Too Little Too Late, Ferguson Apology

Link To Video

Link To Video

After two months of silence, Ferguson Police Chief, Thomas Jackson has spoken. Whether his so called “apology” has been accepted by those it was geared toward is up to you. Many believe he waited too long, many believe it was unprofessional, I believe he was not prepared for his apology just as much as he wasn’t prepared for what happened to his city.

It is clear that what Jackson wanted to accomplish in his apology was a sense a relief for himself, but the community didn’t agree with that. He openly admitted that the Ferguson Police Department has a lot of work they need to do, and he took responsibility for the actions that took place, but what the Brown family really wants is justice. Justice for their son, and justice for their city that they believe is suffering from racial corruption.

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Was Jackson trying to speak to the community, or speak with the community in his apology? He dressed out of uniform, possibly as a way to address the public that he too is a human and he too is one of them, but he stood unprofessional is a sense he couldn’t speak without reading off of a paper. Was he sincere? He also repeating the word sorry at least 5 or 6 times off his script, does this actually show remorse toward those you have hurt? Im not sure.

michael-brown-missouri-teenager

Following this apology, the PR team working hand in hand with Ferguson was fired because of prior convictions a representative had. Convictions that in fact DIRECTLY correlate to the situation that happened in Ferguson. The Devin James Group terminated their contract with Ferguson because the owner Devin James; an African American, was convicted of shooting and killing an unarmed man in 2006. James claims that the city was well aware of this and he always tells his clients about his story. He also told CNN in an interview that, he was asked to help Ferguson because he was black, and could relate to their needs on a relative level.

Devin James Group

All of this really makes us question our countries structure, we already know that racial profiling and racial discrimination has forever been a problem in a cities and towns. But it seems that the media wants to jump on these stories before anything else, so we ask ourselves, what is the broader issues? Are we creating larger problems by blossoming these situations throughout the media? Are we opening new ideas to people? If PR couldn’t save Ferguson, what can?

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Crossing the (50 yard) Line?

Three high school football players died last week. Tom Cutinella, 16, died after colliding with an opponent during a game. He was rushed to the hospital and died after surgery. Two other 17-year-old players Demario Harris and Isaiah Langston also collapsed and died on Friday.

Watching football is often described as watching an entertaining war in which nobody dies. Unfortunately this is no longer the case. The issue of high school football players becoming seriously injured and/or dying from football-related injuries is an epidemic that most have turned a blind eye to, until recently.

In the past decade, about 12 high school athletes died on average every year playing football. A recent study by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina found that 3 died due to “participation in the fundamental skills of football” and the other nine, on average, died from indirect causes “due to the exertion, such as from heat stroke or an undiagnosed medical condition.”

Much like any issue that cannot pinpoint the exact causes of the problem at hand, more scientific research is needed to deliver more conclusive results as to why so many tragedies on the field are occurring.

However, a 306 page NFL funded report that found the sport not only has by far the highest rates of concussions at the interscholastic level, but also that the average high school player is nearly twice as likely to suffer a brain injury as a college player.

Father of Demario Harris, a player that died last week, put up a Facebook post about the tragedy. “It’s something that nobody could be prepared for. … He’s irreplaceable. And contrary to various media reports, my son had a brain hemorrhage, not an aneurysm, that was caused by a hit he took during Friday’s game. He may have had a pre-existing condition, but there is no way to tell now.”

To clarify, a hemorrhage can be defined as an escape of blood from ruptured blood vessel, that is caused by head trauma or head injury. An aneurysm can be defined as an “excessive localized enlargement of an artery caused by a weakening of the artery wall”. An aneurysm can be caused by factors such as family history or high blood pressure.

Can a school really prepare for this? Amanda Rolik Athletic Trainer at Marshall High School suggests that coaches build trust with their athletes, in order to ensure that they know about any injuries that happen on and off the field. Schools should also implement emergency action plans and be well informed about illnesses that students may have.

