Thursday, April 26, 2012

What I learned at NSAC

For the past semester I sold my soul to Nissan and TCU's NSAC Campaigns competition team. There were definitely some times I stopped and asked myself "what were you thinking?!"But in the end it turned out to be a rewarding and great learning experience.

What does this have to do with media ethics, you ask? Well, I think it is important as a student who is about to enter the working world to understand the inner-workings of a true, start to finish, advertising (or anything that falls into your expertise) campaign. And I learned just that through this experience!

One of the most important things I learned, which sort of involves ethical thinking, is how a group operates. I have never fully grasped how integral the success of a project is on the positive energy of a group. Transparency is key. This seems obvious considering the field we are in, but when working with people you have to be upfront even if it could potentially hurt people's feelings. If someone's idea is not good, let them know. If someone did something wrong, let them know. If you can't contribute in the best capacity, let people know. There is always a solution and if you aren't upfront, it becomes apparent later on when negative situations present themselves.

Looking at a situation from start to finish, not jumping the gun and making decisions without being fully informed is another key thing to remember when taking something like this on. We were constantly reminded about what is going on with competitors. You can't just focus on the client at hand rather you must have a grasp of what is going on in the ever changing market place. This will effect the success of your campaign up until the moment you launch it.

This only scratches the surface of the lessons learned. But, to me, these are the most important aspects of a successful campaign and success in your professional path. I have much more to learn and huge hurdles ahead of me but I am thankful of the knowledge gained through this experience.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More Kony 2012 Responses: Uganda Speaks

As I've outlines before, there are various responses to the whole Kony 2012 movement. From an unknown student blogger becoming the head of the anti-Kony 2012 movement, to the founder of Invisible Children being arrested for disorderly conduct and public indecency, the Kony 2012 video is the perfect example of "no good deed goes unpunished".

While what the Kony movement by Invisible Children was approached with good will, there are a lot of fundamental issues with it. As previously discussed, it is a trendy thing to be apart of the cause for Africa. Wearing something to show off how involved and selfless you are is a cool thing to do-how selfless is it?  A large majority of the negative feedback for Kony is that it was an Americanized, simplified version of the real issue and a lot of the problems associated with Kony have been solved. Not only do people not know where Joseph Kony is right now, but they don't want to wake a sleeping giant.

The video, made by Ugandans that feature Ugandans, is a short, documentary that has little frills and, unlike the original Kony video, is from the Ugandan point of view. What is more commendable is that it shows students, journalists, their twitter feeds and how involved, educated and aware they are. We Americans have this skewed view that Ugandans are helpless when they are in fact aware of what is going on and the current events of the county. This video was strategically debuted on April 20th, the night supporters of the Make Kony Famous movement were called to "cover the night" and put up photos and posters of Joseph Kony to make him infamous. This case and the ongoing opposition and second views is a prime example of how mob-mentality, especially when cause based, can be misleading. Mass communication and viral videos have a huge impact, we just have to be sure to check our facts before we jump to conclusions.

Check out this Huffington Post article for the video and more information on Uganda Speaks.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

African Movement, Hipsters and Kony

I found a particularly interesting article today that really put into nice terms the whole "Kony Thing". Now, I'm not even going to touch the fact that the man behind the Kony 2012 movement was arrested for public indecency (among other things..) but while people's hearts seem to be in the right place, there is an interesting connection in the culture we are experiencing today. Toms, Kony, volunteering in Africa; they are all more than just a chance to do something good. There is a "cool factor" to these things. You are seen as an individual and hip but these represent a greater issue of how we over-simplify the issues in our world.

I'll go ahead and let you know, I am traveling to Africa in June. I want to be upfront and transparent, I chose to go to Africa because my parents were willing to send me, a friend was going through a good program, and the likely hood of me having the opportunity to travel in Eastern Africa in my imminent adult life is very low. I decided to take this chance and while I am doing some volunteer work, I am also traveling and seeing the landscape so many people talk about.

I am not saying, that going to Africa to chill with orphans, buying a pair of shoes, or getting a Kony call to action kit is a bad thing. In fact, I think it is great to get involved! But, the issue lies in blindly buying into a marketing scheme when there are more complex issues facing our world today. What our generation is wanting to do is to help while being an individual and impacting the world-all great intentions. But we have to look at the marketing behind these to understand that it is, in some cases, buying into a corporate machine.

What the Kony movement did, however, was show us how a conversation is possible through all of this. The world was rocked with the 30 minute video getting millions of views in one night. But then the wold has a discussion weighing the pro's and con's of buying an action box, a bracelet, accessorizing your mission. Our world is so much smaller that is was ten years ago with the internet making everything at our fingertips. We, as a generation, are able to look into what the world is doing and truly decide if it is a cause worth pursuing, looking at the bigger picture. It's amazing the power marketing has on cause related companies. Toms has their shoes, Kony has the bracelet, it's not just about giving back. It is about buying into the identity of the company and adopting it as part of yours. This article has a very interesting take on it, I suggest you read up. Maybe there is some changes we need to make in how we think we can solve the world's problems.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kony 2012: The Ugandan View

You would have to be living under a rock to have not heard of the "Kony 2012" video and Invisible Children initiative. In a week, the video, that introduces Joseph Kony, man behind brutal killings and children soldiers in Uganda, garnered nearly 80 million views on YouTube and Vimeo. The charity Invisible Children is behind the video which is a group that is hoping to rehabilitate child soldiers and, most recently, bring those behind the violence to justice. The thoughts behind the video is to make Kony famous and bring awareness to the issue to rouse the American government to get involved. There are, however, issues with the initiative.

