Ethical Issues of Privacy in Edtv

Howard, R. (Director). (1999). Edtv [Motion picture]. United States of America: Imagine    Entertainment

edtv_poster Edtv is a film that focuses mainly on the issue of privacy in the entertainment industry. The story centers around Ed Pekurny, who was a nobody in his society up until he agrees to have his life recorded and broadcasted to the entire country on a television show called Edtv. Throughout his short-lived television fame, he comes across many ethical issues regarding the privacy of himself and the people around him (Edtv, 1999). This film is a great example of the struggle that reality television stars face when it comes to privacy.

Ed’s issues with privacy begin in the very beginning of his filming, when his drunken brother accidentally spills family secrets about his sister and her boyfriend on the air. Unlike the reality television shows that we are familiar with, the Edtv footage is not edited and everything is shown in real time, so this mistake could not have been taken back (Edtv, 1999). The problems continue as Ed still is not used to the fact that he is living with the camera crew. He shows up at his brother’s apartment to find that his brother is cheating on his girlfriend. This situation is also aired on live television, which creates problems in the relationship between Ed and his brother (Edtv, 1999).

008d50d4 Because Ed had signed a contract to be the star of the television show, his basic right of privacy was taken away from him. The only time that he gets the privilege of privacy is late at night for a couple of hours before he wakes up again in the morning. From the moment he wakes up until he falls asleep everything that he does as well as everything that the people around him do is broadcasted to the nation. This unfortunately, and naturally, creates a strain on his close relationships between his family, his friends, and his girlfriend. It is unnatural to have your life displayed to the public 24/7, and although the personal aspects of Ed’s life were entertaining for a while, the audience soon understood the struggle that he had been put through and were supportive when he decided that this life was too much (Edtv, 1999).

Edtv is different from reality shows that we know because his content was not edited. However, we get to see some sort of truth in the story when we see that the directors and producers begin to dabble in Ed’s life by setting him up in situations without his knowledge just to gain ratings (Edtv, 1999). This is similar to the reality television that we know, where stars are often told what to say or what to do to enhance the story line. Edtv is definitely a dramatic version of what we see on television every day, but it does make the audience think about the rights of privacy that these stars are being deprived of.

Code of Ethics for Celebrity Gossip Bloggers

Bloggers Code of Ethics:

Celebrity Gossip Blogs

Amanda Apicelli, Henry Forbes, Annie Zinkus, RJ Marceau, & Dina Cashman


Members of the Society of Celebrity Gossip Blogs believe that sharing insights about those in the public sphere is a critical element to the public.  The duty of celebrity bloggers and journalists is to shed light on the figures that so many look up to.  While these public figures have the right to privacy it is the job of celebrity bloggers and journalists to give the public all the information on their role models and decision makers.  To some extent, these figures need to be held to a higher standard and celebrity bloggers help hold them to those standards all while sharing vital information to the public.  Keeping integrity and honesty at the forefront starts with being thorough and credible.  Members of the society agree that those who benefit financially via the public sphere should be 100% transparent, and if they can not be it is the job of bloggers and journalists to step in and relay the vital information to the public.

Freedom of Speech: The right to a personal opinion, but the need to separate opinion from fact

As a gossip blogger, you have the right to voice your own opinion. You contain the basic rights of producing unique and independent content on the internet. However, you must make it obvious that your opinions are your opinions, and are not cold, hard facts. Opinions about a celebrity or public figure must be presented in a way that would not lead the reader to question validity or lead the reader to believe them to be facts.

Celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton values his right to freedom of speech (Hilton, 2015). Although many of the stories that he posts to his blog harshly criticize and mock celebrities and public figures, he has a right to do so. He does a great job at presenting facts and facts, and either starts or ends his posts with is own opinion as to not mix the two and confuse the reader.

Libel and Slander: Avoid posting content that can cause harm to one’s reputation

When it comes to posting images, bloggers should choose photos with an ethical interest in mind. Photos should be relevant to the story and information being portrayed and should not be chosen or shown out of context. Photos should also not be retouched in order to depict a different or untrue message, and if photos have been retouched, it should be stated. Portraying children and people affected by tragedy or grief should be a sensitive subject that should be thought out.