Another issue in this regard is that perhaps football-related injuries, such as concussions are not being taken seriously enough. Michigan Quarter Back Shane Morris went back into a game after suffering a mild concussion.

As Larry Strauss of the Huffington Post suggests, every effort is seemingly made to keep high school students safe through drug and alcohol education, anti-weapon rules, and emphasis on emotional health. It is natural to wonder why, then, we put young adults in such a dangerous situation, such as football.

Is football really to blame? Is it worth the risk for High School Students? Is the risk as big as it currently seems? One thing is for sure, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

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The Angry Black Woman

Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes

The article about the awarded TV Show writer, Shonda Rhimes had not yet appeared in Sunday’s paper but the public could not help to protest on Friday after it was published online. What was the fuss about?

Alessandra Stanley, a TV critic for the New York Times, wrote the article. In its first paragraph it made a reference to Ms. Rhimes as an “Angry Black Woman,” an expression that struck many readers as completely off-base. Some though it was offensive, others went further saying it was racist but Stanley had said it in the best of ways, she was embracing Shonda Rhimes’s powerful and courageous personality.

In an interview with Talking Points Memo’s Stanley stated:

“The whole point of the piece — once you read past the first 140 characters — is to praise Shonda Rhimes for pushing back so successfully on a tiresome but insidious stereotype.”

The National Public Radio reported that others, including Rhimes, noted several instances in which the critic seemed to invoke the very stereotypes she was supposedly deflating.

This makes me wonder…shouldn’t a professional like Alessandra Stanley, who works for such an influential newspaper, be more aware and conscious on how she expresses herself? Isn’t minimize harm one of the codes of journalism ethics?

Another exert from Stanley’s story states:

“Ignoring the narrow beauty standards some African-American women are held to, Ms. Rhimes chose a performer who is older, darker-skinned and less classically beautiful than Ms. Washington, or for that matter Halle Berry.”

She claims she is just making an observation and acclaiming Rhimes for bringing diversity into television. Does this premise support her claims? Can her expression be considered racist or ignorant?

Alessandra Stanley had the best of intentions when she wrote the article, but we can argue that although she had good means, she suffered bad ends. This is one of the possibilities in Danner and Kiousis “Taxonomy of Means and Ends

BBC news reported that the paper admitted the piece had been seen by at least three editors before it was published online, but none of them had raised any objections over its content.

Does this make the editors and Stanley equally responsible?

Danielle Matton, the Culture Editor for the New York Times said:

“This is a signal to me that we have to constantly remind ourselves as editors of our blind spots, what we don’t know, and of how readers may react.”

Stanley and other editors did not see a problem with the expression “angry black woman,” but Shonda Rhimes and other readers were insulted. This shows how attitudes can be cultured bound.

After the issue escalated and more people were aware of the situation, Margaret Sullivan, Public Editor of the New York Times, wrote an article exploring the causes of the furor with the story and explained “she didn’t have any intent of offending anyone.”

Stanley finally apologized for her mistake and the New York Times published her final word. She expressed:

“In the review, I referenced a painful and insidious stereotype solely in order to praise Ms. Rhimes and her shows for traveling so far from it. If making that connection between the two offended people, I feel bad about that. But I think that a full reading allows for a different takeaway than the loudest critics took.”

Stanley “unknowingly” broke the ethical code of minimizing harm. She expressed herself in a way that struck the public in a racist and negative way. This could have affected the Black community, readers, the actors in the TV shows and the New York Times and its editors.

Although Stanley broke the code of minimizing-harm, did she redeem herself when she apologized?

 

 

 

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What does ZERO TOLERANCE stand for?

When Super Bowl champion running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely by the NFL and had his contract terminated by the Baltimore Ravens for ‘domestic violence,” it created a domino effect of domestic violence cases amongst NFL players to begin with. With TMZ sports releasing the elevator footage of Rice punching his wife and knocking her out cold, really made the public eye ponder on how the NFL really handled this case to begin with. News stations, advertisers, PR firms had a field day mocking the NFL on how they handled this situation from the start.

