Thursday, November 30, 2006

Financial conflict of interest

As part of our defining exercise, suggested by Appiah and other scholars, we should be clear on what a financial conflict of interest is and how it affects our behavior in the working world. If you are still unclear on this issue, please google the term "financial conflict of interest," and we'll be discussing why our democratic society has decided that this is a necessary concept for a more open, transparent and egalitarian government. Charities, universities, school districts, hospitals, businesses of all sorts and local government also establish and enforce financial conflict of interest policies. These policies usually focus on helping leaders of an organization avoid the real or perceived conflict between their job duties and their connections in the outside world. Often, leaders of organizations have a lot of these connections--that's why they are leaders. So, these policies help them navigate the landscape of these connections and their obligations to employers, employees, customers, students, patients or others.

Discussed under this framework, then, we don't have to see financial conflict of interest as one of Appiah's "saving truths" (see next post on a similar topic). It is simply the way business of all sorts should be conducted in an open society. If you aren't familiar with the history of Tammany Hall in the U.S. ( and the idea of "honest graft" (or financial conflict of interest) or with the current black-market situation in Russia, then perhaps you'll need to study these historical conditions to understand why the concept of financial conflict of interest is important.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Saving truth

We're not trying to save truth, of course, but we are working on speaking truth to others from our corner of the world, to listen, and to debate. In order to discuss what might be considered by Appiah to be "saving truth," we must first be respectful of those speaking, and we must make an effort to become informed before entering the conversation. The first part of the PR process is research--we spent one long class discussion talking about vocabulary and other methods of gaining clarity for discussion.

So, let me start the defining, and I invite those of you who are interested to respond in class next week or in your own bit of blog space. My own saving truth? Well, for those of you who have been paying attention, it is only this: that money should never be the reason that we make important decisions, and that accepting money despite conflict of interest is a hypocritical and self-interested choice. If we want to strive, at least occasionally, to live in a world where everybody matters, where Appiah's cosmopolitanism is at least considered, then choosing money over ethics means that we're probably exploiting the weakness of some out group, to gain something for ourselves. The lessons of Enron, etc., are clear on this--if you have your corporate hand out for easy cash, there is a cost being incurred by someone, somewhere.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Article on American Diabetes Association and its reliance on big pharma dollars

We'll discuss Wednesday--and this will also be the blog topic o' the week.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Discussions of difference

As we discussed in class Wednesday, write about your conversation of similarities and differences with a classmate. We'll be discussing your conversations Monday, looking over the AP Stylebook, and continuing our work with cosmopolitanism. What relevance does cosmopolitanism have in our future work as PR professionals? Where can it take us?

Friday, November 10, 2006

A link that might be helpful

Visit and use its search engine to find stories that might be relevant to your case study (see guidelines, below). While this site might not have stories specifically about your organization, it probably does have information about the industry or type of organization that you're studying.

If you still are looking for a suitable case (for instance, if I told you that your case study was too old or overdone), then this might be a good place to brainstorm another idea. Be sure to email me if you are having trouble.

Case study guidelines for JOUR 4470

[If you're in JOUR 2420, go to that blog:]

For your upcoming semester-end assignment for JOUR 4470, here are the guidelines. For your blogging this week, provide 5-6 links to web information that illuminates your case study, either by providing background about the case itself, or by providing research relevant to your case (e.g., a study showing average CEO salaries, if you are writing about compensation). Develop an outline for your case that makes sense in terms of the story you want to tell.

Basically, it should go like this:

Introduction (a beginning anecdote, as discussed in class);

Background and review of scholarship (here’s where you tell the story leading up to the case, and you review existing research that is pertinent to your case);

Objectives, before execution or communication/action phase (these may be conjecture); and possibly, reconstruction of four parts of PR process (this is the “what happened” part of paper);

Discussion of the case (your analysis and evaluation of “what happened”), through the two models of utilitarianism and communitarianism, with principles;

Conclusion (theirs and yours, perhaps).

Other assignment requirements

12-15 pages, double-spaced (if using bullets, that part should be single-spaced, i.e. timelines)

References page using APA style (not footnotes); appendix with vital documents

Use of PR ethics textbook vocabulary and concepts (“humaneness,” etc.)

Few if any errors in spelling, grammar, etc.

Headings for sections of paper

Place similar information in proximity to other similar information, so that paper isn’t repetitive or hard to follow

Carefully cite outside sources, using attribution for ideas and words that are not your own

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

To help our conversation ...

... please read the interview with Appiah, at the Washington Post.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Toyota and Nissan, and their connection to slave labor in Brazil

Read all about this at Bloomberg News, link below. This story is similar to the one last week in the NYTimes, which profiled a 6-year-old boy in Ghana, who bailed water out of a fishing boat all day, with two small meals and wearing his only clothes, a T-shirt and underwear. He had been "sold" to the boat's owner for about $35 a year by his starving family.

As we begin to talk about Appiah's Cosmopolitanism, we will be asking ourselves: What is our connection to people living and working in these horrible conditions? What is our economy's connection? In a so-called "global economy," shouldn't our consciousness of these connections increase? Don't businesses have an obligation to search throughout their entire supply chains for acceptable working conditions and ethical practices?

A couple of extra links for another presentation:

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

One-page proposal due Monday

You'll write a one-page proposal for Monday, to let me know what you are doing for your final project. To select a good case study, be sure to keep in mind that we are most interested in looking at the communications part of a business problem/opportunity, and that we'll also need a fairly substantial ethics dimension to study. In addition, you'll want to have a narrow focus, rather than on a large and roaming issue that has lasted a long time.

As part of this proposal, please explain why this is a good case, and then what you already know and what you will need to discover. Really, this proposal is for yourself, to determine where you stand with an idea, to determine whether that idea is feasible, and how much work you'll have to do before semester's end. Please email me with questions.

Also, please bring your AP Stylebook to class, along with Appiah's Cosmopolitanism.