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Media has a Powerful Effect: Why Ethics can Never be Left Behind in Daily Communication

By Ella Orse, PR/Media Coordinator, Fall 2019

In the communications field, our work revolves around what’s happening in real-time- hence it never stops changing. It is inevitable that many of us juggle multiple projects at once, while also adapting to sudden changes. Yet while it is easy to find ourselves getting caught up in these small details, it is important to take the time to consider the ethical effects and societal impact of our work. Since technology and media are entangled parts of our society, the messages we put out there substantially shape cultural norms. 

What exactly does this mean?

Media acts as a key societal structure that influences people’s self-esteem, perception (biases/assumptions) and psychological behaviors. A small advertisement or message may barely catch your eye, but every message we see subconsciously affects us. The most prominent example of this is the way that media has previously sexualized and objectified females. Unrealistic portrayals of women have been correlated to the high percentage of eating disorders and body image issues in America. Psychologist Marika Tiggemann says, “Repeated exposure to such images lead a woman to internalize the thin ideal such that it becomes accepted by them as the reference point against which to judge themselves.” (Body image across the adult life span: stability and change, Oxford: Elsevier, 2004) This is just one example of how powerful media messages can be. Therefore, it is our responsibility as the ones creating these messages to make ethical considerations in all of the work we do. 

How exactly can this be accomplished?  This can be accomplished on many levels but it primarily means having intent and purpose in our messages. We need to look at the long term consequences of our content and ensure that there is no long term negative effects. 

What is the best way for us to ensure that ethics continues to be a dominant principle in the communications field? Education. As a student at Loyola, I have taken many ethics classes in regard to the communication field that I feel have utterly prepared me to handle ethical dilemmas I may face in the future. It is critical for anyone who is entering the communications field to be prepared and trained on how to ensure that their work is honest, real, and ethical. We are the generation to not only be aware of issues such as this but to stand up and ensure that action is taken against them!

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