 

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The NFL originally suspended Rice for just the “first two games of the season,” but after the footage by TMZ sports was released they decided to go back on their decision and suspend him for the entire season, and his team left him without a job. Ethically speaking Rice having agreed with the court on March 27, 2014 to seek counseling for his actions and also agree to community service in the Baltimore area, really should make him be able to play football and be contracted with an NFL team. By in no means is what he did right, it is completely wrong. But the elevator footage of Rice knocking out his wife should have been easily available to the NFL to begin with and this whole dilemma of him playing or not playing would’ve been sorted out months before the season started. The fact that he was cut from his team and suspended by the NFL a week after the season started makes it rather odd and fishy on how the NFL  handled this situation

The NFLPA has asked to review the Ray Rice case, and the Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has vehemently denied that his team had no idea about the elevator footage and they only saw it when it was released. Furthermore he also went on to say that the NFLPA’s review has nothing to do with the NFLPA, and has to do with Ray Rice and his legal team trying to get him re-instated.  http://espn.go.com/chicago/nfl/story/_/id/11570685/baltimore-ravens-owner-steve-bisciotti-says-espn-ray-rice-report-manufactured-rice-cam

A day after Rice was suspended the NFL did release a “Domestic Violence Policy,” that was only sent to each NFL team’s owner and GM. The NFL never released a draft of the policy on their website (NFL.com), but SBNation (a sports blog) managed to get a hold of the draft and make sure that fans of the NFL know the so-called measures the NFL are going to take to stop “Domestic Violence,” cases. Below is a link of the entire letter that sent out to the NFL teams’ owner.

http://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2014/8/28/6079465/nfl-announces-new-domestic-violence-policy

The policy clearly states “Violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence and sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to enhanced discipline. A first offense will be subject to a suspension of six weeks without pay…” Therefore the next few cases will make you wonder if the NFL is just trying to defend them themselves by giving the fans their word, or just trying to tie up loose ends.

Ray McDonald, 30 is a defensive end for the San Francisco 49ers. He was arrested on suspicion of domestic abuse after his wife showed police bruises. He was held overnight by police and released the next day. According to the NFL “there was not enough evidence and he was never charged,” so he could have not be reprimanded for his actions. However CBS news felt otherwise and posted an article that makes us believe that NFL just went back on their word of zero tolerance

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/san-francisco-49ers-star-ray-mcdonald-arrested-on-domestic-violence-charge/

Hannah Storm, an ESPN sportscaster and anchor who has been covering sports for more than 30 years now, kicked off the 10AM Sportscenter broadcast by talking about how she as a mother had to explain to her children about the recent cases of domestic violence that have been taking place in the NFL. ESPN did face a lot of backlash for this, as they were attacked for being “weak” for allowing a woman to express emotion on flagship show for a top sports network in the country. Furthermore, Storm went on the mention in her piece about how women are affected by these cases and how women do make up 45% of the NFL’s fan base in America. Surprisingly 63% of the NFL’s audience around the world are women

Greg Hardy, a defensive end for the Carolina Panthers was arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend and also sending communicating and sending her threats. He was allowed to start and play vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and once the NFL’s domestic abuse policy fell through, he was de-activated from the team in Week 2. He is now on the Panthers’ exempt list and is still allowed to receive his $13.1 million salary. The team’s owner Jerry Richardson was being honored a day after Greg Hardy’s charges became known to the public and his reaction made you think that people who do own these team’s owner do actually care about the welfare of their team.

Adrian Peterson was charged by his son’s mother for domestic violence after hitting his son with a switch. He was allowed to start Week 1 as well, and now is on his team’s exempt list just like Greg Hardy. As shown below is the effect of Peterson’s discipline towards his three year old son.

