PR professionals and journalists talk ethics

Columbia+College+students+Briana+Davidson%2C+English+and+dance+education+double+major%2C+and+Melvonia+Taylor%2C+media+writing+major%2C+attend+SCPRSA+luncheon.+Pictured+left+to+right%3A+Charles+Bierbauer%2C+former+dean+of+the+College+of+Information+and+Communications+at+USC%3B+Davidson%3B+Taylor+and+Shannon+Bowen%2C+Ph.D.%2C+professor+in+USC%E2%80%99s+School+of+Journalism+and+Mass+Communication.+Photo+credit%3A+Emily+Ward%2C+Columbia+College+Public+Relations+and+Media+Writing+program+coordinator.
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PR professionals and journalists talk ethics

Columbia College students Briana Davidson, English and dance education double major, and Melvonia Taylor, media writing major, attend SCPRSA luncheon. Pictured left to right: Charles Bierbauer, former dean of the College of Information and Communications at USC; Davidson; Taylor and Shannon Bowen, Ph.D., professor in USC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Photo credit: Emily Ward, Columbia College Public Relations and Media Writing program coordinator.

Columbia College students Briana Davidson, English and dance education double major, and Melvonia Taylor, media writing major, attend SCPRSA luncheon. Pictured left to right: Charles Bierbauer, former dean of the College of Information and Communications at USC; Davidson; Taylor and Shannon Bowen, Ph.D., professor in USC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Photo credit: Emily Ward, Columbia College Public Relations and Media Writing program coordinator.

Columbia College students Briana Davidson, English and dance education double major, and Melvonia Taylor, media writing major, attend SCPRSA luncheon. Pictured left to right: Charles Bierbauer, former dean of the College of Information and Communications at USC; Davidson; Taylor and Shannon Bowen, Ph.D., professor in USC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Photo credit: Emily Ward, Columbia College Public Relations and Media Writing program coordinator.

Columbia College students Briana Davidson, English and dance education double major, and Melvonia Taylor, media writing major, attend SCPRSA luncheon. Pictured left to right: Charles Bierbauer, former dean of the College of Information and Communications at USC; Davidson; Taylor and Shannon Bowen, Ph.D., professor in USC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Photo credit: Emily Ward, Columbia College Public Relations and Media Writing program coordinator.

Melvonia Taylor, editor

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The South Carolina Public Relations Society of America hosted a luncheon at the Municipal Association of South Carolina in downtown Columbia Sept. 21.

With September being Ethics Month for PRSA chapters, the theme was “Restoring Trust and Truth in an Era of Alternative Facts.”

The panelists at the luncheon were Shannon Bowen, Ph.D., professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of South Carolina; and Jen Madden, assistant director of the South Carolina Press Association.

The moderator was Charles Bierbauer, retired dean of USC’s College of Information and Communications.

Bierbauer opened with the journalism perspective of ethics and the topic of fake news since it has become a prevalent topic in today’s society.

He quoted Carl Bernstein, American investigative journalist who reported on the Watergate scandal: “Our job as journalists is to seek ‘the best obtainable version of the truth.’”

Bierbauer also addressed the difference between false news and fake news. In reference to fake news, he gave the example of the 1996 bombing at the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. Referring to coverage by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, “The truth evolved over time, but it was not fake news,” Bierbauer said. “Fake news is information that was purposely meant to mislead.”

“If it is fake, it is not news,” Bierbauer said.

Bowen addressed the importance of ethics in public relations. She opened with a tweet from James Andrews, vice president of global public relations firm Ketchum, who tweeted about Memphis before presenting to Fedex’s communications department, according to an article by Jim Edwards’s, CBS News reporter.

Andrews tweeted, “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, ‘I would die if I had to live here!’”

“How would you feel on the receiving end of that message?” Bowen asked.

She said as PR practitioners, one should

  • Be the best source of information
  • Establish responsibility
  • Encourage the good
  • Build community
  • Enhance relationships
  • Be ethical because it’s the right thing to do

Madden spoke about ethics in reference to mass media. She addressed her concern with the public’s inability to notice the difference between an article written by a trained professional and an everyday citizen.

Madden said the jobs of media professionals have become more important to ensure the stories and content shared are factual. “Consistently post good content that is edited and fact-checked,” she said.

Madden also addressed the importance of transparency and honesty. “If you don’t know something, say you don’t know it, but you’ll find the answer, and get back to them within a timely manner.”

SCPRSA celebrated 50 years of being an official chapter Sept. 21. Kelly Davis, SCPRSA president, gave a brief history of the chapter.

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