Ethical Issues in Thank You for Smoking

Thank you for smoking [Motion picture]. (2006). 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

The 2006 comedy/drama motion picture, Thank You for Smoking, features several ethical issues found within both everyday life and the marketing communications field. The film, directed by Jason Reitman, follows the life of Nick Naylor, a public relations professional working for big tobacco companies. Throughout the film, Naylor attempts to defend the tobacco industry and cigarettes as they come under scrutiny due to their alleged health related issues. Additionally, he spends his time out of the public eye attempting to raise his son. After Naylor is kidnapped and nearly killed, he changes his stance on the tobacco industry and the laws regarding cigarettes.

In regards to the ethical issues present within the film, the concepts of transparency and harm are clearly evident. Time and time again, we as the audience observe Naylor spinning the truth about cigarettes and the tobacco industry so as to frame them in a more positive light. In doing so, he withholds various pieces of important and relevant information from the public so as not to alter their perception of cigarettes and their parent tobacco companies in a negative light. For instance, at one point in the film, Naylor goes into his son’s classroom for the school’s “bring a parent in day.” During his time speaking with the children, Naylor lacks transparency as he consistently leaves out how cigarettes are bad for you. At one point, Naylor is even asked by a student if cigarettes are good for people and Naylor answers not with a yes or no but by relating to the kids in a manner that would make them try smoking.

The concept of harm is even more profound throughout the movie. However, some instances are more prominent than others. For example, a clear display of harm can be observed in the harm being done to society and the general consumer. Through Naylor and the big tobacco corporation’s transparency, consumers are not allowed to make an appropriately informed decision about purchasing cigarettes. A less clear example of harm can be seen in the harm being done to Nick Naylor’s son, Joey Naylor. Due to his father’s general dislike from the public and Nick’s antics at Joey’s “bring a parent in day,” Joey is painted in the same light as his father and therefore has his social interests set back because of it.

Code of Ethics for Celebrity Bloggers

Code of Ethics for Celebrity Bloggers

Although news blogging is seen as a less formal form of reporting, it is still under the umbrella of journalism. Therefore, it must be held to a certain standard so that it is seen as a similarly reputable and trustworthy source for news. Celebrity news bloggers must follow a code of ethics to ensure that their work is credible.  

 

    1. Give credit to journalistic sources.

Ethical celebrity news bloggers should always give credit when using information from other sources.

Celebrity news bloggers should:

  • Give credit to any information gathered from another source
  • Site any pictures used in blog posts
  • Make sure all facts and pictures are clear and relate to the topic
  • Properly identify those who appear in each picture
  • Include hyperlinks for all sources

For example:

If a celebrity blogger does not give credit to all journalistic sources, people will assume that all facts and pictures were gathered from the celebrity blogger first and that all information was released by them.  This will ultimately result in plagiarism, which is against the law and can produce a large fine.

 

  1. Separate facts from allegations. 

Ethical celebrity news bloggers should always Separate fact from allegations or rumors. This keeps the peace and the credibility of the Celebrity blogger is solidified.

  • Separate facts from allegations.
  • Don’t alter confirmed information or comments.
  • Keep celebrities names clear of any rumors.
  • Maintain a solid foundation of facts to avoid slander or starting rumors.
  • When needed cite a source to confirm that fact.
  • When not sure if fact or allegation, don’t report it.

For example:

If a celebrity blogger does not  separate fact from allegation, a lot of readers will believe the allegations and a celebrities  reputation could be tarnished. If they Separate the facts and let it be known this is the solid truth, fans will respect that celebrity a lot more and the blogger. This also solidifies the bloggers credibility, by stating facts and making them known instead of spreading with allegations or rumors. This shows the blogger has done their homework and are trying to inform the public and not pull one over on them.

 

  1. Seek out truth and report it

Ethical celebrity news bloggers should actively attempt to find new, newsworthy information and disclose it to the public.

Celebrity news bloggers should:

  • Seek out facts and report them
  • Give the readers the context of the situation
  • If possible, identify where these facts are coming from
  • Whenever possible, attempt to corroborate information with the subject (i.e. celebrity)
  • Do not report information that has been proven to be false or yet to be proven true
  • The bloggers own input/opinion should always be clearly stated as such or at least to the point in which the average reader would be capable of differentiating it from fact
  • Never create stories without any factual backing

For example: 

The stories that celebrity bloggers write should be based off of a reasonable amount of facts and not just rumor alone. Celebrity bloggers should never create stories out of thin air and report on them as if they are the truth. Readers should be allowed to understand the context of the story as well as its background and understand when the blogger is offering his or her own input/opinion.

 

  1. Avoid conflicts of interest

Ethical celebrity news blogging requires that one remain impartial in their reporting.

