Telecommunications | Media Ethics
T316 | 9116 | Terry, H


Students should consider TEL-T 316 to be a skills class -- not
unlike video editing or web design.  "Moral reasoning" is the skill
taught here.  Moral reasoning is how one figures out what's right
and what's wrong when confronted with options for action and how one
can justify these decisions to yourself and others.  This course
will not command that you adhere to specific moral principles
related to electronic media -- it's not prescriptive.  Rather, when
the course is done, you ought to be better able to recognize
significant moral problems, to be more aware of how they have been
solved in the past by people in the electronic media industries and,
most importantly, to be better at reasoning  your way through such
matters and arriving at moral decisions that you can live
comfortably with. Moral reasoning is a crucial skill -- ask Martha
Stewart, Don Imus, Calvin Sampson, Vivian Schiller or -- perhaps --
Jerry Springer.

There are three main parts to the class.  It begins with an overview
of classical and contemporary theories of ethics and moral
reasoning.  There are different ways you can go about moral
reasoning; here you'll learn what those are, compare them, and begin
to figure out which seems best for you.  The second part of the
class focuses on ethical aspects of the business side of
telecommunications (for example, ethical things that come up in
hiring, firing or just in the general course of employment).  The
text for this part of the class is a business, rather than
telecommunications, ethics book.   All electronic media, even "non-
commercial educational broadcasting" are affected by business
forces.  We'll consider general business law ethics problems,
especially in the context of market-place driven capitalist
economies, but draw as many examples as we can from the electronic
media industries in the U.S.  The final part of the class will
selectively consider some special, at least partially but not wholly
non-business related, ethical problems of the electronic media (for
example, ethics of electronic media news or respect for privacy).
For this part of the course, we'll use a traditional media ethics
text.   There will also be additional readings.  When copyright law
allows, I will put those on e-reserves.   Since electronic media
ethical problems may arise during the semester, additional readings
may be added as the course proceedes. New editions of both of the
texts I have used in the past are expected over the summer.  I'll
review those and, if they remain appropriate, select them.  But I am
also considering other media ethics texts.  It's premature to decide
on the texts in March 2011.

There will be two exams -- a midterm and a comprehensive final
exam.  The exams, essay in format, will account for a total of 50%
of your overall course grade.  The final exam is, to some extent,
cumulative.  On that exam, I assume you still know what you knew when
you took the midterm, but questions on the final exam will be
focused on topics covered since the midterm.  The best answers on
the final, however, will certainly be ones that include relevant
material from the first parts of the class.

There will also be additional written assignments intended to give
you a chance to learn about specific ethical problems
encountered by people pursuing careers that you're considering for
yourself.  This class offers you the chance to learn more about
ethical issues you'll encounter in your own future (which need not
necessarily be in the electronic media).  I anticipate that you will
write three, related, research papers.  In the first, you'll
identify a job (or job-like activity) that you hope to be engaged in
a few years after completing your post-secondary education.  You
gather descriptive information about that job and summarize it in
the paper.  The job doesn't have to be media-related -- it should be
something you're seriously considering and likely to do.  In the
second paper, you identify and discuss three common ethical
problems that people pursuing this job or career or activity
commonly encounter, figure out if there are written "codes of
ethics" that apply to it, and identify sources you could use --
today -- to keep up-to-date with all aspects (including ethical
aspects) of this planned career.  In the final paper, you create a
couple of hypothetical case studies of ethical problems you could
encounter in this job and, using what you've learned in class,
reason your way through to solutions of them.  It's in this last
paper that you primarily demonstrate to me that you've learned basic
moral reasoning.  Collectively, these papers equal 50% of your
overall course grade.   Both the substance and technical aspects of
your writing will be considered in grading written work submitted
for TEL-T 316.  Good professional writing is expected.

Class attendance is also required.  Subject to a few specific
exceptions (e.g., documented illness), more than four
absences (equal to two weeks of this class!) will severely adversely
affect your course grade.

I will follow IU's standard grading system, giving an "A" for
excellent work, a "B" for good work, a "C" for average work, a "D"
for poor but passing work and an "F" for work that is
unsatisfactory.  In the past, the average grade in my TEL-T 316
classes has been about a 2.5 (between a B and a C).  Most students,
obviously, do "average" work.  A few will do good work and
justify "B" grades.  Only a few, most likely,  will do truly
outstanding work and earn "A" grades.

The prerequisite for enrolling in TEL-T 316 is satisfactory
completion (with a C- or better) of either TEL-T 205 or
TEL-T 207.  If you will not have satisfactory completed at least one
of these classes prior to the start of the Fall, 2011 semester,
you can contact me and seek my permission to enroll (space
permitting).   I will, however, be quite strict about the completion
of the prerequisites if you are a telecommunications major or
minor.  After all, majors and minors must take TEL-T 205 and TEL-T
207 anyway and you ought to finish them prior to TEL-T 316 so you
get the most out of this class.  I will not allow majors or minors
to take TEL-T 316 concurrently with one of these prerequisites
unless you have completed the other prerequisite.  I hope, however,
that the class will enroll at least some non-telecommunications
majors and am quite open to non-majors making a case to me that they
are either prepared for TEL-T 316 through other courses or
experiences or that they are willing to do some of the work related
to TEL-T 205 and TEL-T 207 so that they can follow what we are doing
in Media Ethics.  To seek permission to enroll in TEL-T 316 if you
will not have fulfilled the prerequisite, or to learn more about the
class in general, please contact me at terry@indiana.edu.

Class meets 4:00pm-5:15pm MW in R-TV 226.

This course counts toward Social and Historical Studies distribution
requirements in the College of Arts and Sciences. It may, or may
not, also count toward other degree requirements. For more
information about which requirements this course could fulfill see
the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin at
http://college.indiana.edu/undergrad/academicBulletin.shtml. If you
have questions, or need additional help, see your academic advisor.