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In conclusion I feel that the NFL, needs to be more clear with the way they handle these situations. They release policies, they issue statements, and their PR team does their best to ensure the fans that the league is taking action. These cases are all not so very different from Ray Rice striking his wife in an elevator, they are all linked to each other and are all very shocking. By ethical standpoints the NFL needs to be more clear to it’s fans and needs to adhere to their policies and principles more strictly, rather than be so lackadaisical and nonchalant about such serious issues with its players.

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A Howl-O-Scream-Inspired PR Nightmare

Busch Gardens Howl-O-ScreamIn the midst of recent ISIS hostage events, some American businesses are having to tread lightly.  This week, Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia, made headlines when it chose to remove certain props from its annual Howl-O-Scream Halloween event.  Following the horrific ISIS hostage beheadings, some customers reportedly complained about the insensitivity of Busch Gardens’ Halloween display, which included rubber severed heads, reminiscent of recent ISIS events.  Video of the ABC News report can be viewed here.

Screen Shot 2014-09-20 at 10.07.05 AMCriticism reportedly came after several photos (right) were published in a local newspaper, resulting in a wave of backlash from some of the concerned public.  These photos displayed some Howl-O-Scream scenes, severed rubber heads clearly evident.

On September 18th, Busch Gardens released a statement via their Facebook page regarding its decision to remove certain props from their Howl-O-Scream display.  The company stood by its decision, stating, “The horrible tragedy and loss of life for journalists and an humanitarian aid worker in the Middle East is unspeakable and we would not want anything in our park to seem insensitive to that.”  It continued to state that the removal of the props would not detract from the attraction experience.

This comes in the wake of another PR mistake, after 20th Century Fox received major criticism for its promotion of its TV Series Sleepy Hollow, urging consumers to celebrate “Headless Day” a few weeks earlier.  The Sleepy Hollow PR Team quickly followed with an apology, providing their condolences for the affected families and apologizing for the poor timing, specifically with the insensitivity and promotion of #HEADLESSDAY.

In addition to its Facebook page, Busch Gardens released another statement as well, part of which read, “The props in this year’s event were designed and purchased several months ago. In light of recent events, some of these props have the unintended consequence of appearing insensitive and are being removed. Busch Gardens apologizes for any offense they may have caused.”  This leads to the topic of ethical relativism.

Under normal circumstances, the gruesome rubber severed heads are a normal display for the annual Howl-O-Scream event.  Should Busch Gardens have acted earlier and prevented the situation all-together?  Would that have been following its duty of non-injury to its customers, or does not providing the typical Howl-O-Scream experience, a traditional, annual event, violate the company’s duty of fidelity?

Customers attend the event for a specific purpose, which includes the realms of terror and fear typically associated with Halloween.  Does updating a display following IS events help protect customers, or ultimately take away from the experience they expect and pay for?

Posted in Public Relations | 4 Comments

Ethical Issues in Anonymous Apps & Websites

Anonymous media outlets have been in the radar for quite some time. Weather it be an app like Whisper or Secret or a website life Ask.fm they have all gone under the scrutiny of ethical controversies cause of bullying comments.

These media outlets let users post comments or question in anonymous manner. But what happens when the content abuses users to the extent of suicide. Hannah Smith, a 14-year-old girl from Latvia hanged herself at her family’s home after suffering months of bullying. Since then there have been over 17 victims hat have taken their lives because of the abusive questions and comments in the websites. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children reports that 1 in 5 children is harassed in social networks.

In response to the controversies CEO’s and safety officers have established new regulations. Doug Leeds, CEO of Ask.fm, says that they will do whatever it takes to make the service safe as possible. Ask.fm plans to employee a new team of digital safety experts to effectively filter and moderate the content. Catherine Teitelbaum, Yahoo!’s director of global safety and product policy is now part of Ask.fm team as Chief Trust and Safety Officer.

But for marketers these apps are a huge opportunity for advertising platforms. “It’s a way to access the millennial audience, and that’s a very difficult audience to reach.” Said Eric Yellin, content distributor at Whisper.