In terms of other content, the accuracy of facts must be checked before making a post public, especially if the information could potentially harm the individuals involved. If a mistake is made on a post, the information should be updated and corrected immediately. In judicial cases, one should wait until a formal charge has been filed before stating facts and names. The blogger should also show good taste when dealing with celebrities and public figures. They should not draw unnecessary attention to a personal or private aspect of a subject’s life that is not already in the public sphere. The pursuit of information should not harm the individual based on their circumstances.

Privacy: Seek permission whenever possible

Gossip bloggers should entertain but also keep an ethical framework in mind, concerning reputations. When faced with using content from social networking websites, bloggers should seek permission whenever possible, when subjects are involved. They should also only use sources and quotes from Facebook and other social media networking sites if necessary and always try to seek permission before posting content from other pages.

If using anonymous account user names, make sure to provide a link to an email contact if subjects in articles have opinions or questions. No name targeting of followers should be allowed on the blog. Followers can share their opinions but should not act harshly towards one another. When posting gossip about others blogger should Make sure all facts and stories are correct to the best of their ability  before instantly sharing with all of the blogger followers.

Gossip bloggers should take care in not accepting bribes.This pertains especially towards individuals who are being posted about if they are really in the wrong. Bribes should also not be accepted by those who wish to persuade bloggers to frame articles in a certain way.

Credibility : Maintain the quality of being trusted and believed in

In any form of Journalism or Writing, being credible is very important. Any media outlet or blogging site that reports false claims can lose their credibility by messing up one report. Sites such as TMZ are a big enough name that if they report false claims they can still hold their high credibility.

TMZ has had its history of false reports. In 2009 TMZ posted a photo of “JFK” partying on a boat with topless young ladies (Sonney 2013). The photo turned out to be from a Playboy spread. TMZ also in 2013 reported that rapper Lil Wayne had died due to seizures (Sonney 2013).  Lil Waynes friends went on Twitter and reported that the rumors were false and Lil Wayne was fine (Sonney 2013). Wayne’s good friend T.I. called out TMZ on this mistake on his Twitter (Sonney 2013). T.I. had some choice words for the organization that aren’t appropriate.

Any blogger specifically in gossip blogging must be credible because once they report any false claims people will turn on you. Especially with the rise of social media and information always accessible being credible is very important.



Hilton, P. (2015). PerezHilton. Retrieved from:

Sonney, J. (2013). The 10 biggest TMZ false reports. Elite Daily. Retrieved from:


The Justice in Advertising to Children

Advertising to children has become a tricky topic in the media lately, especially when it comes to how food is being presented. According to the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, the average U.S child sees approximately 13 food commercials every day only on the television (“Food Marketing to Youth”, 2013). However, children are now subject to advertisements on the Internet as well. Today’s children consume multiple types of media every day, and spend about 44.5 hours per week infront of their computer screens, television, and gaming screens than any other activities other than sleeping (“Impact of Food Advertising”, n.d.).

This Case in Point presents the issue of unhealthy foods, specifically companies like Kraft Foods, General Mills, and Kellogg, who’s advertisements have historically been major parts of children entertainment. These companies have acted upon the increasing concerns of the effects of food advertisements on childhood obesity, and have decided to cut back on their Ads on both television and the on the Internet. According to the American Psychological Association, there is a direct link between food industry advertising that targets children and the increase of childhood obesity (“Impact of Food Advertising, n.d.). Because of facts like this, and increasing concern for the matter, it was a great move by these large companies to pull a majority of their advertisements.

It is extremely hard to fight facts when they are presented by respected organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest. I believe that this was first of all an effort for the companies to look good in the public eye. That being said, I also believe that this was a necessary step towards considering the audience. The book states that justice is required when considering society’s most vulnerable. In this case, children are the most vulnerable target market (Plaisance, 2014). Thimagee messages that have been previously presented to children encourage them to pester their parents for products, promotes snacking in between meals, and portrays positive outcomes for consuming these unhealthy foods. To them, consuming these foods is portrayed as cool, fun, and exciting (“Food Marketing to Youth, 2013). What is not portrayed to them is the consequences of consuming these foods. It is obvious that companies are not willing to advertise the negative effects of their products, so they will now have to either pull advertisements or start creating products that are healthier in order to advertise to the same audience.


Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

(n.d.) The impact of food advertising on childhood obesity. Retrieved from:

(2013). Food marketing to youth. Retrieved from:

Photo retrieved from:

Ebola in the News

Increasingly in the United States, viewers and consumers of the media are beginning to question the authenticity of the sources that they are getting the news from. In a 1993 poll by Los Angeles times, participants were asked what they were most disturbed about in the media, and the most popular answer was too sensational/hyped news (Cooper, 2008). In a 2000 poll, only 10% of correspondents claimed to have a great deal of confidence in the press, which is compared to 30% in the 1970’s (Cooper, 2008). With this being the trend, Meyers stated that by 2015 the number would be zero (as cited in Cooper, 2008). In the current year of 2015, this is not far from the truth. Although viewers still use news sources as main informants, there is a great deal of speculation regarding legitimacy. It seems as though viewers are wary of news sources these days, as it is frequently proven that they should be. In a 2006 National Poll where participants were asked what type of unethical content in today’s mass media most concerns them, the highest ranking was media bias or one-sidedness at 19%. Closely ranked was media dishonesty at 11%, and following was exaggeration at 3% (Cooper, 2008). It is clear that the main concern has slightly changed from exaggeration to media bias from 1993 to 2006, but the fact that these concerns are still prevalent present something to be concerned about.

In 2014 the Ebola crisis struck West Africa, killing over 9,000 in countries with widespread transmission (2014 Ebola Outbreak, 2015). With an initial notice of the outbreak occurring in March of 2014, the American media was generally unconcerned until four months later, when it was announced that two Americans had become infected with the disease (Leetaru, 2014). Coverage then peaked in August, when the patients were airlifted back into the states, and then again when the first case was diagnosed in the states (Leetaru, 2014). From there, coverage on the issue had become “alarmist” with CNN calling the virus “The ISIS of Biological Agents” (Helgerman, 2014). British comedian Russell Howard even touched upon the issue of the U.S Ebola news coverage on his television show, comparing the US and UK news coverage and making fun of the dramatic flair that the US had put on the issue. This plays off the public’s concern about the media exaggerating issues. In this case, the news outlets “fanned the flames” of the ebola crisis by not only blowing the issue out of proportion, but also by not presenting the public with all of the facts (Leetaru, 2014).

Helgerman (2014) states that it was strange how the Ebola news received so much attention, seeing as it is actually not a very deadly disease if treated promptly and correctly, and it is also difficult to transmit. Had the news outlets attempted to educate and reassure the citizens of the United States of these facts, the issue would not have been blown up like it did. When I asked one of my interviewees to remember how the news about the Ebola crisis effected her and the people around her, she told me, “[at] the time it was such a scary thing, like you could be walking down the street and accidentally catch Ebola…but looking back now I realize that it was just all hype.” This proves a point, that viewers of the media did not realize at the time that the story was being exaggerated. It wasn’t until afterwards that people actually realized how ridiculous the coverage had been. Another interviewee shared that, “[it] was kind of weird how the Ebola problem just appeared and disappeared…it was kind of like everything anyone could talk about for a couple of months and then it was gone.” This interviewee was surprised at the fleeting story, also stating later in the interview that he believes the news outlets were unaware of how little the US would be affected, and were caught off guard when the story didn’t progress. This is a valid point, seeing as the US saw only one death, and is currently Ebola free (2014 Ebola Outbreak, 2015).

Going along with this point, one of the interviewees seemed to be annoyed by the fact that the news outlets in the United States did not seem to have much interest in the matter until it hit US soil. He told me, “[it] sort of makes me mad that it wasn’t a problem when it was in Africa but then as soon as Ebola came to the US the news stations started freaking out. It shows how self centered and biased our news outlets can be…its kind of embarrassing.” Helgerman (2014) also touched upon this fact, that the reporting was entirely Western-centric, as it focused on only the threat that Ebola posed to the United States with little regard to the death rates in Africa.

