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Juan Luis Cebrián (2011). The Piano Player in the Brothel: The Future of Journalism. New York: The Overlook Press. xix + 169 pp. ISBN 978-1-59020-394-1. $24.95 (paper). (Translation from the Spanish by Eduardo Schmid, Introduction by Harold Evans).

 

This short book or long essay (in the neighborhood of 30,000 words) provides a very different slant from the familiar canon on the subject of “future of the press.” It opens with the “popular saying” that pleads “Don’t tell my mother I’m a journalist. She thinks I play piano in a whorehouse” and goes on from there.

 

Cebrián is a very experienced journalist, the former long-time editor of the Spanish newspaper El Pais. (Introduction writer Harold Evans is the former editor of The Times and Sunday Times of London).

 

Starting with the past (“The Myth of Watergate”), Cebrián goes on to provide chapters that discuss “Hacks, Geese, and Tricksters,” “Freedom for Good Deeds,” “From Transition to the Rack,” “Value and Price” (a distinction that often is confused), “Assassins,” “The Global Paradox,” “Speaking in Tongues,” and “Life in a Blog.” His final chapter should be read by all making a career in journalism, even though it is titled “Newspaper Writers.”

 

JMK


 

Thomas E. Patterson (2013), Informing the News: The Need for Knowledge-Based Journalism. New York: Vintage Books/Random House. 258 pp. ISBN 0-978-0-345-80660-4 (paper) $15.00. (18 pp. of references; 44 pp. of notes.)

 

This important addition to the growing number of book-length essays concerned with the apparent decline of the news media is discussed at length in two related articles published in this issue of Media Ethics magazine: Robert Jensen’s “The Ideology Problem: Thomas Patterson’s Failed Technocratc Dream for Journalism” and a response by Thomas Patterson titled “A Rejoinder: The Problem with Robert Jenson’s ‘Ideology Problem.’” Media Ethics would be glad to consider additional commentary for publication in the forthcoming Fall 2014 issue.

 

JMK


 

Vincent Mosco. (2014). To the Cloud: Big Data in a Turbulent World. Boulder, Co: Paradigm Publishers. 273 pp. ISBN 978-1-61205-616-6 (paper). (Index, references).

 

Based on the premise that cloud computing is one of the most significant advances of the 21st century (thus far), Vinnie Mosco first defines and traces the history of “the cloud.” He further identifies the major companies and extensive lobbying efforts to promote the cloud cyberspace universe and its products. A Harvard-trained political economist, Mosco typically fixates upon the capitalist institutions, production, and labor relations of technologies and this book proves no exception.

 

Peering through the positivism that the cloud is the techno-salvation of our millennium, the author carefully deconstructs the seamy underbelly or “dark cloud” ethical issues often hidden under a fluffy cumulus surface. “What lies beneath” are major threats to privacy, security and the harassing of customers due to the ease of distributing marketing information about subscribers and citizens to advertisers and special interests.

 

Mosco further details the great stress cloud infrastructure places upon the environment by requiring a massive 24/7/365 electricity supply.

 

As is his habit, this author is also concerned about issues of hegemony, monopoly, information divide, and describing who really is in charge behind the curtain. This is an important book for anyone interested in seeing through the latest facelift of the IT smokescreen to the key ethical issues underneath.

 

TWC


 

Núria Almiron (2010). Journalism in Crisis: Corporate Media and Financialization. (Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press). xii + 199 pp. ISBN 978-1-57273-980-2 (hardcover). $45.00 (cloth). (Translated by William McGrath, Preface by Robert W, McChesney, Notes, References, Author and Subject indices). Tenth in a series published by the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR).

 

Prof. Almiron, who is at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, has written an interesting volume whose first three sections focus primarily on financial capitalization and financialization, finance and information, and financialization of the world’s top media. (Defining “financialization” is beyond the scope of this brief review, but not beyond the scope of the book itself, as its readers will learn to their benefit.) While these discussions and analyses are of considerable interest, are backed with a number of tables, and each results in a conclusion, those readers whose interests do not lie with the economics and political economy of the media per se will find that the fourth section, “Risks of Media Financialization for Journalism,” certainly is worth reading.

 

True, this section is only 24 pages long, but it is the product of a considerable amount of research and cogitation. The four parts of this concluding section are titled: “A Financialized Public Space: Finance and Media Convergence,” “News-Media Firms, News Messages, and Journalists at Risk,” “When Editorial Authority is an Illusion,” “The Main Risk: From Crisis to Collapse.”

 

To say any more about what this book is about would be meaningless—everyone making a living, or thinking of making a living in the news industry, should read this chapter for themselves. Few books in this field have attempted to deal with both the “small picture” (what is “editorial authority,” in practice?) and the “big picture” (from crisis to collapse). (Whether the previous sentence should end with an exclamation point or a question mark is left to the reader).

 

JMK


  

John Paul Stevens (2014). Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. (New York: Little, Brown and Company). xii +179 pp. ISBN 978-0-316-37372-2 $23.00 (hardcover). (A large print edition also is available). (Appendix, index)

 

It might be argued that a book about amending the Constitution of the United States is a long way from the subject of the ethics of the media. Even though this book was published in April of 2014, a nation-wide movement to adopt one of these six possible amendments (campaign finance) is already underway…and almost certainly all six of them will each occupy a great deal of space and time in the news media in the foreseeable future. To some extent, this book might well be thought of as a series of topographic maps of the fields of the next Constitutional battles that the media will have to cover—and live with the results, whether the amendment in question is adopted or not.

