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Marketing And The Media

Marketing And The Media

Matthew Courtney
May 2000
Media Ethics and Their Relation to Business
In this world, there is an obvious connection
between the media and its involvement in business ethics. No matter what the form of media looked at, they all have the ability of being either an aid to business’s success or a detriment. The press and the media are responsible for reporting news, issues and events as clearly as possible. Any distortions can cause the message being sent to be misinterpreted or completely wrong.
News organizations are given a responsibility of representing the public interest. In order to gain the public’s trust, such broadcasters are required to work within the parameters of ethical and responsible new casting. No matter what the issue, company or news being reported on, every media organization works off of a Code of Ethics. This is a sort of safeguard to the honesty of the organization. It demands truth telling, privacy of individuals being documented, and avoids the many conflicts that could possibly arise as a result of misinforming the public.
Stylebooks are also used in order to form a generalized style of writing to allow for easy read through, from one writer to the next.

There are many different kinds of businesses in this world. The successes of these businesses are primarily as a result of their reputation. The media winds up being a medium that forms many of the reputations. The way a news broadcast, print, radio and even Internet presents a company has a great effect on the resulting emotion or feeling one associates with a business or company. This is why the media ethics are so important to the introduction, growth, and development of a company.

Large companies rely on their name in the media and are always ready to respond to any situation with a quick answer or rebuttal. In addition to the reputation of a company being important, so is the reputation of the organization doing the broadcast. Names in the business world that are known to be accurate and reliable include CNN, CSPAN, local news stations such as CBS, NBC, ABC etc. Those who watch the business world closely are more inclined to go to reliable sources for their information. What is reported on these stations are considered as true based mainly on their past records. But when the occasion does arise, where the media goes about treating a business, or situation in an unethical manner many problems arise.

In order to understand this type of situation clearly, it is good to look at actual examples where the media ethics become involved in communicating or the miscommunication of a business.
Many recent problems in the media world are being attributed to the advances in technology. Although these advances are great and making life easier, things are being done so quickly that many important steps are being forgotten. In the rush to present a story first, many journalists are forgetting to be accurate and balanced in their covered stories. The pressures of live broadcast are requiring journalists to focus on a new set of questions in order to check and be sure the position and format in which they present their story is clear of any unethical issues.

A committee known as SPJ is focused on the ethics of journalism in all forms of media and claims “The SPJ Code of Ethics encourages journalists to minimize harm by recognizing that our coverage can hurt, cause discomfort or be insensitive. During an event we must remember to ‘show good task. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.”
Being aware is the most important thing. As long as the media is aware of the impact they will have on their audience, they will be better able to communicate the core of what is at hand.
In the business world there is so much competition, that failure is a common thing. In order to be secure in the business world ethics becomes unavoidable. The press and media are attracted to ethical issues on both sides of the matters. A business that is ethical will be regarded and presented almost always in an ethical manner. These are the ones who succeed and are able to make a reputation that will give them confidence to make it in the real world.

Those who are unethical will eventually be deemed with that quality. It is a negative quality that can destroy a company. This is where the media tends to play such a crucial part of the situation.
The role of the media and the press is to communicate to the public a number of aspects of a company or business. The media must portray a company in a certain way in order to gain the initial attention of the public. This may be originally done through advertising. Yet, the already established companies are the ones who are relying on the press to update the city, town or nation on their current situations in the business world.
Every medium the media has, whether it be news, radio etc. is given the opportunity through words to present a business in either a positive or negative view, serious or joking manner, respectable or untrustworthy company etc. With so many options at hand, business wind up putting a lot of trust in these organizations. Of course, some will be able to carry out such a responsibility better, and this is where the positioning of one’s business becomes important.

CNN isn’t going to look at the local neighborhood bakery; instead they are going to focus both their time and energy on the large banks, investing companies, real estate firms etc. The business magazines are going to look at the biggest names in the field because that is what they are responsible for looking at. Crane’s will look at only the top real estate and property management companies because they have given themselves a reputation for only focusing on the best. Positioning plays a major role on both the media end and the business end.
Newspapers and news broadcasts are to hold the responsibility of reporting accurately at a very high standard. If there wrong information regarding a business is reported, there are many effects and outcomes that can be triggered.

From the business world’s perspective everyone is well aware of the role of ethics. In every decision made, businesses are required to look at the situation and make in all cases an ethical decision. It is interesting to look at the role of ethics in businesses compared to the role of ethics in life. For one reason or another, business ethics seem to be held in higher regard. This may be plain and simply because money is involved and everyone is out to succeed. When you see business ethics in that light is clear how important the media is in creating clear communication lines of all business ethics- to the best of their abilities.

Many times in the mission statement of a media organization, you can tell how highly they hold ethics as a part of their company and their reporting. Of course every mission statement will vary, but one underlying element is whether or not the ethics are valued. More or less, ethics can be the backbone to most statements and if followed, it will result in an ethical company.