In conclusion, the subjects that I interviewed showed concern with how exaggerated and fleeting the news had been surrounding the Ebola crisis. They also showed concern with how the US news stations were only concerned about the issue once it hit our own country, even though the problem was much larger in Africa. They were showing signs of concern in the areas of dishonesty, exaggeration, and bias…just as Cooper had predicted.


Cooper, T. (2008). Between the summits: What Americans think about media ethics. Journal of mass media ethics, 23(1), 15-21. doi:10.1080/08900520701753106

Helgerman, T. (2014). American media coverage of the Ebola crisis is alarmist, one-sidedRetrieved from:

Leetaru, K. (2014). Don’t blame CNN for the ebola panicRetrieved from:

(2015). 2014 ebola outbreak in West AfricaRetrieved from:

Lawrence Kohlberg


Lawrence Kohlberg is a philosopher that is famous for his theories of moral development. He was born into a wealthy family and was educated privately, but decided to stray away from that path and joined the Merchant Marines after high school. During this time he traveled the world. At one point during his travels, he worked on a ship that helped smuggle refugee Jews from Europe to Palestine. Here is where he had his first questioning of how one could deliberately disobey authority and law, which became the basis for his research (Rest, Power, & Brabeck, 1988).

After his time abroad, he became enrolled at the University of Chicago. Here, he attained his PHD, and began reading work by Piaget (Rest, Power, & Brabeck, 1988). Kohlberg was highly influenced by Piaget as well as John Dewey, and James Mark Baldwin, all of which argued that humans develop philosophically and psychologically in a progressive manner (Barger, 2000). From here, he became a professor at Harvard first as a developmental psychologist and then moved into the field of moral education (Barger, 2000).

During his work challenged the major popular assumptions of “socialization”, as he argued that people actively give meaning to the world around them through social cues (Rest, Power, & Brabeck, 1988). When he first began working in the field of cognition, the topic still was not widely accepted psychologist, and it took him five years to publish a dissertation (Rest, Power, & Brabeck, 1988). His work eventually began to gain popularity at the Harvard Center for Moral Education through his research (Barger, 2000). His work also gained popularity during the time of the Civial Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, when the ideas of justice and decision making were admired (Rest, Power, & Brabeck, 1988).

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development centers around the idea that “…we develop an ever-increasing moral sense as our notion of what constitutes justice evolves and expands” (Plaisance, 2014). This means that as we grow, our understanding of morals grows as well through our social experiences (Barger, 2000). He created six stages of moral development, claiming that we develop through these stages but not all at the same pace, and most people do not make it to stage six (Plaisance, 2014). The stages begin as we are self centered children concerned with nobody but ourselves, and as we grow our sphere of concern expands to include others (Plaisance, 2014). The six stages are as follows:

Stage 1: We act to avoid punishment
Stage 2: We act on the desire to be rewarded; actions are “right” if they serve our own interest
Stage 3: We are driven by a need for social acceptance
Stage 4: We have duties as a member of society which include upholding law
Stage 5: We are driven by our sense of social utility; that decisions ought to be made to benefit society and be impartial.
Stage 6: We recognize the universality of moral principles, that we have moral obligations to the human community regardless of law or culture (Plaisance, 2014)

Kohlberg explained that it is impossible to jump stages, that we must move through the stages progressively as we continue to learn through social situations (Barger, 2000).
Kohlberg’s theory can be used in the field of Journalism. For example, if a journalist were struggling with the decision of what to include in a story, and knew that including a certain piece of information would benefit society but would hurt the subjects involved in the story but chose to include the information to benefit society, they would be at stage 5. They are at this development stage because they have realized that their decision needs to benefit society, not the subjects involved in the story. They realize that they have a moral duty to society to uphold.


Barger, R. N. (2000). A summary of Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development.   Retrieved from:

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media ethics: Key principles for responsible practice. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications

Rest, J., Power, C., & Brabeck, M. (1988). Lawrence Kohlberg (1927–1987). American Psychologist, 43(5), 399-400. doi:10.1037/h0091958