According to Philip Paterson and Lee Wilkins, co-authors of Media Ethics: Issues & Cases, “Ethics, it is argued, is something you have, not something you do,” (Patterson & Wilkins, 2011). Any current or rising professional in the communications field should have at least a basic knowledge of ethics. However, in order to become a successful individual in public relations, journalism or broadcasting, one must have a solid foundation of knowledge on this particular subject. With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to take a media ethics class this semester — particularly since I only possessed a vague idea of what having “ethics” meant. Initially, I thought “ethics” was interchangeable with “morals,” but I quickly learned I was mistaken. Ethics and morals are actually two separate entities: ethics is a rational process based on certain agreed upon principles while morals is a system influenced by religion (Patterson & Wilkins, 2011). Also, ethics has been shaped around various philosophical premises.

Right now, you may be asking yourself, “When do I use ethics?” Well, you utilize this process when you find yourself faced with a dilemma where there really is no right or wrong answer. In these situations, you must choose the “best answer” according to your ethical principles. So, now you’re asking, “What are ethical principles?” and that is where philosophy comes into play. Philosophical theories such as Aristotle’s Golden Mean (virtue lies between extremes,) Kant’s Categorical Imperative (act as if your choices are universal law and treat others as an end, not a means) and Utilitarianism (the rightness of your act is determined by its contribution to a desirable end) are typically consulted during the decision making process (Patterson & Wilkins, 2011). Using such philosophical principles will help you to figure out the “best answer” to your dilemma. However, each individual may choose a different principle to abide by, since each depend on the practitioner’s personal moral and ethical values. Using these philosophical principles will help you to figure out the “best answer” to your dilemma.

So, why is it important to study ethics? Well, studying this topic helps your decision-making process by providing you with the tools and skills necessary to choose the best solution for a problem. Also, you have a better chance at living a life founded on important values such as integrity which enhance your credibility as a communications professional, or in my case specifically, a public relations practitioner.



Patterson, P., & Wilkins, L. (2011). Media ethics: Issues & cases. (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Professional Development

As a full-time communication student who works somewhere between part and full time every week, it is difficult for me to find enough free time which would allow me to actively participate in organizations on campus. However, I do try to attend as many meetings as possible for Western Carolina University’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Typically, PRSSA’s members are communication majors with a public relations concentration, but all communication majors are welcome to join the professional organization. The chapter holds executive board meetings every Monday and regular member meetings every other Monday. These meetings are used to discuss general business such as fundraisers, what is going on with the chapter and clients for CatCom, WCU’s student run public relations firm. In addition to PRSSA’s regular meetings, the executive board holds professional development workshops such as teaching members how to develop a strong resume, build a LinkedIn account and maintain a professional Twitter. Also, the organization brings in public relations professionals as guest speakers to outline and help prepare its members for what to expect once they enter the communication industry after graduation.

I recently worked the sign in/revenue collection booth for the PRSSA’s latest and most successful fundraiser event: The Dress for Success Fashion Show. This show featured WCU students demonstrating what styles of clothing are acceptable to wear in both casual and formal business settings while strutting down a catwalk. This event also included a “what not to wear” category. When the models, if you will, reached the end of the runway, their outfits were critiqued by a panel of judges. Three of the best dressed examples were given prizes. So far, this event has been the only one I have actively been able to participate in due to my current schedule.

Next semester, since I only have Tuesday/Thursday classes, my schedule of availability will be much more flexible. So, I plan to make more appearances at PRSSA’s meetings and become a more active member within the organization. I hope to participate in additional organizations on campus, such as CatCom, as well. Also, in order to further my professional development while I am still in school, I plan to run for one of the executive board roles, such as treasurer or perhaps vice-president, in PRSSA once voting begins for the new executive board members in the fall.

Interview with Kim McCarl

I was given an assignment to interview a professional in the communication field. The purpose of the interview was to gain firsthand, insightful information on what goes on in the professional world after college. During a job shadow at Element Advertising in Asheville, NC, I asked Kim McCarl, the agency’s public relations strategist/account director, if she would be interested in an interview. She gladly obliged and welcomed my questions with a smile.