For starters, Kony is at-large and thought to not be even in Uganda. If this is true, it would be near to impossible to track him down in the depths of the Jungle or landscape of sub-saharan Africa. But, there are issues brought up by Ugandans, the very people who were abducted by Kony. On Tuesday, Invisible Children decided to screen the video to the people in Uganda, they are the people closest to the situation and should be aware of how the world is seeing this issue.

It was not well received. Viewers were upset the video was narrated by a white American male and showcased his relationship with his son. The video shots from Uganda are allegedly from years ago. Many of the Ugandans feel that the situation is oversimplified and having merchandise displaying Kony, even if it is to make people aware, is celebrating the man that brought along their suffering.

While I am not arguing that this isn't a good cause, because it is. I believe that anyone acting with such violence and brutality should be brought to justice, but with all the different sides to the issue, it is interesting to look at the Kony initiative through the Ugandan's eyes which is, oddly enough, the one least publicized. This issue needs to be looked at through the utilitarian model taking in to account those closest to the issue and how it effects them. For more reading, and a video go to:

*note this blog was written with the assumption that those reading are already familiar with the subject matter and background of the Kony video*

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Battle of Birth Control-Solved?

Last week, the Obama administration found some resolve in the birth control issue. After some back and forth, it was decided that Catholic employers would not have to directly provide, through health-care plans, birth control to its female employees. However, there is a third party provider that will allow women working at said institutions to access birth control even it though it is not in their providers plan. This solution is modeled after a health-care plan in Hawaii that has similar provisions to ensure women are given all the contraceptive choices possible without directly compromising religious beliefs of the Catholic community. Catholics, however, do not acknowledge the Hawaii model because while opposing institutions can opt-out, they are required to provide the necessary information to women on where they can acquire birth control at a low cost. This still is opposite of the Catholic view on birth control where they do not condone contraceptives of any kind. 

The difference between from the Hawaii plan is that providers aren't suggested by the institution "but would involve a third-party health company helping to provide contraception coverage." (Huff Post) While there are still some issues on both sides of the argument, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops ultimately see this action as a step in the right direction to find some middle ground. This is helpful not only for them and their beliefs, but also Obama and not ostracizing his Catholic supporters.  This settlement involves the utilitarian ethical model in that is pleases the largest number of people. While some would like an ultimate decision either universally providing contraception or not, it considers all view points while still providing health-care options to those who seek it. 


Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Battle of Birth Control

One of the current hot-button issues facing political activists today is the issue of whether or not all companies should include birth-control in their health care plans even if it directly violates an ethical code or belief. Recently, President Obama made a decision that all organizations must offer contraceptives as a part of their employees insurance plan. This mandate also includes universities and non-profit organizations, even if they are identified as a Catholic organization. This Affordable Care Act, which is a part of the much debated "Obamacare" plan calls for employers to provide a minimum amount of health-care coverage (which includes the obligation to provide contraceptives) or pay a fine.

When the politics are taken out of the issue, we must look at the ethical side of forcing companies to directly ignore their ideologies (i.e. taking contraceptives, which the Catholic Church opposes). Never before has the government made it an obligation of a company to go out and make a purchase that is directly in violation of their conscience.  Some who oppose the new health-care mandate are saying this does not allow a free exercise of religion, that this is yet another example of Obama's "war on religion".

Credit: The Economist
In a case like this, I think it is unethical for the government to mandate any company to go against their idealogies-religious or unreligious. People tread lightly on this issue because the subject of birth control, religion and the government's involvement in religious institutions is such a sensitive subject. But when looked at objectively, one would assume that those who choose to be employed by an organization of any kind, are aware of their values and beliefs. Therefore, if an organization is morally opposed to providing/taking contraceptives, then they too will hold the same beliefs. When assessed that way, it is not in the government's realm of control to force these companies to provide something that is against their belief as it is probably something that its employees are aware of so comes with the territory. As this subject is debated, it is not only interested to see how the health care reform progresses, and what part it plays in the upcoming election. But for now, it can be considered unethical to put people in direct violation of their beliefs, whether or not religion plays a role.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Do unto Others as You Would have Done Unto You

We grow up learning the golden rule in the kindergarten sense;

Don't steal things from someone's cubby-hole
Don't pull that person's hair
When you borrow something, always give it back

And we always were asked, "Now, if that were you, how would you feel?"

From the earliest stages of our educational experience, we are taught to play nice and take other's feelings in to account. In other words, we are to practice the golden rule. But in many cases, as we grow older, we leave this mantra behind for a more selfish lifestyle. In the field of journalism (similar to many other professional fields) we are taught to be ahead of the curve-not to play nice. Be the first to catch a lead, be the first to report on a story, and all this is to be done with little thought as to who it may hurt.

As overdone as it is, I automatically think of the Joe Paterno and Penn State case. I know I don't need to go through the nitty gritty on this one, as EVERYONE knows EVERYTHING about this unfortunate set of events. I think of it because, when the student media group chose not to expose the situation-they were clearly not thinking, "now, if I were a victim of sexual assault in this case, what would I want people to do?" I think it goes without saying that the victims would prefer to expose the situation sooner rather than later to end the series of events. Rather than thinking of the small group of victims, the gate-keepers in this situation were acting with a "utilitarian" mind-set, trying to preserve the name of Penn. State and all those involved. But at what cost? The story eventually leaked, and at the expense of more people.

I understand this may be very idealistic of me, and perhaps childish, but I have always been a big fan of the golden rule. When deciding to capitalize on a story, withhold information, initiate a publicity stunt, or falsify any information, we should not only act upon our journalistic code of ethics but we should also act within the lines of the golden rule. Ask yourself, just as our kindergarten teachers would, "Now, if this were me, how would I feel?"