ics is explicit in its injunction to avoid stereotyping by race gender age

Ics is explicit in its injunction to avoid

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ics is explicit in its injunction to “avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appear- ance or social status.” 7 Questions of communication ethics arise when someone intention- ally communicates a message that has effects on other people. If the effects can be judged as harmful, some reasonable justifi cation must be advanced for the communication to be evaluated as ethical. For example, if, accord- ing to agenda-setting and cultivation theories, a steady diet of certain kinds of stereotypes and characters in entertainment media can shape public perceptions of whole classes of people, then we have a question of communication ethics, given the potential harm to those depicted nega- tively. Issues concerning censorship or even matters of good (or bad) taste are not immediately our concern here. The realm of ethics is separable from the realms of legality or taste—although obviously some messages can be, all at the same time, unethical and in violation of communication law and in bad taste. Stereotypes can creep into news journalism as well as entertainment. The effects can be even more harmful in the news, since the depictions carry the credibility of news and are not easily dismissed as fiction or mere enter- tainment. And, again, the effects can be subtle. For example, often televi- sion directors rely on eyewash , which is stock footage of video the station has on hand. The eyewash can be running in the background as an announcer
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Ethical Issues in Mass Communication 197 introduces a news topic. A danger of this stock footage is that the people or neighborhood or events shown may in fact have nothing to do with the actual story. In general, the use of such eyewash is not necessarily unethical. The practice becomes questionable, however, when certain ethnic groups or neighborhoods are nearly always associated with negative stories, such as those about crime or poverty or poor schools. Stereotypical thinking can affect decisions about the emphasis or the type of coverage certain stories receive. Does crime in certain neighborhoods get more coverage than in other parts of the city? A murder in a mostly White suburb might seem more newsworthy in the judgment of a news producer than the same crime in an inner-city, mostly African American neighborhood, perpetuating the notion that such crimes there are endemic and therefore not real news. The way certain sensational news stories seem regularly to catch national public attention may refl ect stereotypical thinking. A few years ago, national media, especially cable television news stations, ran nearly continuous coverage of what became known as the Elizabeth Smart case. Elizabeth Smart was a teenage girl abducted directly from her bedroom; she remained missing for over a year, and was finally discovered being held by a possibly deranged man and his wife. During this time hundreds of children were abducted from their homes, sometimes in similar cir- cumstances, but these cases did not get the same national coverage. What
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