Winner of the Clifford G. Christians Award for Research in Media Ethics, Michael Bugeja’s Living Media Ethics posits that moral convergence is essential to address the complex issues of our high-tech media environment. As such the book departs from and yet complements traditional pedagogy in media ethics. Bugeja covers advertising, public relations and major branches of journalism, as well as major schools of philosophical thought and historical events that have shaped current media practices.
Examining topics including responsibility, truth, falsehood, temptation, bias, fairness, and power, chapters encourage readers to develop a personal code of ethics that they can turn to throughout their careers. Each chapter includes exercises, as well as journal writing and creative assignments, designed to build, test, and enhance individual value systems. Unlike other texts, this media ethics book ends with an assignment to create a digital portfolio with personal ethics code aligned with a desired media position or company.
Table of Contents
1. Overview: Ethics Across Platforms
Part 1: Building your Ethical Base
2. Influence: Who Shaped Your Values?
3. Responsibility: Take or Forsake It
4. Truth: Levels, Shades and Hues
Part 2: Testing your Ethical Base
5. Falsehood: Lie at Your Own Risk
6. Manipulation: Feel It, Spot It, Bust It
7. Temptation: Brace for It to Strike
8. Bias: Recognize and Resist It
Part:3 Enhancing your Ethical Base
9. Fairness: Level the Playing Fields
10. Power: Apply as Needed
11. Value Systems: Create Your Own
Michael J. Bugeja is an ethicist and author of 25 books, including Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine and Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age, Oxford University Press. He is co-author of Vanishing Act: the erosion of online footnotes and implications for scholarship in the digital age. He twice won the prestigious Clifford G. Christians award for research in media ethics. He is a regular contributor to The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. He directed the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University and now teaches media ethics there as a professor.
Featured Author Profiles
Endorsements for Living Media Ethics
Michael Bugeja has written a magnum opus. No one in the young years of teaching and research could achieve a book like this. It’s a treasure of wisdom (and not only Bugeja’s wisdom, but wisdom from professionals). Living Media Ethics serves as both a useful text and a legacy book to prize for its insight and breadth. –Mark Fackler, Professor Emeritus, Dept of Communication Arts and Sciences, Calvin College
Once again Michael Bugeja has called us to our better selves. Living Media Ethics is thoughtful, well-reasoned and correctly asserts the importance of ethical decision-making in the work of journalists. We are fortunate to have a work of this depth and grace. –Peter Bhatia, Detroit Free Press and USA TODAY Network
Testimonials for Living Ethics
Michael Bugeja’s Living Ethics does something few ethics texts do. It encourages readers to think for themselves. Rather than preaching ethics from a strictly academic perspective, Living Ethics puts readers in the shoes of journalists wrestling with real-world challenges. I’ve found the lessons learned from this text still are relevant in my work today. Dealing with confidential sources. Posting on social media. Learning that being accurate isn’t always the same thing as being fair. Living Ethics covers all this ground and more. It’s essential reading for journalists and anyone trying to navigate today’s media landscape.
- Dan Horn, The Cincinnati Enquirer
I still carry the lessons from Dr. Bugeja's ethics course with me today - more than 20 years after sitting in his classroom at Ohio University. What I loved about his class was that we moved beyond bright-line rules to discuss the grey sometimes in the middle that can make ethical choices so hard.
I reached out to him about 15 years ago with a thorny ethical dilemma and he helped guide me to a conclusion that gave me not only a clear conscience but a grateful heart. I did the hard thing at that time, which he would say usually means it's the right thing.
- Niki Kelly, Statehouse Reporter for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette
I took Dr. Bugeja's Media Ethics course as a senior undergraduate student. From Dr. Bugeja's Media Ethics class, I learned valuable life lessons about diversity, responsibility, honesty, kindness and truth, among many others. Of utmost importance to these lessons was understanding the unique differences between one's conscience and one's consciousness, in which many, if not most, of life's lessons can be traced. I remember Dr. Bugeja explaining to the class how the conscience tells us, "What's in me is in you." Consciousness, he said, tells us, "We come into the world alone, and we leave it alone." Both of these lessons helped us to understand how one's conscience and consciousness have a delicate balance within each human being, and understanding how each of these elements function are absolutely essential to understanding what it truly means to be human.
