Week 7 Blog

This week’s blog I want you to write about a recent news story or graphic image that disturbed or offended you.  Should it be considered harmful, and why?  How would you say your response to the disturbing content is culturally based?  In your discussion, consider how taking harm into consideration must be balanced with your responsibility to reporting the news.  Remember to cite at least one source.

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Adjunct Professor of Media Ethics in Contemporary Society at Utica College

14 thoughts on “Week 7 Blog”

    1. WICKED Camper is an Australia based van rental company founded by John Webb in 2000. The marquee feature of the company is the provocative artwork that their vans sport. But some of that artwork goes beyond just being provocative. The company has a history employing misogynistic, sexist and outright vulgar messages as a marketing tactic. One of the latest noted examples was a scribble on the back of a van that read “Am I still a virgin if I take it up the shitter?” Understandably, people were devastated. The article described how repulsed a resident was when she saw the van drive by a popular children’s playground. Other provocative/offensive messages on these vehicles include “blow in her face and she’ll follow you anywhere” and “I don’t like cocaine, I just like the way it smells” (Hill). The idea that individuals often balance their ability to direct their own lives according to their goals with preventing harm is one that might be used in this case (Paisance,124). The messages are meant to be disturbing in order to appeal to younger niche demographic. However, the potential societal harm outweighs the owner’s efforts to be successful, and as such shouldn’t be allowed. If we were to go by philosophers Joel Feinberg’s definition of harm, which is anything that causes a concrete setback of someone else’s interest, then the images in these vehicles wouldn’t be considered harmful. While people might be disturbed by what they see, that feeling could be categorized as an unwanted “physical and mental state that are not states of harm in themselves”. These things might be displeasing, and offend us, without affecting personal interests (Plaisance,128). However, I’m in disagreement with this idea because of the way harm is measured. People are affected differently by certain things. Because it’s difficult to know what discomforts/unpleasantries have lasting effects on people and their interests, Feinberg’s definition isn’t universally applicable. As such, for a person who finds something artistic in the politically incorrect art, the image might have little to no harmful effects on them, while for an impressionable child, the messages might be harmfully misleading.
      Finally, western culture scoffs at vulgarity, especially when the conveyer of the message isn’t careful to protect an unwanted audience from it. In this case, the unwanted audience are the children at the nearby playground and anyone else not interested in camping. Because of how rude the art on the WICKED vans are, culture dictates that I reject it.



      1. Hi Alex, indeed our cultural morals dictates that we must protect minors. The public concern is obvious in this and would definitely warrant news coverage. Sometimes you can say even bad publicity is good PR, but that doesn’t take away from our responsibility to the public if someone comes out and says they were harmed by this, aka the person who complained about one of the vans passing the playground. The question would be to what extent would we publish the actual quotes from the vans. Would we censor the language or quote exactly, and would the type of medium make a difference? You wouldn’t want to repeat the harm and that said, excellent point. “Harm” affects everyone differently at different levels, so how do we measure that? Great post!


    2. Kris Long shouldn’t have posted on his personal Facebook account as a news reporter. If he was an average person, it would be ok to show your opinion, but as a news reporter, he is looked up to on all accounts to post newsworthy comments at all times and is still building his reputation on personal accounts as he is friends with co-workers and other notable journalists. By posting his negative opinion of Kavanaugh and how he is an animal and other unprofessional choice words, he is showing a bias and news reporters should not have a bias as they should show both sides of the story. But, then again, it was his personal Facebook and he should have had the freedom to post whatever he wanted to, but with being friends with co-workers and other media sources, they can still see what he posts and use it against him. I also think it was the right that Long apologized and resigned. I also realized from this story and from Long’s actions that we need to be more cautious on what we post on social media as potential employers can see what we do and sometimes, I have to check twice before posting something because I don’t know if someone could take what I said in a different context and use it against me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hmmmm…us reporters are human. Do we have the right to privacy as anyone else or should we be held to certain standards at all times thanks to the invention of social media? If so, how would those standards be established and who would be in charge of establishing them?


  1. Before a Ohio State vs. Penn State football game, Ohio State Football tweeted out a graphic on September 26 including the caption, “Silence the white noise,” in response to Penn State wanting to make the game a White Out. At face value, Ohio State’s tweet just seems like clever word usage to get Ohio State fans excited for the game, however, as this USA Today article points out, the tweet was quickly interpreted as distasteful and offensive. Both Ohio State and Penn State’s football programs have found themselves in the center of controversies that largely have to do with “silencing” victims, as members of each team’s coaching staffs have been found guilty of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The timing of the tweet made it even more offensive as it came just before Christine Blasey Ford went before the Senate Judiciary Committee alleging that she was sexually assaulted by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (Korman).
    As I mentioned, I would say my response to the news stories regarding Ohio State’s tweet is culturally based because more individuals are breaking their silence about being victims of sexual assault and domestic violence than ever before. If a school tweeted this just a few years ago, I and others likely would have been overlooked and not interpreted the same way. Even though I do not think it was Ohio State’s intention to encourage silencing victims, I believe Ohio State should have been more thoughtful in considering how the tweet could be interpreted. From the perspective of a journalist, handling this story is difficult because of its offensive nature; however, in my opinion, journalists were obligated to run with the story in order to raise awareness of the tweet’s offensive nature and to continue the dialogue that seeks justice for victims.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kaitlyn, I quite agree that even if that tweet went out just a year or two ago it more than likely would’ve been overlooked. Considering the cultural climate now, particularly with the Kavanaugh case putting even more emphasis on #metoo, there was a need to report this story. The cultural climate made it news, but that said, is there a such thing as sensationalizing this? How much is too much or grasping for straws? Excellent post.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you. As I mentioned, I don’t think that Ohio State was trying to perpetuate the idea that victims of abuse should be silenced. I do think that to an extent it was sensationalized because of the current climate surrounding these issues. It is a difficult story to report on because I do think there is a fine line between reporting on the tweet to indicate how it was distasteful in the wake of recent events and trying to paint a relatively harmless tweet in an offensive light.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree with you in the sense that although they it may not have been their intention, i think they should have definitely looked the tweet over and thought about what it was the were trying say .The reason being that in todays generation a lot of things have double meanings. I also think journalist running the story would give Ohio State a lesson on making sure to double check what it is they post on social media.Overall i slo hope the individuals found guilt of domestic violence and sexual assault on both teams have been fired or let go because it gives the wrong impression if they are still there.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Hey, Kaitlyn. I think the OSU tweet is totally tone-deaf given both schools’ recent issues with domestic violence and sexual assault; I can’t help but think how oblivious the social media manager who tweeted this out had to have been! I couldn’t agree with you more that this story is a reflection of how times have changed and public awareness has heightened a year after the #MeToo movement began. To Prof. Hawley’s point, I think this story definitely boils down to a case of bad PR rather than another milestone in the post-#MeToo world. That said, I again have to agree with you that the story does have news value and was worth publishing with OSU head coach Urban Meyer being suspended over the summer for how he handled the Zach Smith situation.


