Media Ethics: The Truman Show

the-truman-show-wallpaper-3There are many ethical issues throughout the movie The Truman Show. In regards to media ethics, some of the major issues include private versus public people, transparency and autonomy, and advertising. Truman, who was chosen through an online birth competition, was adopted by the television show and had been followed by people around the world since he was a baby. Through this scenario, Truman was not given the choice to live a public life; he doesn’t even know he is a public figure, prohibiting him to private protections through media law. This also leads to the issue of transparency and autonomy, preventing Truman to be in control of himself and what is being shown on television, as well as the lack of information that he is given, making him believe he is living a normal life. Finally, the not-so-subtle advertising that is thrown in throughout the show is not very transparent to the audience, acting as product placement.

In the opening of the movie, Truman’s wife, who is actually an actress, said, “There is no difference between a private and public life. My life is The Truman Show” (Niccol & Weir). This is representative of Truman’s life as well. This is an ethical issue because Truman was never given the chance to have a private life. This can be similar to the royal baby or a child born to celebrities, however the difference is that these children have autonomy and transparency. They know that they are in the public spotlight; therefore they are able to change the way they act and control the information that they provide to the public. Truman on the other hand does not know that he is on television for everyone to see; he believes he is living a private life. These are important factors to have in a real-life situation, and are the reason something like The Truman Show would never happen in real life.

A less-significant ethical issue in comparison to Truman’s public life without transparency or autonomy is the fake advertising through the movie. The Truman Show actors and actresses used product placement throughout the movie that was very subtle, resulting in little transparency and autonomy for the audience watching. Although the products were not really being advertised to viewers such as myself, they are a good example of the way ads can be presented in films. Some examples of the product placements include the wife’s chef pal from the grocery store, when Marlin and Truman were hanging out on the bridge and Marlin promoted the beer, and the Mococoa that Meryl the wife tried to promote, resulting in Truman exclaiming, “What that hell are you doing? Who are you talking to?” This was followed up with a title screen across the television that said, “Truman drinks Mococoa…” (Niccol & Weir). With the advertisements attempt to blend in with the show, the audience may not realize it is an ad, prohibiting the autonomy of their opinion towards the product, as well as a lack of transparency that what they just saw was an advertisement. Although this happens all of the time in movies with sponsored product placement, it is still an ethical issue that advertisers and film producers must consider.

Niccol, A. (Producer), & Weir, P. (Director). (1998). The Truman Show [Motion Picture].       USA: Universal Studios.

Transparency in a Digital World

Caytlinn Strickland

With the ever-evoloving landscape of journalism, digital has had a great impact on how subjects are reported on, and the methods used to be as transparent as possible. With a 24/7 news platform, and the immediacy of publishing articles and stories, verifying information is become a time-consuming task for journalists, oftentimes leading to false information. According to the fact-checking site, Politifact, “46 percent of the claims made by NBC and MSNBC pundits and on-air personalities have been rated Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire. At FOX and Fox News Channel, that same number is 60 percent. At CNN, it’s 18 percent” (Sharockman, 2014). With so much false information being reported, transparency about these mistakes and corrections is important for these companies to keep trust from their viewers.

With the many features that come with the digital age and the continuous development of the internet, there are new ways for media outlets to stay transparent. Traditional media outlets, such as BBC and business site Quartz, are beginning to find a new way of checking their facts and keeping their information and methods transparent. Instead of waiting for their teams to check names, facts, and data, they are allowing readers to not only comment, but even correct articles online using annotations (Meade, 2014). Rather than letting the pressure of the 24/7 news cycle create mistakes, they are allowing the tools available from the internet to allow others to correct and fact check once they put their information out. In an interview with Quartz, they said, “We look at every new annotation. That’s because we want to absorb all your wisdom, respond when appropriate, and remove stuff that’s off-topic or abusive. We approve any annotation that makes a substantive contribution, and we don’t shy away from criticism” (Meade, 2014). This transparency through interactivity, has the ability to gain trust in users and readers, knowing what exact mistakes happened, and how Quartz is changing them.