In Media Ethics class, Dr. Bugeja asked us to write our personal code of ethics for our online portfolios, which showcased platforms of our work and asked us to think about our own principles of conscience and consciousness, among others we had learned throughout the course. This assignment was such an important stepping stone for me in my career, as it asked me to truly think about the tenets I lived by, and of which I would hold myself accountable. Dr. Bugeja's use of important career-building assignments, such as building our online portfolio of work, and his thoughtful lectures really made me think about what I wanted to do with my life, how I could use my talents to positively impact the lives of others, and how I might be able to achieve my life goals. Now, looking back on my experiences and the lessons I have learned, I firmly believe that I would not be where I am today in my life or in my teaching career if it were not for this course and for the wisdom Dr. Bugeja imparted on me and the many who have been fortunate enough to learn from him. For that, I am truly grateful.
- Melissa A. Garrett, Adjunct Journalism and Digital Mass Communications Professor, Iowa Central Community College
More than 20 years after taking Dr. Bugeja’s Media Ethics class at Ohio University, where I first encountered the principles addressed in this book, I am still using what I learned in my daily business interactions. The scenarios and concepts are not simple, but the lessons are – despite the fact that so many people choose to disregard ethical behavior in business today. My professional code of ethics, which I first developed in that class, is still proudly posted on my website and I do my best to live up to it every day of running my company and living my life. If every individual who calls themselves a journalist or professional communicator would read this book and follow its lessons, we would not be facing many of the communications challenges we are facing in the world today.
- Angela Krile, President & CEO, Krile Communications
I took Dr. B's ethics class during my 2013-2014 year at Iowa State University. In everyday life ethics is usually defined as the Golden Rule. Treat others how you want to be treated. With journalism it's a little harder to define. When to use the information you've and to what risk to the source. Knowing how close or how far to be when taking a photo of someone in a vulnerable moment.
As a photographer I've learned how delicate situations can be in journalism. With Dr. B's teachings I have not only been able to apply what I've learned in my profession to get positive outcomes, but have also been able to use it in my everyday life
- Brian Achenbach, photographer
I was lucky enough to have Dr. Bugeja as my advisor and ethics professor while I was enrolled at Ohio University’s journalism school in the late 1990s. My original copy of Living Ethics is now dog-eared and still sits on my shelf two decades later, as his teachings continue to be an integral part of guiding and shaping my career as a journalist and author. His work manages to be both timeless and timely all at once, with core principles that can benefit anyone working in any area of journalism.
- Jen Jones Donatelli, freelance journalist and managing editor of FreshWater Cleveland
When it seems ethics, integrity and courageous, unbiased reporting have all but disappeared in American MSM, there is no greater need than now for Michael Bugeja's LIVING MEDIA ETHICS.
As a student of Bugeja's at Ohio University in the late 80s, I was fortunate enough to receive Michael's lessons on life and craftsmanship, technique and truth, and they remain eloquent and vital.
It’s time we got back to the basics of honest reporting, substance, not flash, and Michael's course and this text provide an excellent blueprint.
- Roy V. Gaston, author of How Can a Man Die Better
The principles taught in a media ethics class are not solely for employees of the modern newsroom. As a trained journalist now working in public relations, I have relied on my media ethics training on many occasions.
There is an art to telling an audience the truth while not obscuring the facts yet not being too blunt and alienating people from your message. My diplomatic communication style stems from my media ethics classes and the lessons taught by Dr. Bugeja.
I have been faced with many instances where I know there are certain brand standards all publications and products must meet, but bosses and co-workers want to disregard those and expect me to fall in line. However, my media ethics training helped me stand my ground and do what I knew was right. I expect these skills will continue to play a huge role in my career.
- Aimee Burch, former student, graduate assistant
I took Dr. Bugeja’s media ethics class as an undergraduate student at Iowa State University, not knowing at the time how crucial it would be for my career as a journalist at CNN. Media ethics was then, as it has always been, crucial in journalism. However, I find that it is indispensable today and Dr. Bugeja’s expertise in the matter really helped shape me to gain some understanding of ethical issues associated with technology. His awareness and years of studying ethics has helped me feel more prepared to practice social responsibility and become a cross-platform communicator.