  2. There were a lot of powerful photos that were taken during the testimonies of Christine Blasey Ford and then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh when both testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 27. However, one photo in particular that got my attention was of Kavanaugh when he was flip-flopping between tearing up and yelling (see https://goo.gl/images/tA6TPg — even though this isn’t the exact one, it’s still similar). The photo I’m referring to is one of Kavanaugh making a sneering, angry face and was shown multiple times by MSNBC as analysts were going over what was said by both Ford and Kavanaugh to fill time during 15-minute breaks in the hearing.

    Personally, this image did not offend me because, full disclosure, I believe Christine Blasey Ford 100 percent and think it’s a national disgrace that Kavanaugh was just confirmed (I get upset just writing the words “Kavanaugh” and “confirmed” in the same sentence). However, I would not have opted to show this picture if I were a producer because it makes Kavanaugh LOOK guilty and somewhat cruel. To the average viewer, I feel like the image sensationalizes and implies Kavanaugh’s guilt, especially when preceded by powerful photos of Ford when she was holding back tears during her testimony. Although this was not a criminal trial, it was such a sensitive situation with a trial-like atmosphere. And like any trial, I think it is the job of the press to go beyond analysis and opinion by reporting on the facts of a case through use of official documents and sources from both sides involved. Comparatively, showing this photo was along the lines of media outlets printing/airing “menacing” and “intimidating” photos of someone who was arrested, not convicted, by police. In fact, a revealing study conducted by The Opportunity Agenda (OA) on race and media representation found that black males are more likely to be portrayed in negative or threatening ways on television news than white males (The Opportunity Agenda, 2011). While I am in no way comparing coverage of the Ford-Kavanaugh hearing to the plight of black men in America, the OA study shows that media coverage can influence how we perceive guilt and criminality in American culture, even before someone is put on trial. Ultimately, this thinking is what influenced me when I opted to publish a “neutral” photo of Kavanaugh in last week’s edition of The Tangerine to go along with a story about his testimony.


    1. Sam: Thanks for showing how ethical issues can come to play in your every-day life as a journalist! Indeed there was much emphasis by the media on Kavanaugh’s emotions during the testimony and hearings. Reports even came out with statements by top judicial officials commenting on their lack of trust that Kavanaugh can remain unbiased on the nation’s top issues because of how he reacted. How would we as a nation reacted if Ford’s photos were analyzed – was she being emotional enough, etc.? You made the balanced choice for your publication.


  3. For this weeks blog, I knew Fox News would have something written about Kavanaugh’s confirmation and about the elections coming up, Without really having to search, I found one called “Kavanaugh coping mechanisms: 5 wild Dem schemes to counter Trump’s SCOTUS win”. I think the title of the article is a little offensive, since it seems to be making a joke about how some people might need ‘coping mechanisms’ after Kavanaugh was confirmed.

    The article also talks about how Democrats are planning to take back the House after the elections in November. I think it was weird of the article to talk about the elections in 2020, since that’s more than two years away.

    The article is also a little offensive because it talks about how Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and that the New York Times sated the fact when talking about Brett Kavanuagh’s confirmation. Since the fact is correct, I think it’s a little offensive to pretend it’s not, especially since most people seem to trust the New York Times more than they would trust Fox News.

    While the article isn’t offensive too much, I do think it is slightly offensive for the journalist not to even consider why people might be angry or offended by Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Dr. Christine Ford isn’t mentioned anywhere in the article, but one of the other women’s who accused him, Julie Swetwick, is only mentioned because the lawyer who represented who also represented Stormy Daniels.
    (Source: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/kavanaugh-coping-mechanisms-5-wild-dem-schemes-to-counter-trumps-scotus-win)


    1. Thank you Jacqui for pointing this out. I have a good friend who is having a very difficult time coping with this, telling me she has even suffered some PTSD from her own experience with sexual assault. This is very real. And it’s good that as a journalist you have an awareness of the possible harm this could bring to abuse victims. And the two-year prediction isn’t really weird, it’s analysis. Just like for weeks reporters may talk about their predictions for the World Series or Superbowl. It’s not uncommon. And I agree about the re-mentioning of the Clinton loss. Unless it’s pertinent and/or justifiable to the report specifically, it wouldn’t be necessary and would throw caution to the wind for slanting.


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