JMC Students Discuss Ethics, Intersection of PR and Journalism at Media at the Movies

Discussion framed around issues depicted in 'Merchants of Doubt'

On March 8, 2016, students, faculty and communication professionals gathered for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s second annual Media at the Movies, presented by the Media Law Center for Ethics & Access and co-sponsored by PRSSA Kent.

The event began with a screening of “Merchants of Doubt,” a documentary uncovering the “spin” behind scientific information related to big business and government, including global warming and the cigarette industry.

The film was followed by a discussion about important ethical considerations when it comes to public relations and journalism. The four panelists included Jim Crutchfield, a retired president and publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal and trustee of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Kim Garchar, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy at Kent State; Beth Hallisy, APR, president of Beth.LLC, a public relations and writing firm; and David Hertz, managing director of Dix & Eaton.

The panelists answered questions from the audience and offered ethics advice related to what they just viewed in the movie, and their respective career fields.

 “(‘Merchants of Doubt’ is) a story about black hats, white hats, evil, good,” Hertz said. “For a room of communications students and communications panelists, this is a story about communications: who does it better, who manipulates communications, who is prepared to enter into the warfare, sometimes, of communications, and who is sometimes manipulated into this world of communications.”

For the public relations practitioners, the panelists focused on the important of truth.

“One of the main roles of a PR practitioner is to find the truth, to communicate the truth and to convince the organization you’re working for to convey that truth,” Hallisy said. “We have a commitment to the public truth. Ninety-nine percent of PR practitioners are honest, want their people to be honest and approach their work in a truthful way.”

For journalists, the panelists recommended telling stories based on credible information – and telling them again and again, to ensure truth shines through the “noise.”

 “You do it with facts,” Crutchfield said. “You do it with information. I believe that people have biases. But the way you deal with your biases is by being fair. You tell the full story.”

POSTED: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 - 2:32pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 9, 2016 - 2:43pm
Julianne Calapa, '16