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Professors co-author new textbook on multimedia ethics

RELEASED: June 17, 2011

Media Ethics
The cover of the latest edition of "Controversies in Media Ethics," co-authored by Dr. David Gordon and Dr. Michael Dorsher.

EAU CLAIRE — Communication and journalism faculty members from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire are among the co-authors of a new textbook that sets the standard for the comprehensive and authoritative treatment of multimedia ethics.

Dr. David Gordon, professor emeritus of communication and journalism, and Dr. Michael Dorsher, associate professor of communication and journalism, made major contributions to the 608-page third edition of "Controversies in Media Ethics," published June 14 in New York and London by Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group.

Gordon, who chaired the communication and journalism department from 1997-2002, wrote nearly half the book and is its senior author, as he was for its first two editions. Dorsher, who joined the faculty in 2000, created the entire 200-page accompanying website and co-authored four of the book's dialectic chapters — primarily while he was on sabbatical in 2008-09 as a Fulbright Scholar in Canada.

The text's other co-authors are John Michael Kittross, editor of Media Ethics magazine; William Babcock, senior ethics professor at Southern Illinois University; and John C. Merrill, professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Missouri. Merrill, who wrote a commentary for each of the 14 dialectic chapters along with a mini-chapter on objectivity and the text's overview and postscript, is the world's top academic media ethicist, according to Gordon.

The text also includes chapters on how to apply classical ethical theories to contemporary media dilemmas and a large-yet-concise glossary compiled by John A. Armstrong of Furman University. Other half-chapter contributions to the text came from media professors Peter J. Gade of Oklahoma, Jane B. Singer of Iowa, Kim Sheehan of Oregon and Julianne Newton of Oregon.

"In its third edition, 'Controversies in Media Ethics' reflects the dynamic, ever-evolving state of media, presenting debates stemming from both traditional and new media forms," said Linda Bathgate, the book's publisher at Routledge. "The text continues the approach of the previous editions in examining ethical situations inherent to media practice, presenting arguments from two or more sides of each issue, and providing discussions and analysis across a variety of media. It represents new forms of media as well: A companion website has been developed as a resource for students and instructors using the book, and the text is published in print and electronic form. Overall, it serves a vital role as a foundation for media ethics teaching and discussion, and it imparts the key lesson to all students that ethical issues in media have many facets to consider and rarely have easy answers."

The book's website includes links to multimedia related material, case studies, quizzes and PowerPoint outlines for every chapter, Dorsher said. "These multimedia elements not only bring the text into the 21st century but should make it much more useful for instructors and for students who learn by watching, listening and discussing as much as reading."

Even apart from its website, the third edition of "Controversies in Media Ethics" is nearly twice the size of the second edition, which was published in 1999 and had no accompanying website. It includes new chapters on digital manipulation of media, digital advertising techniques, spin and other public relations methods and a debate on whether new media necessitate new ethics. Whereas the first two editions of "Controversies in Media Ethics" were weighted toward journalism ethics, the third edition is geared toward public relations and advertising as well as journalism.

"And it's not just for media students and media professionals," Dorsher said. "Anyone who wants to use the media wisely rather than be used by the media routinely should read this book."

Unlike the first two editions of "Controversies in Media Ethics," which largely left media case studies to other texts, this expanded edition includes case studies in the text and online, so it can stand alone. Dorsher's "Mass Media Ethics" classes at UW-Eau Claire have been using drafts of the text for the past two years, and his online summer class now in session will be the first in the nation to use the actual book, which is available at the University Bookstore, directly from Routledge and on

More than five years in the making, the third edition of "Controversies in Media Ethics" will be continuingly updated on its website, and the book itself refers to issues raised as recently as last month. It quotes Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. from his May 4 Ann Devroy Forum address at UW-Eau Claire. "I do not Twitter yet," he said in regard to new media ethics, "because I have never believed that my first thought on a subject is always my best thought."

For interviews, questions or comments, contact Dr. David Gordon at 715-552-1799 or ; or Dr. Michael Dorsher at 763-688-3472 or



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