 

Justice Stevens (who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1975 until his retirement in 2010) understands the broader context of the Constitution, and the arguments that surround a half-dozen matters that Stevens believes are facing or about to face the citizens and legislatures of the nation.

 

Following a preface that discusses briefly the 27 Constitutional amendments that have been adopted during the past two centuries, as well as the procedures that need to be followed to bring a proposed amendment to fruition, Stevens focuses on six specific topics. These are:

 

The “Anti-Commandeering Rule” which prohibits the Federal government from demanding that the States enforce Federal laws.

 

Political “Gerrymandering” which allows a State legislature to draw district boundaries that ensure that the political party then in power is likely to benefit in the next election(s).

 

Campaign Finance. The need for an amendment arises because the Supreme Court, in the Citizens United case (and the even more recent McCutcheon case), has declared that money is speech, and corporate speech should not be restricted—a freedom that can trump real, live voters during a hard-fought campaign. (The “anti-Citizens United” movement already has a large number of backers in the Senate, the House, and numerous municipalities. It probably will be on the ballot in the State of Washington this year).

 

Sovereign Immunity, which protects governments (and officials) from responsibility for their actions.

 

The Death Penalty. Another currently “hot” topic.

 

The Second Amendment (gun control). Even “hotter,” particularly after the Sandy Hook, Connecticut, shootings in December 2013—an event discussed by Stevens.

 

It is likely that any reader of Media Ethics is familiar with a majority (if not all) of these topics. But it is unlikely that she or he is able to discuss them so cogently and completely. Whether or not one expects to be in the newsroom when the next amendment rises to the political surface, we are all participants in this democracy.

 

It is noteworthy that the blurbs on the back cover of this volume include praise from four serving or retired members of SCOTUS, the President of the United States, two U. S. Senators, and well-respected columnist for the Washington Post E. J. Dionne.

 

JMK


 

Barbara MacKinnon and Andrew Fiala (2014). Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues. 8th edition. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning. xi + 596 pp. ISBN 13: 978-1-285-19675-6 (paper). (Index, appendix). (Instructor’s edition available).

 

MacKinnon’s and Fiala’s text has always been a smart balance of ethical theory and application, of primary texts by philosophers (e.g. Kant, Mill, Nietzsche) and lesser known contemporary experts, of ancient wisdom and modern examples and cases. Reaching into and far beyond media ethics, this volume also includes serious issues such as bioengineering, environmental justice, pacifism, mass incarceration, racism, gay marriage, global poverty, and euthanasia.

 

In the current edition the authors have added readings from philosophers, activists, and leaders such as David Hume, Mohandes Gandhi, Richard Rorty, Anita Allen, Kwame Appiah, Angela Davis, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They have updated key statistics, added current illustrations, and created entirely new sections such as those on the ethical issues in religion and global affairs.

 

This is one of the few texts which is equally useful in both philosophy and applied ethics classes. It is designed to tantalize students with “hot” topical issues without sacrificing primary readings from the “horse’s mouth.” More than sixty key thinkers/philosophers are introduced, although most space is devoted to the classical western canon from Aristotle to Rawls.

 

TWC


 

American Association of University Professors (2014). Recommended Principles to Guide Academy-Industry Relationships. Published for the AAUP Foundation by the American Association of University Professors, and distributed by the University of Illinois Press. xi + 356 pp. ISBN 978-0-252-03824-2 (hardbound) $79.95; 978-0-252-07982-5 (paper) $24.95. (Glossary, 13 charts, appendices (including draft language for faculty handbooks and collective bargaining agreements), 770 endnotes.)

 

This new AAUP Report, probably soon to be called informally “that big Greenbook” to go along with the informal title of “Redbook” for the AAUP’s venerable AAUP Policy Documents and Reports which itself includes some eight statements dealing with ethics, is an official AAUP Report. The preface identifies Cary Nelson and Jennifer Washburn as co-authors. Nelson is a professor in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and former multi-term president of AAUP. Although this book’s analyses of the ever-increasing number of connections (financial, physical and philosophical) between American higher education and various commercial industries are definitely worth reading, the primary purpose of this volume seems to be one of reference: providing standards that are intended to sustain academic integrity and tradition while achieving “great things” in the current economic, social, and political milieu.

 

The importance of the integrity of any university (or part thereof—including both faculty and administration) to its reputation cannot be overstated. As academic institutions grow to resemble corporations in myriad ways, they must be able to take pains to ensure that they don’t also adopt all of the ethical standards and terminology of big business.

 

But this volume goes well beyond a deontological “here’s the rule you should follow” approach. Its 54 recommended principles are accompanied by solid discussions of each rule, tied to analyses of six of the major risks of academy-industry engagement. These consist of: violations of academic freedom and researcher autonomy; restricted access to data and suppression of negative results; threats to open science, knowledge sharing, and timely publication; financial conflicts of interest; research bias and unreliability associated with corporate funding; and the absence of legal protection to safeguard research integrity and academic freedom in industry-sponsored research contracts.

 

A potentially very useful volume, particularly when dealing directly with corporate business, or with those who are involved anywhere in the process.

 

JMK