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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Resources for Educators & Students


A light snow falls on the Abraham Lincoln statue in front of Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during winter on Dec. 28, 2015. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)


Ethics in a Nutshell provides an overview of ethics and journalism ethics. It identifies the major approaches to ethics and models of ethical reasoning. The nature of ethics, range of ethics, theoretical and applied ethics, and types of theories are discussed.

Soon to be legacy, rows of card catalogue drawers are pictured in the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 29, 2012. in May 2012, the library will remove the last of its card catalogues, completing a quarter-century transition to an online record system for books, journals and more. One row of built-in cases will remain as part of a historic display. More than 100 cases are being sold through UW Surplus With A Purpose (SWAP), and 6,700 drawers of cards are being recycled. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)


Digital Media Ethics deals with the distinct ethical problems, practices and norms of digital news media. Digital news media includes online journalism, blogging, digital photojournalism, citizen journalism and social media. It includes questions about how professional journalism should use this ‘new media’ to research and publish stories, as well as how to use text or images provided by citizens.

Lake Mendota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, including Alumni Park and the Memorial Union Terrace, are pictured in an early morning aerial taken from a helicopter on Oct. 23, 2018. (Photo by Bryce Richter /UW-Madison)


Global Media Ethics addresses development of a comprehensive set of principles and standards for the practice of journalism in an age of global news media. New forms of communication are reshaping the practice of a once parochial craft serving a local, regional or national public.

On Dec. 2, 2010, international correspondent for the New York Times Anthony Shadid (center) speaks to a group of journalism students in a Vilas Hall classroom at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Shadid is a UW-Madison alumnus and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)


The Shadid Curriculum draws from the journalism of those who have won or been named a finalist of the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics, and encourages student journalists to place themselves in the position of making difficult journalistic decisions.

Teaching Ethics

Logo for the "Media Ethics Division" of the Association for Educators of Journalism and Mass Communication

These teaching resources, which are compiled by the Media Ethics Division of the AEJMC (Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication), cover a broad range of materials for teaching media or journalism ethics, including advertising, public relations and entertainment ethics.

Title/Link Author
Communication Law & Ethics Joan Conners
Combined Law & Ethics Jack Breslin
Sustainable Brands Erin Schauster
Media Law & Ethics Nicole Kraft
Media Ethics Lee Wilkins
Mass Media Ethics & Social Issues Kristen Alley Swain
The Meaning of (Virtual) Life Sandra Borden
Media Ethics & Issues Patrick Plaisance
Communications Ethics Seminar Wendy Wyatt
Communications Ethics Seminar Virginia Whitehouse
Professional & Research Ethics in Communication Kati Tusinski Berg
Media Ethics Maggie Patterson
Ethics & Issues in Mass Communication Jan Leach
Communication Ethics Sandra Borden

Title/Link Author
Media Ethics Student Portfolios

Collection of students' personal code of ethics across disciplines

Michael Bugeja
The Monster Exercise

Spotting the "monster" in news media

Paulette D. Kilmer
Code of Ethics

Study a variety of codes of ethics and develop your own

Keith Herndon
Personal Code of Ethics

Write a personal code of ethics for your ideal job

Deborah Dwyer
Ethics in the News

Present on a news topic that happened in the last seven days

Deborah Dwyer
Case Study Grading Rubric

Criteria, scale and rubric for grading

Ann Auman
Media Ethics Class Group Activity

Choose a medium (e.g., TV, radio) and discuss how well they covered an event

Bill Babcock
Creating a Class Case Portfolio

Choose a profession you'd like, find two cases in that field and write about them

Ginny Whitehouse
Join Listserv

Joining two different classes online

Thomas Cooper
Advocacy Communication

Using empathy and reflection in ethics

Jacqui Lowman

For instant class polling

Wendy Wyatt
Falling Man

Documentary for discussion

Paulette Kilmer
Comic Books in the Classroom

Basic theory and well-known philosophers in comic book format

Thomas Bivins
Media Non-Transparency

Summary on non-transparency and two hands-on activities

Katerina Tsetsura
Ethics in the Workplace Roleplay

Role play activity for up to four groups

Jack Breslin
Learning the Language of Interviews

Interview and transcribe to think through plagiarism

Michael Longinow
Who Doesn’t Like Chocolate?

A way to increase class participation

Norman Lewis
Sociology of Journalism & Media Ethics

Contextualize ethics with the sociology of journalism

Dane Claussen
Teaching Potter’s Box

Pairing Potter's Box framework with a movie

John Williams
Media Ethics Goes to the Movies

"Issue spotting" in movies

Jane Kirtley
Teaching Agenda: Mentoring Method

One use of the socratic method

Beverly Merrick
International Approach

Making a Model U.N. to consider ethics from international perspectives

Tom Cooper
Ethical Evaluation of Campaign Ads

Assessing real-life campaign ads

Lois Boynton
What Do We Mean by an Ethical “Value”?

Reflections on value

Jack Breslin
Engaging with SPJ Code of Ethics

Applying the code of ethics to real-life scenarios

Stephanie Bluestein
Truth Journal

Journal on how often you lie/feel lied to

Donica Mensing
Ethics of Quote Approval

Learn and assess application of quote approvals

Mike McDevitt
Ethical Implications of Empathic Listening

Role play to understand importance of empathic listening

Mike McDevitt
Media Ethics Assignment Paper

Paper prompt for researching "ethics"

Jacquelyn Lowman
Brass Check Presentations

Read a chapter of "Brass Check" and make a group presentation

Ryan Thomas
What Would Aristotle Do?

Students summarize a philosopher and bring handouts to class

Jacqueline Marino
Intensive Case Studies

Capstone team project to assess case studies around a topic

Jane Singer
Z-Five Card Writing

Personal reflection and prompting exercise

Beverly Merrick
Case Study Project

Choose a real-world scenario/interview those around it

Kim Walsh-Childers
Journalist Interview Assignment

Interview a journalist about their real-life ethical decision-making

Kim Walsh-Childers
Ethics Bowl

Team-based exercise around an ethics case study

Sandra Borden
Ethics Issue of the Day

Partners present on a current communication ethics issue to the class

Wendy Wyatt
Ethical Profile

Profile a communication professional about an ethical issue, paper and presentation prompt

Wendy Wyatt
PR Role Plays

Role play exercises for up to six groups

Jack Breslin
Use of Influence Tactics

Introduce students to influencing tactics, powerpoint slides included

Marlene S. Neill & Katie R. Place

Title/Link Author
Teaching Tips & Tools Presenters from the Media Ethics and Mass Communication & Society division (2018)
Entertainment - The X Factor in your Media Ethics Course Sandy Borden
Before Teaching Ethics, Stop Kidding Yourself Gordon Marino
True, False, Both, Neither? Using Documentary Film in Teaching Journalism Ethics Stephanie Craft