One such company that has a mission statement based on ethics is the Tribune. The Tribune’s mission statement is ‘to build businesses that inform, educate and entertain our customers in the ways, places and at the times they want.’ As a Fortune 500 company, Tribune is a major media company operating in the fields of publishing, radio and television broadcasting, interactive and education. Tribune has extremely high yearly revenues and ranked No.1 among Fortune’s most admired companies in America.
In the television department, Tribune owns and operates 22 stations that reach over 75% of America’s households. With such a large dominance over this market it is clear the important and clear decisions Tribune is committed to making. Other areas of involvement are The Chicago Tribune, The Orlando Sentinel along with Internet investments in AOL, The WB Television Network etc.

This company prides itself on ‘strategies and values’ causing this medium to have a positive impact wherever Tribune is involved. The ethics they pride themselves on are reiterated in what they pass on to the consumer.
The Tribune within itself has many different businesses. In order to live up to their own standards they follow a set of values in order to gain the important trust from their customers. They focus on content- they want everything they offer to have content and substance. They build communities through all sorts of mediums in order to satisfy every single customer. They do not focus on only one kind of individual or group.

Technology is always used in creating new ideas and improving old ones. At the core of the Tribune Company is simply the idea of the media. In order to make this Company a success and gain respect, they needed to deal with all issues in an ethical manner, those issues pertaining to their company along with other companies. They receive respect of other companies by showing respect to them in the first place.

The Tribune Company deals and portrays issues in businesses in an ethical manner in order to educate others and set somewhat of a standard for there readers and viewers. In order to do this they must be able to show their position, of being hard-working, well-intentioned and only there to do the right thing and only advocate others who pride themselves on doing the right thing for the general public. As a company they are committed to accurate, fair and responsible reporting

Time magazine is a well read and respected form of media. It is known to be a trusted source of information and generally regarded highly by those of intelligence. Those they present, both businesses and individuals, they are said to considered to represent in an ethical manner to the best of their knowledge. This can be scene through their clear lines of communication with the readers. All ethical business issues are carefully looked out before anything is possibly exploited to the reader that may incorrect or exaggerated.

Back a couple of years in 1995, a situation arose where the well-respected Time Magazine published a story regarding pornography on the Internet. This story was not aimed at informing the public of a new finding, but it was aimed at gaining the attention of readers to push sales. This was its first unethically action that wound up misinforming readings and possibly tarnishing a number of Internet providers even those possibly associated with the Time company.

Fortunately, back then the Internet market was not nearly the size it is today which means fewer readers truly felt impacted by this story. On the other hand this article could have been responsible for forming many first impressions regarding the Internet and who exactly should and should not be using it as a source of information.
The story was titled “CyberPorn” and proclaimed that online almost 85% of all sites were pornography. In reality- porn sites amount to only 1% of the total postings on the web. Here Time magazine made a major mistake in misinforming the reader and blatantly publishing information that was not reliable.

After all this being called to their attention the magazine claimed someone unrelated to their staff was responsible and that no expert had evaluated the article until after it had hit the newsstands and made a number of sales.
This type of situation is very wrong in the world of media. The editor of Time admitted to being wrong and claimed the readers should have been given the respect of proper information. Here Time magazine did not take their responsibility properly and wound up committing unethical actions.

In addition to the upset by the readers for not being able to trust a well-known newsmagazine, Time put at risk any Internet providers that they may have had relations with any of the many companies Time is affiliated with. They gave a false report that could have severely hurt the Internet market if the article’s mistakes had been overlooked.
Time as a form of media did not make a good decision in communicating the ethics of business and put a number of companies at risk due to the misleading information they presented to so many readers. They did not communicate clearly and resulted in obstructing their responsibility to their readers.
Time Magazine was also involved in a misreporting on a featured story regarding the funding of the Kosovo Liberation Army. This mistake was picked up by an organization known as FAIR…or Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

Basically, the ethical issue at hand was that Time said that the KLA was receiving its donations from charities, fundraisers and other sources. They failed to overlook that these other sources were from drug proceeds. Time more or less sentimentalized the KLA and sugar coated its actions. Here again wrong information was given to its readers. There lack of information and generalizations gave the reader a resulting bad impression of the story presented.

The editors overlooked much of the necessary elements that would have made this a well-rounded, truthful report. Instances like these can and will eventually diminish the value of a report and its reporters, also causing a business represented to be diminished in value.
In the media industry, especially with the medium of magazines there is more time to prepare. It is not live, breaking news material that is facing a deadline. This therefore makes the ability to deal with every ethical issue at hand with a little more concern and alertness. There really is no excuse in misreporting things like facts because facts are not questionable- that is as long as the information is reliable.