Celebrity news bloggers should:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest
  • Be transparent and honest about conflicts of interest when they’re unavoidable
  • Never accept gifts or anything else could be construed as bribes from celebrities that you report on
  • Be transparent about product sponsorships, and be clear between when promoting a product as an ad or just a personal preference
  • Avoid mixing work with outside friendships

For example:

Many celebrity news bloggers are celebrities themselves (ex: Perez Hilton). In these cases, the blogger must be careful not to mix business with pleasure. For instance, if a story comes out about Kim Kardashian getting fake butt implants, he shouldn’t hesitate from reporting on the story solely because he is friends with her. He also shouldn’t change the facts of the story because of their close relationship, or ask her about the story as a friend, and then report on the things she told him in confidence.

The Ethicality of Product Placement

The marketing practice of Product Placement has become increasingly common over the last several years. Alongside it, however, concerns of the practices’ ethicality have also continued to rise. Many scholars, and general consumers alike, have argued for quite some time that the practices’ deceiving nature should be cause for concern. As a matter of fact, advocacy groups have been concerned about the ethicality of product placement in films since the 1990’s (Kovalenko & Wooliscroft, 2012).

According to Plaisance (2014), product placement is best defined as “the practice of ‘embedding’ a product, brand, or service into a film.” Although the practice itself can be observed in films such as Back to the Future and E.T, it has become much more prevalent in recent cinema. For example, Zack Snyder’s 2013 superhero reboot, Man of Steel, featured over one hundred promotional partners and brought in an impressive $160 million dollars in promotional support (Morrison, 2013). While this may be beneficial for both the movie and the featured brands, many consumers believe that the practice is unethical. The problem itself lies within the lack of transparency. Opponents of product placement argue that since the filmmakers is not being up front with them and telling them that they are being marketed to, the practice is unethical and shouldn’t be tolerated.

As a student of Marketing Communications and an avid fan of cinema, I personally have no problem with the practice itself. As a matter of fact, I would argue that product placement within films and television should be considered a positive attribute for several reasons. First, the presence of real world products within feature films and television shows adds a depth of immersion otherwise impossible. When I watch a movie, I want to be immersed in the story and relate with the protagonists. With the support of product placement, the world the film takes place in better resembles reality and allows for the audience to relate with the both setting and the characters that inhabit it.

Secondly, many modern films that we have come to grow and love were arguably impossible to create without the assistance of product placement. Although one can argue various reasons as to why the practice has come about, I personally believe that the trend has arisen due to the increasingly higher production values within today’s movies and television shows. By allowing companies to buy screen time for their products, producers have been able to bring in extra funds for their movie’s production. For example, let’s revisit Zack Snyder’s 2013 superhero blockbuster, Man of Steel. Those who have seen the film can attest to the incredible amount of computer generated imaging (CGI) and special effects that are present throughout the film. In order to create the citywide fight scenes and the incredible explosions, filmmakers needed to allocate a portion of their production budget into the technology and work to make these effects possible. Unfortunately, the cost of doing so is not cheap. However, with the assistance of product placement and the extra money brought in, filmmakers are allowed more flexibility to achieve their vision and deliver a final product that looks and sounds fantastic.

References

Kovalenko, A., & Wooliscroft, B. (2012). Risky products in movies: a special type of the embedded message requiring special treatment?. International Journal Of Nonprofit & Voluntary Sector Marketing, 17(4), 334-340. doi:10.1002/nvsm.1433

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

Morrison, M. (2013, June 3). Superman Reboot ‘Man of Steel’ Snares $160M in Promotions. Retrieved March 5, 2015, from http://adage.com/article/news/superman-reboot-man-steel-snares-160m-promotions/241822/

Blog Post #1 – Nancy Grace and Journalistic Integrity

Recently, concerns regarding media ethics have become a hot topic amongst the American public. On top of already existing media outlets like Television, Radio, and the Internet, there seems to be new, more medium specific outlets, coming out every day, each with their own set of ethical issues. According to a 2006 national poll administered by Opinion Research Group, as stated in Tom Cooper’s article, Between the Summits: What Americans Think About Media Ethics, Americans indicated the ethical issues they were most concerned about in the media. These issues included, but are not limited to, media biasness or one-sidedness, media dishonesty, inaccuracy, exaggeration, incomplete reporting, and rude/pushy/obnoxious media behavior. Additionally, more than two-fifths of the survey’s respondents indicated that they were concerned with some form of truth telling (Cooper, 2008).

Although the article discusses these issues as if they exist on separate platforms, it should be noted that multiple issues could exist within one media sphere. For example, all of the issues listed in the previous paragraph can be found within the field of Journalism alone. As a matter of fact, each of those issues can be found within just one episode of Nancy Grace’s HLN show, Nancy Grace. According to Grace’s own website, she is described as “an outspoken, tireless advocate for victims’ rights” (Grace, 2012). Additionally, according to HLN’s website, “Nancy Grace” is television’s only justice themed/interview/debate show for those interested in the breaking news of the day” (HLN, 2015). Although this may sound good in and of itself, upon closer inspection of Nancy Grace and her show, she can be seen repetitively pushing each of the previously mentioned ethical boundaries.

