Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Truth in Advertising

By Layne Palmer

Our readings for today center around the idea of truth. They encourage us to examine our industry more closely, especially in the area of advertising, in order to ensure that images and messages communicated through advertising adhere to the same standards of truth and ethics to which we hold other forms of journalism.

While it is easy to jump into a heated discussion about what is ethical in journalism and what isn't, I don't think this is where the conversation should begin. Rather, we must address a bigger issue before we can assess the nature of the messages communicated through advertising. As journalists, the bigger question is this: WHO is responsible for monitoring what the public sees on TV or in magazines?

Some may argue that as a result of the freedom of speech and expression that we enjoy in this country, advertisers should be allowed to produce all types of ads, even those that may not promote messages that are healthy for our society. For example, fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana have been known for their oftentimes scandalous ads that objectify women and place them in submissive and sexually vulnerable positions. While many speak out against such representations in the media, their are others who firmly believe these sorts of portrayals should be allowed - after all, Dolce & Gabbana is one of the most succesful high-end designers in the world, so clearly these images are selling the product.

However, others see it as the responsibility of advertisers to monitor what the public sees in the media. As journalists, we are encouraged to contribute to society in a positive, truthful way, and some argue that ads such as the Dolce & Gabbana ads, which communicate messages of violence and oppression, cannot be the work of ethical journalists.

Regardless of which camp you're in, the point here is that we cannot begin to address HOW to communicate more positive, truthful images and messages in the media until we identify WHO is responsible for making such decisions. Until that point comes, the media will continue to be saturated with less than ethical messages. However, if we can find a way to identify the responsible party, our industry will be one step closer to producing truly ethical and responsible journalistic work.

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