Anonymity is a double edge sword. For young people this can be a weapon to harm others, but for others these apps are a platform for honest conversation with out judgment. Where do you stand? Are these apps harmful or helpful?

The other side of the coin can be seen through the eyes of the app creators. “These apps are demonized because they’re new,” said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that supports digital rights.

Users hold the ultimate responsibility for safety in both online and in the real world. They should be clear of the fact that the content of their posts affect other. CEO’s say that they shouldn’t blame the app but the user because of the abusive comments they post.

After these tragedies Ask.fm, Whisper, and Secret are carefully filtering the content to ensure a safe environment. The have enable the apps to show the user, so now they aren’t completely anonymous.

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An “Unfortunate Misunderstanding”

A controversy has found its way into Urban Outfitters’ store once more. A sweatshirt emblazoned with “Kent University” appears to be a faded pink, but on closer inspection it has what looks like blood splatter across its chest. In 1970, Kent University was devastated by a school shooting led by the Ohio National Guard. The company has been under fire and recently responded with a public apology in response to the promotion of the school shooting.

Urban Outfitters says that the sweatshirt was bought from a Rose Bowl Flea Market. They mention that it’s a one of a kind piece, and they never had any intentions of bringing back the haunting memories of the school shooting. Do you believe that a company should research what they’re selling before putting it on the market? In this case, their lack of prior research definitely bit them in the butt.

However, Urban Outfitters has a habit of pushing the boundaries – perhaps a little too far in many situations. They have been known to sell (and still do) clothing items and assorted goods that promote drug use, alcohol in teens, racism, sexism, and other social issues. With their bumpy history, their sincerity on their apology is under question. Should Urban Outfitters have been put in this situation before, do you believe that they should’ve learned from their mistakes? Is a written apology enough to (for lack of a better phrase) clean up the mess they’ve made?

With all of the mistakes that this clothing company has made (such as promoting anorexia, drug use, racism, sexism, and other social issues), it seems that they’ve gotten into the habit of creating trouble for themselves. It brings on the idea that these “mistakes” could potentially be a marketing scam. The amount of free publicity that they get from their “oopsies” is insurmountable. The articles explaining the scam always bring curiosity to what else the company sells and likely lead people to the Urban Outfitters website. Do you believe that this is a possibility? Or are these numerous mistakes on purpose to bring a wide variety of potential customers to their website?

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Oops, you missed an ethic! (or two)

Video and images of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were both beheaded by the Islamic jihadist group ISIS, were broadcasted by many media platforms recently. However, The Washington Times reported that one the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics (to minimize harm) was not followed.

Although I believe that a journalist’s job is to report on news, no matter how upsetting or gruesome, I began to question whether or not this story topic and the pictures and video should have been released to the public because of the Washington Times’ article.

The Washington Times also stated that the New York Times wrote a short article and showed one picture while breaking the story, while a Dutch online news organization played the video that included the beheading at the end.

Did the media really have to release this story to the public? What harm does it cause to people viewing it including the families of Foley and Sotloff? Should there be a limit – if any – on what information the media can release? Is showing pictures and video an advantage? Would viewers remember the story if it were just words spoken and nothing was shown?

On the other hand, I thought about how we would be able to educate ourselves about what is going on overseas and ISIS’ acts of terror if nothing was ever released to us. How would we know two innocent souls were killed?

On top of releasing the story and the components, I realized that another ethic that the media did not follow was the ‘seek truth and report it.’  It wasn’t until Sept. 3 when newspapers released an official quote from National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden that deemed the beheadings authentic.

Wouldn’t you agree when dealing with something as serious as a person’s life that journalists would take more caution to see if all the information was accurate or not?

The sharing of the beheadings on social media has also brought Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo to suspend accounts who shared images and videos from the attacks who shared images and videos from the attacks. This led to many ISIS twitter users and other users who were just sharing information to get suspended. ISIS and their followers use twitter hashtags such as IS and ISIS to reach out and possibly gain recruits from unknowingly users, but that is a whole other issue to discuss.