Arguably, the two ethical issues she encroaches on the most are the issues of media biasness/one-sidedness and rude/pushy/obnoxious media behavior. In regards to the ethical issues of media biasness/one-sidedness, Grace will always side with what or whom she determines in the victim. Additionally, she will spend the entirety of the episode presenting the story form the perspective she favors and never present the argument of the other side. In regards to the issue of rude/pushy/obnoxious media behavior, Grace is always talking over her guests that attempt to provide evidence contrary to what she believes. Additionally, she spends the majority of the “debate” segments on her show not contributing to the debate itself but belittling the guests that don’t agree with her.

To determine how others viewed Nancy Grace and her questionable ethics, I conducted five interviews of different aged people familiar with her show. Ultimately, the majority of responses were similar to my own. One interviewee stated, “It’s hard to watch really. It just makes me mad that she can get away with a lot of that stuff.” When probed further about what “that stuff” was, the interviewee explained that there have been times when Grace has been proven wrong or caught adhering to her own agenda but nothing ever comes of it. Another stated, “I usually just change the channel. My mom watches her though and I think it’s meant for that demographic.” However, one interview offered some points that were contrary to the popular opinion. This particular interviewee, a middle aged female, stated, “I know that it’s marketed to people like me and I don’t always agree with everything she says or does. But I do think that she does make some good points now and then. I guess that I’m able to look past some of the questionable things she does because I agree with some of the points she makes while doing them.”

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

Grace, N. (2012, January 1). About – Nancy. Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://www.nancygrace.com/about.html

Nancy Grace. (2015, January 1). Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://www.hlntv.com/shows/nancy-grace

 

 

 

 

My Philosopher: St. Thomas Aquinas

stthomasaquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas, nicknamed the “Dumb Ox” for his heavyset and quiet nature, was an Italian theologian and philosopher between the years of 1225-1274. Born to a noble family in Roccasecca, he was raised in a castle before departing to receive an education. In 1243, while attending the University of Naples, he came in contact with the Dominican friars and ultimately joined their order. After completing his undergraduate studies, Aquinas traveled to Paris, and later Cologne, where he continued to study under the German Scholastic philosopher, Albert Magnus (Funk & Wagnalls, 2014).

Often considered his most significant work, Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, is split into two separate parts. The first details the various teachings of the church and the rules its members are meant to follow. Additionally, the first part of Summa Theologica details what Aquinas refers to as the “Five Ways,” or the five aspects that he claims proves God’s existence. The first, and perhaps most notable, “way” is an expansion upon Aristotle’s notion of the “Unmoved Mover.” Aristotle argued that everything comes from something and that in order for life to begin, something had to cause it. This cause is what Aristotle refers to as the “Uncaused Cause.” Aquinas uses this as evidence of God’s existence by claiming that the only logical entity that could be able to do such a task is God (Kerr, 2009).

The second part of the Summa Theologica is more grounded in ethics. Similar to part one, Aquinas bases some of his claims off of Aristotle’s teaching. This comes to no surprise seeing as how it was no secret that Aquinas spent a considerable amount of time studying the works of Aristotle. Aquinas agrees with Aristotle’s notion of eudaimonia, or happiness, as being something to work towards but he argues that Aristole’s definition of eudaimonia is imperfect. Aquinas argues that man’s real happiness consists in the vision of God. In order to obtain this happiness, Aquinas states that people must take part in universal moral obligations, or natural law. These obligations are what ultimately define the school of ethics called deontology, or duty ethics (Elders, 2006).

Additionally, according to Aquinas, morality within a person is best measured by intent of their actions. The specific actions we take, Aquinas would argue, are neutral in and of themselves. However, our purpose in actually performing that action or our reasoning behind it is what determines the good or bad morality of us. For example, in the case of hitting another person, Aquinas would say that if we chose to commit the act itself for reasons such as protecting our family, then the act is morally good. However, if the reason behind committing the act was to cause harm and injure the other person, then the act is morally bad (Kerr, 2009).

One manner in which Aquinas’ form of normative ethics is best applied is in tandem with professional ethics. An excellent example of this would be Journalism’s SPJ code of ethics. Journalists are required by the SPJ to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable transparent. Unfortunately, there are times in which journalist’s may bend the lines of the ethical rules set in place for them thus making the judgment of their immorality difficult. With the inclusion of Aquinas’ teaching on ethics, it becomes much more clear to whether or not a journalist’s actions are actually moral.

 

References

Aquinas, Saint Thomas. (2014). In Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book.

Elders, L. (2006). The Ethics of St. Thomas Aquinas. Anuario Filosofico, 39(2), 439-463.

Kerr, F. (2009). Thomas Aquinas a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

St. Thomas Aquinas. (n.d.). Retrieved February 11, 2015, from     http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=2530