching the Travyon Martin controversy

One of the interviewees, before the Zimmerman case was brought up, expressed that she found the media to be biased towards the Democratic Party. She stated, “Network’s views tend to not show both sides of the story, they only show the side of the story that is sensational news you could say.” Another interviewee agreed, articulating that network’s want people to watch, therefore they stir up trouble and do not show both sides. Specifically, this interviewee found that the media loves to play the racial card, in this case as well as bringing up the Ferguson, Missouri case where a black teenager was also shot by a white police officer.

With all of the interviews, each person agreed that they watch the news with a grain of salt. If interested in a case mentioned on the news, then one woman would read up on it online or through other sources rather than watching it on television. Also, four out of five people interviewed primarily watch the news for the weather or sports. All in all, based on Cooper, the case study and the interviews, it appears that people believe the news specifically to be an unethical and untrustworthy source. However, with limited place to receive the news, typically found through the television and Internet, how can society make sure that the news they are receiving is legitimate?


Bond, P. (2012, May 3). NBC news fires third employee over doctored 911 call in Trayvon Martin controversy. The Hollywood Reporter.  Retrieved from

Cooper, T. (2008).  Between the summits: What Americans think about media ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 23, 15-27.  doi: 10.1080/08900520701753106

Mirkinson, J. (2012, May 3). Lilia Luciano fired by NBC News over Zimmerman edit. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from

My Philosopher: Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher, who is best known today for his work on political philosophy. Hobbes was born in 1588 in Westport, United Kingdom and livedFeatured image to be age 91. He was not born into power, wealth or influence with his father, a village vicar, abandoning him. Hobbes was raised and educated by his uncle, which allowed his intellectual talents to develop, eventually bringing him to Oxford University in England (Williams, n.d.). When Thomas turned 20, he became a tutor to the son of an important noble family, the Cavendishes, who he developed a lifelong connection with. His association with the family provided him with an extensive library and gave him the opportunity to meet countless influential people, even eventually becoming the tutor to future King Charles II.

During upcoming years Hobbes interacted and associated with brilliant thinkers, including Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei, however it was two different influences that heavily affected his future work. According to Williams (n.d.), the first influence was a response against religious authority, specifically against the scholastic philosophy that accepted and defended such authority. The second influence was an admiration for, and involvement in, the emerging scientific method, as well as geometry. Both of these influences impacted how Hobbes expressed his political and moral ideas.

Hobbes first manuscript, Elements of Law was not received well in his time. Hodges (2001) conveyed that the manuscript created controversy as it built a strong argument for absolute royal power. With the hostility in society at the time, Hobbes decided to spend the next 11 years of his life in Paris. This time-span helped turn Hobbes’ thoughts into more political matters, eventually leading to the creation of Hobbes’ most famous work, Leviathan. The book establishes the foundation for political philosophy from the perspective of the social contract. Social contract is an agreement in which a person within a society gives up their freedom. The person agrees to drastically limit their right of nature, and defend himself or herself only in a situation that involves an immediate threat (Williams, n.d.).

Hobbes ultimately believed that people were naturally selfish and brutal and could not be trusted to govern. The only way to avoid disorder was for people to surrender their freedom, giving all the power to a king or queen in an absolute monarchy. This life without government is expressed as a state-of-nature. Williams stated (n.d.), “if I judge that killing you is a sensible or even necessary move to safeguard my life, then – Hobbes’s state of nature claims – I have a right to kill you.” Therefore, Hobbes pictures it as people having the right to do whatever they think will ensure their self-preservation.

Hobbes ideas were efficiently laid out, providing a strong foundation for research in the social contract field for other philosophers to expand on. John Locke specifically accepted Hobbes’ terms. In fact, “our modern, liberal view of privacy comes largely from the claims of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke” (Plaisance, 2014, p. 178). Hobbes saw the “private world” to protect individual security, while Locke stated that independence in the public and private spheres were mutually exclusive. Locke’s ideas typically differed from Hobbes, specifically with human nature. Locke viewed man as a social animal by nature, Hobbes saw man to not be a social animal.

In today’s society, the ideas of Hobbes can be applied in the media ethics field. A specific case that can be looked at through his ideology is the case of American journalist, Brian Williams. NBC recently suspended the star news anchor for a false story that had come under fire involving a US military helicopter in Iraq. Through Hobbes view, Williams’s actions were naturally selfish. Williams broke the Code of Ethics for Journalists, fabricating a story to better his position as a journalist and the ratings of his nightly news show. This case is an excellent example of Hobbes depiction of human behavior to be rooted in self-interest.  Overall, Hobbes has had a tremendous impact on political philosophy, his ideologies still relevant and looked at today.



Hodges, M. H. (2001). Life of Thomas Hobbes. In Luminarium: Anthology of English Literature. Retrieved from

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.

Williams, G. (n.d.). Thomas Hobbes: Moral and political philosophy. In Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from