America Online is a large name in the media industry especially after its recent merge with the Time Warner Company. With in American Online there are many divisions. Being a leading Internet company, there is a great deal of ethical responsibility placed on them.
The Internet market is growing at a pace few are able to come up with. Not only has the internet become a number one source of information, purchasing, communication etc. it has become a highway where thoughts, emotions and especially political views can be expressed. Having this responsibility on their shoulders, AOL must run their company justly. The gain a great deal of money from affiliates and investors that pride themselves on connecting their company with the AOL reputation.

In order to be the success that they are, they have drawn up a number of policies that they go by. The main one I found to be of ethical importance is as follows:
“Public policies should be market driven and industry led. Policies should be developed collaboratively, with input from industry leaders, government officials, and perhaps most importantly, consumers and other stakeholders. Public or private gatekeepers should not be allowed to prevent new entry, deny business opportunities or limit the free flow of information in the Internet.”

AOL has been called one of the most popular companies in the Internet market. Everything they are communicating over their Internet waves must be of value. AOL must communicate all ethical business matters in order to be regarded and trusted by other companies.
Those businesses that refuse to look after their own self-interests will not be in business long enough to have any impact. At the same time, however, there can certainly be regard for a larger purpose. For some businesses, commitment to a larger purpose would be simply learning the difference between right and wrong, while others take a more responsible view of the role they play in the lives of their employees, their customers, and ultimately how they affect the world. AOL did just that and is a major success because of it. AOL shows its users the importance of a company with value and passes these ideals onto its users. It is careful to represent only that which has worth.

The media is the connection between businesses and the consumer. Through this connection there is always a careful eye taken by the media to focus on the various actions of companies and their corporate ethics.
The media plays a major role in communicating these ethics because they wind up playing such an evident part in the consumer’s decision-making process. The concepts of right and wrong seem so simple on the surface. Webster’s defines morality as adherence to a standard of right human conduct. Superficially, that definition would be easy for the simple to understand. When the focus is narrowed, however, it seems that the concept of morality grays in its boundaries.

Unfortunately, wrong to some becomes acceptable by others. Morality is not only the black and white that the simple so seemingly effortlessly can see, with that clear line of separation between it and immorality. In the media world, it is necessary to view these black and white areas as simple as possible in order for the most generalized understanding to occur. The media becomes successful in connecting the ethics of business with the consumer mind when all is done in the correct context and with no distortions at all.

For the media to act responsibly is for the media to act intelligently. Much of what is called “unethical conduct” is unintelligent conduct. The media must fulfill their roll as contributing to the ethics of business and in a way representing everything in a truthful manner. A business places this trust in the media, while at the same time the media relies on the trust that whatever they are reporting is in reality carried out by the business.
The press and the media must be reliable in the dealings with all businesses no matter what there status in the business world. All companies must be treated fairly and given the chance to prove their value to the customer. The media and the press have the ability to reach all kinds of people, of all ages, and all over the world. Having this much power it is clear that they have an impact unlike many others.

In doing this research I came across one of FAIR’s reports on the Public Broadcasting Station. Everyone is aware that this form of television is exactly that- public. The mission of PBS is simply, “to provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheard.” This station and form of media is based on value not money. It’s reputation has been built up to be only ‘noted’ by a limited audience.
Much of the business world that PBS presents is readily available on CNN, CSPAN, and MSNBC etc. This inattention by public television to a wide ranged audience, such as the views and experiences of working people is of concern due to the large growth of business programs and the increasing visibility of the corporate voice.
PBS is commonly regarded as that of a teaching channel. This organization prides itself on the organizations and companies it presents to its audience no matter how limited it may be. PBS holds strong against privatizing and feeling confident on relying on sponsors to support their organization. This form of media probably can be noted as having among the best intentions. Educational motives, creates what may be the most honest and truthful form of communication.

That which PBS presents looks to give its viewers the clearest picture of what is being scene. Perhaps this programming which may not be regarded as highly as other stations- may deliver the best in communicating the ethics of business and what it means to be a part of the corporate world to its viewers.
Looking at the role the press and media plays in communicating the ethics of business makes you look at the wider spectrum of what exactly a organization is reporting and the manner in which they are presenting the material. Ethics is a big part of humanity and the only thing that at least attempts at keeping things honest. If the media and the press were not responsible for looking at various companies and reporting their findings to the consumer, then many companies would attempt at taking advantage of individuals. Companies receive the majority of their reputation, whether it be weak or strong, due to the media.

The media reinforces ethics. It is a constant reminder that the ethics in the corporate world are not to be forgotten. This is important for the sake of honest trade, consumer loyalty and the well being of all markets in the world. The individual organizations that make up the “media” hold this responsibility once there mission statement notes they have a loyalty to their reader, listener, viewer etc. Ethics and the media go hand in hand, the roles they play within each other are indispensable.

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