However, whether or not the story should have been broadcasted remains the topic at hand. What content, if any, should have been included in the broadcast? Is a website posting a blurred out image any better than an unedited version? Can broadcasting this actually be used for good in educating ourselves in current events?

So one final question: If you were a news journalist (TV or print) or a blogger, would you cover the story of the beheadings? Why or why not? What content would you include if so?

 

 

 

 

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The Shower Heard Around the World

Michael Sam entered headlines this past May for being the first openly gay NFL draft pick. Naturally, inquiring minds wanted to know how a gay male would fit into a culture stigmatized by straight men.

Luckily for us, ESPN reporter Josina Anderson ran a hard-hitting story last week that filled us on how his team was getting used to Sam. In her story, she talked about how Sam was “just one of the guys and taking a rookie approach.” She then went into further details, including Sam’s personal shower habits. She reported on statements fellow teammates say “Sam is respecting our space.”

When it comes to reporting, where is the ethical line in determining if a subject is considered taboo or not? In a world where there seems to be a constant debate on the rights and protection of celebrities, aren’t celebrities granted at least a little bit of privacy? Not to mention the uncomfortable situation that fellow Rams’ players may have been subdued too because Andersen asked them to talk about their teammate.

According to a statement from the Rams head coach Jeff Fisher to St. Louis Today, he deems the piece to be unethical and unprofessional. ESPN has since sent out a statement, “ESPN regrets the manner in which we presented our report. Clearly on Tuesday we collectively failed to meet the standards we have set in reporting on LGBT-related topics in sports.” Josina Anderson even took the time to make a statement.

Sports Illustrated however brings up an excellent point on the subject, how do the showering habits of Sam affect the teams atmosphere? Was the essence of the story lost because it overshadowed by the lewd subject matter of the report?

In a society where we are constantly striving for equality, we seem to be falling back into old ways. This isn’t the first time sports shower stories have made the news. I’d say let’s talk about Jackie Robinson, but I’ll save that for another blog post.

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Cheating…some old stories never change

This story is a little old, but it probably (and unfortunately) will still be relevant for years to come.  Check it out and share your thoughts. (original post courtesy of Prof. Paul Hillier, University of Tampa) 

The story received international attention. A business professor at the University of Central Florida claimed that at least a third of his class had cheated on a midterm exam. Certainly not the first time a professor has accused students of cheating, but this instance included at least 200 seniors, who if caught would of course not graduate. Oh, and that the professor’s lecture to the students about cheating was posted to YouTube and then quickly became viral may have added to it being a subject of news reports across the globe.

In case you missed it, here are a couple news reports:

“Cheating Scandal Shakes UCF Business Class” by WESH Channel 2 News (Orlando);

“200 students admit cheating after professor’s online rant” posted online by The Telegraph.

You also can view Professor Richard Quinn’s entire lecture to the class.

The story raises a number of ethical questions, including the most obvious about “cheating,” put in quotes to highlight that some people (most often students themselves) find the term subjective. How can we determine an ethics for cheating when the concept itself is debatable? Has the digital era complicated traditional notions of cheating? A number of students have taken issue with the fact that the midterm administered was made-up entirely of questions from a “test bank” provided by the publisher of their textbook, which included both the questions and answers.

A student, or some students, posted a YouTube response to the professor, which is also summarized in this news story:

“‘Cheating’ University of Central Florida Students Defend Themselves” posted on urlesque.com.  [broken link]

While there are indeed a great number of ethical questions tied to this story (and I encourage you to note and explore some in your comments!), I’m particularly interested in the ethical dimension related to the video itself; the Professor’s actions along with the students’ reactions. I ask you: was it ethical for the Professor to “post” the video accusing the students of cheating? Should this have been handled more “privately?” Are there any problems here? (What if I’m looking to hire a person and I notice a prospective employee took this very class? Might that influence my decision?)

I look forward to reading your comments!

Posted in Cheating | 20 Comments