Opening Remarks

1995 Helen and Cecil Rose Ethics and Communication Conference

J. Gregory Payne Chairman, Division of Communication Studies
Steve Scott Undergraduate; President of the Student Government Association
Philip Amato Vice President and Academic Dean

To open The Helen and Cecil Rose Ethics and Communication Conference, it's a pleasure to introduce the undergraduate Student Body President, Steve Scott... Steve?

Hi. Thank you. The first thing I wanted to do is just say how wonderful it is to see just great numbers at 10:00 AM on a Thursday -- I'm kind of surprised and enthused by that!

Emerson College, as a leader in the field of communication, has a right and a responsibility to take an active role in evaluating as important an issue as ethics in the media -- especially given its recent attention. That's why when I first heard from Dr. Payne about this panel discussion and all-day activity, I was immediately excited and pleased that experts could interact with our students.

As a four-year student of Emerson College, I've heard a lot about the change and the transition that has occurred within the media in the past four years, and within the past decade especially. I've heard a lot the phrase, "We've moved from being communicators to manipulators of our social truths." With that change also becomes a greater responsibility of ethical questions. As I look around here, I see so many people who will be the communicators of tomorrow, including some of my peers, and [I recall] questions I've already heard asked about the dormitories. I've heard [them] asked about the dining hall for years now, and I think that it's good to get such an exchange as we're going to have throughout this entire day. This is a wonderful chance for many students at this college to really get insights into such an important topic.

I know there are many speakers today, so I'm not going to take up too much of your time. I would now like to introduce Vice President of the College and Academic Dean, Phil Amato, who has been here much longer than I have.

Thank you. Good morning. And on behalf of the college it's my pleasure to welcome you here to The Helen and Cecil Rose Ethics and Communication Conference. Through the generosity of the Rose family and the efforts of Dr. Payne and his staff, we have before us today a wonderful day-long conference that will address some of the most promising [laughter] -- but, at least, pressing ethical issues and problems in communication today. The conference brings together a number of prominent professionals and academics from a variety of communication areas to address the issues they confront on a daily basis in their professional careers, and we're quite fortunate to have them here with us today.

I can recall a rather provocative and exciting seminar on ethics that I took as an undergraduate nearly forty years ago. We discussed at length and with great passion the issues of ethics as they related to communication. We dealt with the pros and cons of rhetoric, we examined the methods and techniques of the Sophists, the demagogues, ideologues and propagandists. We concluded that the answer to the evils of misinformation and unethical communication conveyed consciously or unconsciously, was an educated, enlightened audience. Our reasoning went something like this: The more educated the public, the less effective the misinformation. The broader the audience, the greater the probability that misinformation would be detected and countered. We also concluded that mass media would make it difficult for misinformation to succeed. There are those who would say that we were hopelessly naive. I don't think so. I think we may have underestimated the time and effort it might take to achieve such goals. I think we were naive in comprehending the staying power of specious rhetorical devices -- but the premises are not flawed.

Today's conference represents the commitment that many scholars and professionals and practitioners have made to the study of ethics in communication and the need for an ongoing examination of the issues related to responsible communication. As the demarcation lines between news and entertainment, between fact and fiction, and between truth and reality generated in part by technological advancements and in part by profit-moders, the need for examination and introspection by those of us in communication becomes crucial. Hopefully, this conference will help us meet those needs, help us to elevate the debate, and help us to better understand the dynamic role of ethics in communication in an ever changing global environment. Again I invite you to partake and participate in today's activities and I wish you a provocative and exciting day. Thank you. [applause]

I'd like to ask you to take a look at your program, because as Phil and Steve have said, there's a very exciting opportunity for you to relate with some cutting-edge professionals. We'll try to limit our comments to be as brief as possible. Each of our individuals is presenting a five-minute synopsis of some ethical issues they find inherent in their particular professions.

In the first panel, we see a group of individuals and leaders in the areas of marketing, advertising, [public relations, and the press.] Lisa Roghaar, who will moderate, is going to tell you more about that. Later on today, we're going to have a keynote speech by Rance Crain, who many of you follow in his various publications. He is known for Advertising Age by all of our "EmCom" people who read it judiciously.

We're then going to have a very exciting panel this afternoon that will delve into a very important issue regarding the mediated realities that we face; that is, the docudrama format, and in particular the Academy Award nominee Quiz Show. For that we have producers, we have historians, and we have individuals who are experts in that era. Judy and Michael Kletter have put out a marvelous amount of effort in bringing together some of the best people in the country to talk on this issue. So I invite you to come back and to partake in that.

Afterwards, for students or visitors to Emerson College, we have receptions lasting fifteen to twenty minutes in which you can pick the minds of these guests. Later this evening, we'll have someone addressing what seems to be a very slippery issue in politics and ethics in communication: That's Ken Andersen, one of the leading scholars in ethics in communication, who many of you know from the University of Illinois. Right now, it's a pleasure to give you someone who's got a very tough time keeping people to five minutes and then keeping the questions brief. It's someone who I know hasn't lost debates in our division, Lisa Roghaar.

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