- Giovanna Van Leeuwen, former student
I give credit to Dr. Bugeja and his media ethics class for helping me and other students understand how ethical decisions directly impact our personal and work lives. After taking Dr. Bugeja's class, I felt a sense of comfort and confidence in how to deal with ethical issues. This led me to stand up and fight for an ethical situation I experienced later that year. Overall, I felt more connected with myself, my conscious and my ethical decisions. From a journalist's perspective, Dr. Bugeja's class is absolutely necessary since journalists, public relations and media professionals must face ethical decisions every day. He provided a plethora of examples, situations and key-terms that added to our learning. After graduating and now working in a professional media setting, I feel much more confident in myself. Dr. B is truly an amazing professor and I feel like I can now tackle any ethical situation that comes my way. Thank you, Dr. B!
- Natalie Liedman, former student of Dr. Michael Bugeja at Iowa State University
I was one of Dr. Bugeja’s students in the Scripps School at Ohio University from 1998-2001. The content of his Living Ethics course I often muse upon and ponder. I think of Professor Bugeja’s lectures quite often, believe it or not, and still apply the lessons and methodologies I learned from his Living Ethics course today. I’m an almost 14 year veteran of the United States Border Patrol and as you can well imagine, the necessity for a strong ethical backbone is vitally important. I cite him warmly and often, especially, “Walking merrily to one’s own execution.” When he asked that I share this, I was touched and I am honored to do so. Dr. Bugeja was one of my favorite college professors at Ohio University and I wish him nothing but success in all his future endeavors.
- Patrick J. Reilly, former student
Media Ethics was a course that I will never forget. Very rarely does a professor allow such open and honest discussion on the subject matter they are teaching, especially when that subject matter is their own. Dr. Bugeja is the exception to this. Even though he is teaching his own research, Dr. Bugeja not only allowed, but actively encouraged open discussion and discourse among his students.
I often shared my opinions, my own experiences, and had many discussions with other students and even Dr. Bugeja himself regarding the topics, which were often controversial. This open-discussion format has truly helped me in my professional life as I now manage a team of young adults. Because of the opportunity I had to openly discuss Dr. Bugeja’s own research with him, I was shown that it’s okay and acceptable to question what’s being told to you. And that it’s also okay to sit back and listen to what others have to say about your own work.
Media Ethics was the most empowering course I took as a student at Iowa State, and I will never forget the ethical lessons, along with the life lessons, that Dr. Bugeja so graciously taught me.
- Molly Gheer, former student
I remember when I first spoke with Dr. Michael Bugeja. I was attending Iowa State University as a mechanical engineering major and after my first semester, I could tell that this wasn’t my passion any more. So while searching for a new major, I stumbled upon “Journalism and Mass Communication” and immediately called Dr. Bugeja because obviously the then-director of the Greenlee School would be able to tell me if this is the right field for me. While speaking with him, he asked me to write something down. I scrambled looking for a pen and this was when I got my first piece of advice from Dr. Bugeja: “A journalist should always have a pen and paper ready to go.”
To this day, I have at least three pens with me and a notebook ready. That interaction with him over the phone clued me into my experience with Greenlee and with his guidance, I’ve gone from drafting in SolidWorks to interning with Cumulus Media, becoming a Greenlee ambassador, producing several shows with ISUtv and producing promotional content for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. One phone call changed my future and I thank you for that. To put it simply, you are a joy to learn from and someone who has been ever present to support me in all my efforts as a journalist. Whether I’m in your Media Ethics class as a student or teaching assistant, the greatest thing about working with Dr. Michael Bugeja is that he teaches you to never stop learning because he isn’t even done himself.
- Malik T. Newson, former student, Iowa State University
While attending Iowa State University, I wanted to take a class that would challenge me and also learn so much from. I signed up to Media Ethics, knowing that Dr. Bugeja was the professor. I remember him coming into my very first class at Iowa State University to speak on how the Greenlee School truly prepares students for the real world. I am so grateful to have taken Media Ethics class because it taught me values and left me with traits of professionalism that I did not imagine I could learn in a classroom. Dr. Bugeja passed the knowledge of comprehending when a journalist should act in a humane and noble way, I will forever be thankful that Dr. Bugeja was part of my time at Iowa State University. Nothing, but respect to him!