Publishing information before facts and information is checked can be detrimental to a media company’s credibility, however being transparent about those mistakes can definitely help with the recovery. For example, during the Boston Marathon Bombings, the New York Post asked for the public’s help in identifying the suspect by submitting photos of any who looked suspicious. This later caused the publication of an image, on the front page, of the wrong suspect, creating controversy, lack of credibility and false reporting on the Post’s part. It may be possible that if this had been published online, there could have been more of an online presence of people disputing this claim, allowing more time to fact check and make sure they had the right image of the right people. Rather than apologizing for publishing the wrong image, the Post claimed that they did not do anything wrong, they just published the image that was sent to law enforcement (“Teen Stunned,” 2013), lacking in transparency and possibly hurting credibility and trust from audiences. Plaisance explained, “Even the fact that stories of newsroom scandals now dominate the news more frequently can be considered a good thing…many news organizations have transformed that new immediacy into more loyal and attentive audiences” (p. 93). The important thing about this new method of transparency is not that there are more and more mistakes, but that the internet allows for a more open platform to share those mistakes and provide transparency to readers and audiences.


Meade, A. (2014). Digital journalists have great chance to develop much-needed transparency. Retrieved from

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sharockman, A. (2014). Introducing: Scorecards for the tv networks. Retrieved from

Teen stunned at portrayal as bombing suspect. (2013). Retrieved from

Image retrieved from

Blog Post #1 – Taking Stock


With the power that comes from being the source of almost all of the public’s information on news, events, and other important topics, the media is held to high ethical standards. According to Cooper (2008), “There has been an overall increase in public concern about media practices viewed as ethically questionable” (p. 16). Information collected from the 2006 national poll found that 9% of people expressed invasion of privacy as a major concern within media ethics (Cooper, 2008, p. 18). With the ever-growing technology of today, invasion of privacy continues to be an issue. Now, advertisers are able to track what consumers are looking at online and what they may be interested in, by collecting data on what they are purchasing. This information is often collected through websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and more. This process is called data-mining, and the data that is collected is often used to create targeted ads, specific to each individual consumer, and may be used as pop-ups or sidebar advertisements on websites. Many people believe that this is an invasion of privacy and that advertisers should not be able to collect information and target advertisements this way.

Interviews conducted showed similar feelings towards ethical concerns involving data-mining. One participant stated, “I think it is kind of creepy, to be honest. I feel like what you’re interested in should be your own privacy. If they can look at that, than what else can they look at?” This response relates to Cooper’s (2008) study which found that the the second highest concern was privacy in the media and the internet. Another participant said, “I am not a fan of this; I don’t like it. I think it’s creepy when I go on Facebook and something I just looked up is on there. It’s a little too instant for my liking.” When asked what they thought should be done about these privacy concerns, interviewees shared similar views. “I feel like they should create policies, but I don’t think that they will. I think it logically makes more sense for the advertisers to do this, I just don’t like it,” said one participant. Another shared, “I think policies should be put in place, but I think that they [advertisers] will always find a way around it.”

Feelings about these concerns were not all negative, however. Three of the five people interviewed found data-mining to be helpful. One person stated, “no one wants to see things that they don’t want to see. They want to see things they are looking up and that they are interested in.” Another said, “I like that things pop up that I am interested in because then I can shop there and see if I like it. I like looking at companies that I didn’t know about, it expands my shopping.” One of the more interesting responses brought about a new topic to think about. He shared, “People don’t like the fact that they can do this in the first place. The fact that they are advertising something that peaks their interest doesn’t bother me, it bothers me that they have the technology that can do that in the first place.” This can represent the few that did not find this an issue in the Cooper (2008) article. This idea is also represented in an article in Forbes that stated, “Just because a company can collect all kinds of personal information on consumers, it doesn’t mean they should use it, says Bill Schmarzo, chief technology officer for EMC Global Services. Schmarzo says companies risk annoying consumers when using data collected about an individual to tailor messaging and offers” (Martin, 2014). Although data-mining can be helpful for consumers and advertisers, it can also be a breach in privacy, which is a major ethical concern not only in the media, but also in general life duties.