Kim received a Bachelor of Science in public relations from Northern Arizona University. She is also accredited in public relations (APR) by the Public Relations Society of America. She has over 20 years of PR, strategic marketing and public affairs experience in the communication field. Her responsibilities at the agency, aside from being Element’s PR strategist and account director, include client management, project management and media relations. She also commonly finds herself writing PR plans for clients. Every work day and project is different, so a professional never knows exactly what to expect. However, generally, Kim’s daily tasks include interfacing with clients, outreaching and networking with publications and overall, making positive connections with people. A so-called typical day for her at Element consists of emailing, researching, reading and interacting with clients. Kim also said: “My day is all about communication, integration and project management.”

Kim said every professional needs to comply with the Code of Ethics set by PRSA. She also said people in the PR profession must always remember to be truthful and open with clients. In addition, when working with clients, the professional must prepare the client for any PR situations, such as what questions may be asked, key messages and overall, how to communicate with the press to ensure the client gets fair and accurate coverage.

Kim said in order to succeed in the industry, there are certain skills rising professionals must possess for a job in communications, particularly one concentrating on public relations. According to Kim, the skills needed to become a successful professional include: good written, oral, project management, strategic, analytic and interpersonal skills along with a working knowledge of the Associated Press Style Book. Also, as a professional, you must “read a lot – know what is going on in the world either locally or internationally because it is your job to be, and stay, informed.” She recommended PR professionals to undergo the process to become accredited by PRSA: “I found the APR process to be very valuable.” She also said to keep in mind that “there is a strategy and art involved in PR.”

My interview with Kim was a very positive experience. Thanks to her expertise and years of experience in the field, I now have a better grasp of what to expect after graduation. This interview assignment ended up being very beneficial because I know I will be able to use this newly found knowledge throughout my future career as a PR professional.

Job Shadow at Element Advertising

I was recently given an assignment to job shadow and interview a professional in the communication field. Element Advertising in Asheville, NC kindly agreed to be my host for a day. After a few emails back and forth with the agency’s co-owner/creative director/brand strategist, Jack Becker, we were able to set up a shadowing day over spring break.

I immediately felt at home when I entered Element Advertising. The agency’s brightly painted orange doors open into a spacious room where desks and workspaces are neatly organized against pale walls. As I closed the door and stepped into the agency, I was warmly welcomed by Mackenzie Sedelbauer, Element’s project manager and traffic coordinator. She directed me to an empty table at the back of the room where I could place my things and said to make myself at home while I waited for Jack, my mentor for the day, to arrive.

Jack entered the agency at promptly 9 a.m. After our initial meet and greet, he introduced me to the rest of the staff and led a tour of the quaint two-roomed agency. We sat at a long table in the meeting room located in the back of the agency, discussed the day’s agenda and had a quick Q & A session about his clients and my background. After we finished learning a little more about each other, Jack showed me the extensive resume of a potential employee and the portfolio of a freelance photographer who would shortly be meeting the “executive team” for interviews, which I was to observe.

The first interview was for Adam, an experienced video game designer, marketing consultant and strategist. The interview took place in the meeting room and the setting was very comfortable. Over coffee, the “executive team” discussed Adam’s extensive experience in the marketing industry and brainstormed ideas with Adam of how his skills could contribute to an ongoing project they are working on for a major client. The second interviewee was a young freelance photographer named Susannah. The interview, like the last, was very comfortable and the team went over her portfolio.

After the interviews, I sat in on a “team status” meeting between Mackenzie and Kim, Element’s account director and public relations strategist. The two hold these meetings once a week in addition to Element’s usual staff meetings that take place at the beginning of each week. Mackenzie and Kim use these team status meetings as an opportunity to look over/make changes to ongoing client project schedules and to confirm that all staff members are completing their project assignments in a timely manner.

When the team status meeting was complete, I peered over the graphic design team’s shoulders and spoke with Mackenzie about her background in PR. After a mini-interview with her, Jack declared it was time to take an hour off for lunch and invited me to join him and a few members of his team for barbeque. Those of us who were going out for barbeque crammed ourselves into Jack’s car. After an hour of comfort food and pleasant conversation, we headed back to the agency. When we made it back to Element, I conducted an interview with Kim, which will be discussed in my upcoming “interview” blog post.

Overall, I had a wonderful shadowing experience at Element. It was a great chance to meet and speak with the professionals at the agency. The day provided me with excellent networking opportunities and it was interesting being able to observe Element’s interviewing process. I left the agency with helpful tips and a heightened knowledge of the industry that I will be able to use as I move closer to graduation. The time I spent at Element has left me eagerly awaiting the day when I will be able to begin working in the field.

Sunrise in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Photographed by: Channing Lovett

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