- Hugo Bolaños, former student
Michael Bugeja uses real examples of many types of media to present situations where readers are challenged to question the true message the media is sending. The methods for engaging critical thinking skills that I learned as a student of Dr. Bugeja have stuck with me and have been useful to me throughout my career as an author in the corporate field.
Identifying, exploring and questioning motives and biases in media is an excellent way to recognize and understand your own biases. This awareness is a valuable skill that I continue to use as both a consumer and as a creator of media.
- Angela Ulrich, former student
There were many memorable classes I took as a journalism student at Ohio University. But the one that has stayed consistently with me is Dr. Michael Bugeja’s Ethics in Journalism class. As a student I was initially more drawn to the art of writing—crafting a compelling story, engaging the reader. But this class taught me that there was a greater responsibility at hand. That the primary duty was to the authenticity of the story, even—or especially—when it didn’t feel good or the truth was difficult to divine.
Modern technology has upended the world of “publishing,” making journalistic ethics more important now than ever before. I find myself thinking—almost daily—to the lessons I learned in Dr. Bugeja’s class as a journalism student. These lessons are what I use when I feel called to challenge and fight for truth and accountability in media.
- Lisa Baggerman Hazen, Ohio University Scripps School of Journalism Class of 1993
The approach to media ethics learned in Dr. Bugeja’s class has helped me both personally and professionally in various ways over the years, but one instance will always remind me of how important it is to be ethical at all times. I felt as if I was about to go against everything I wrote in my ethics code in class and I was not about to let that happen.
In 2016, I was working for a company selling advertisements in a phonebook. We were required to counter argue the decision makers at the businesses whenever they gave us excuses as to why they didn’t want to buy an advertisement or other services we provided. I was not comfortable doing this because it did not sit well with me ethically to practically force someone to buy a product or service they didn’t need, nor was I comfortable with trying to sell products and services of which I wasn’t fully supportive. I quit within a month and told my manager just that – I did not feel what I was required to do was ethical.
- Saige Heyer, former student
This is a must-read book for anyone entering the increasingly complex media or business world today. Living Media Ethics not only gave me a firm foundation from which to begin my communications career, it enabled me to help my employers define ethics and how they should be applied.
Living Media Ethics isn’t just about work, it’s about how we interact with others—at home, on the job and in the global community. Every day, still, I find myself drawing from the important lessons outlined in this book.
- Jennifer Proctor, Ohio University, BSJ '97
Dr. Bugeja's Media Ethics class was one of the first classes I took at Iowa State University that forced me to look beyond my regular perspective and perceived biases. Dr. Bugeja intertwined current events, history, law, and morals effortlessly into every lesson to silently prompt his students: "who do you want to be?" His class forced me to think critically about the role of technology in our culture, how to foster a healthy human condition, and how to disagree respectfully. Media Ethics unmasked the man's intentions, how he can shift those intentions in times of political strife and cultural vulnerability, when he feels compelled to take a stand, and how he can do it effectively. Most importantly, Dr. Bugeja's lessons of ethics were a call to action for each of his students to pick a moral code, live by it, and inspire others to do the same.
- Rakiah Bonjour, former student
With his combined experience in journalism and academia, Mr. Bugeja approaches ethics with an approach to make journalists and communicators mindful of their choices and actions. In his media ethics class, he outlines ethical dilemmas and challenges with real-world examples in a seamless manner.
As a student, I looked forward to every media ethics class as it exposed me to countless difficult choices communicators make everyday. The principles in the class have helped me reflect on choices in my personal life as well. With the release of the second edition of Living Media Ethics, I hope the principles from Mr. Bugeja's media ethics class reach as many prospective journalism students as possible.
- Varad Diwate, former student, Greenlee School of Journalism, Iowa State University
It has been a privilege to have Dr. Bugeja as a Professor and mentor throughout my academic career. His passion for and commitment to stringent ethics in Journalism and Mass Communications has inspired me and my peers to pursue the same high standards.
- Scott Ismond, former student, Iowa State University