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

Martin, E.R. (2014). The ethics of big data. Retrieved from

W.D. Ross

Caytlinn Strickland

william-david-rossW.D. Ross was born in 1877 in Thurso, Scotland. Ross joined the army in 1915 and fought in World War I. In 1929, he he became Provost of Oriel College, the position he held until retirement. He also held the position of President at Fellow of the British Academy until 1940. According to Skelton (2012), during his time as President, he helped foreign scholars flee less liberal areas in Europe. Ross died on May 25, 1971. In his lifetime, Ross was considered a major figure in the study of Aristotle, holding the position as the General Editor of the Oxford Aristotle translation series, as well as editing some of Aristotle’s work in Greek for Oxford Classical Text series (Skelton, 2012). Much of Ross’ ideas is influenced greatly by Aristotle, H.A. Prichard, and G.E. Moore, and involved the study of duty ethics.

According to Olsen (2014), Ross is typically thought of as denying that there are any absolute moral principles, and believes in prima facie duties, meaning moral principles that are seen as correct unless proven otherwise. Garrett (2004) explained, “A prima facie duty is a duty that is binding (obligatory) other things equal, that is, unless it is overridden or trumped by another duty or duties.” These duties include fidelity, gratitude, reparation, to promote a maximum of aggregate good, and non-maleficence.

These prima facie duties can be considered moral requirements or obligations that we are bound by and that must motivate our behavior. For example, if you see someone carrying a heavy box, and your hands are free, you have the moral obligation of non-injury to hold the door for them. Ross was also interested in the right and the good. The right would be these prima facie duties, and does not see these duties as equally important, for example the duty of non-maleficence is more important than promoting a maximum of aggregate good (Skelton, 2012). Many philosophers believed that these duties were problematic because they are not systematic enough. With no real structure on which is more important than the other, it is hard to use this theory to make moral decisions since you don’t know what duty you should use above another.

Ross was also interested in the good, which he believed involved justice, pleasure, knowledge, and virtue (Skelton, 2012). He believed that for something to be good, it must truly, intrinsically be good. He argued that virtue and knowledge were “objects worthy of admiration,” and because of that, the goodness was intrinsic to them. He also suggested that justice and pleasure were “worthy objects of satisfaction,” and the goodness in them was not intrinsic, but the act of finding satisfaction in them was intrinsically good (Skelton, 2012). For example, pleasure is a good thing, and pain is a bad thing. So, if we find pleasure in eating cake, then eating cake to attain pleasure is a good enough reason to justify that action. When talking about goodness, Ross was interested in self-evidence, which involves knowing moral facts through intuition. According to Gray (2011), for duties to be self-evident, it means we “can contemplate the duties and know they are true based on that contemplation—but only if we contemplate them in the right way.” Ross believes that we can know things without arguing for them, and thinks anything truly intuitive is self-evident.

Ross’ guidelines, such as the prima facie duties and considering what is right and what is good, can be applied to making ethical decisions. What Ross would hope people would do when making decisions, according to his work and ideologies, would be to consider what promises we have made, what our obligations are, such as keeping those promises, not harming others, and giving gratitude, and measure what intrinsic good would come out of our choices.


Garrett, J. (2004). A simple and usable (although incomplete) ethical theory based on the ethics of W.D. Ross. Retrieved from   

Gray, J.W. (2011). Ethical realism. Retrieved from

Olsen, K. (2014). Ross and the particularism/generalism divide. Canadian Journal of         Philosophy, 44(1), 56-75. DOI:

Skelton, A. (2012). William David Ross. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy online.        Retrieved from

W.D. Ross Image Retrieved from