Diederich College Initiative on Communication Ethics, Values and Social Justice

The Diederich College Initiative on Communication Ethics, Values and Social Justice (DCI) was created by and for college faculty to initiate and sustain a variety of activities among faculty and students that would investigate various dimensions of communication ethics, values and social justice.

Underwritten by the generous funding provided by William Burleigh, scholarly activities promoted by the DCI include, among others:

  1. Issuing position papers and promoting scholarship on pressing public issues in concert with an interdisciplinary team of researchers in the Diederich College of Communication.

  2. Identifying trends, conducting surveys, and disseminating important information on critical public policy issues.

  3. Convening conferences and publishing proceedings and papers and inviting nationally and internationally recognized scholars to participate in seminars and public lectures. Our annual Burleigh Ethics Lecture series is a prominent ongoing component in this mix.

We are pleased to announce the DCI’s first annual Summer Research Grant award recipients, along with a description of their exciting summer research projects:

Journalistic Storytelling and the Problem of Truth-telling: Rehabilitating the Concept of Truth in Journalism Discourse

Dr. Karen Slattery, Department of Journalism and Media Studies

This funded research study defends the idea of truth as a touchstone for journalists in a new media environment. It begins by examining the standards and practices of journalism, which emerged in the old media environment and were embodied in the profession’s ethical codes. The codes are based on the concept of truth telling, which is understandable given the historical context in which the codes came about; they evolved in an era when journalism was seen as an essential mechanism of self-governance. The codes are under attack, at least indirectly, by those who deny the existence of truth. Dr. Slattery will argue that truth is an enduring concept that still has value and she calls upon philosophical traditions to defend that claim, specifically, correspondence and coherence theories of truth, and a tradition that draws on those theories and is further elaborated by Thurgood. This paper argues that the professional ethical codes contain core values that remain relevant and essential to the practice of journalism in the digital age. Underpinning Dr. Slattery’s argument is the claim that journalism, as traditionally understood, is still essential to self-governance and will remain so until it is replaced by another mechanism of equal value or utility. That mechanism has yet to emerge.


Research and Outreach Assistance for the Design and Production of Boys Next Door

Stephen Hudson-Mairet and Debra Krajec, Department of Digital Media and Performing Arts

This DCI grant supports the design and overall production of “The Boys Next Door” by Tom Griffin. Hudson-Mairet and Krajec will rely on a multi-tiered approach for this creative endeavor. This funding will be used to extend outreach to the Marquette and greater Milwaukee community to build awareness of the lives of people with cognitive disabilities and mental illness and provide assistance with the design process of the production itself.

Proposed outcomes include an open sharing website developed for outreach to the greater Marquette and Milwaukee communities, community connections, and a meaningful production. This play has cross disciplinary applications on campus with several potential connections to various areas of study including nursing, psychology, and social welfare and justice. Hudson-Mairet and Krajec anticipate chronicling the production activities for possible publication in the future.


Applying The Risk Information Seeking And Processing Model to Sexual Aggression Inflicted on Young Women

Dr. Jim Pokrywczynski, Department of Strategic Communication and Gregory J. Calhoun, M.A. Graduate, Marquette University

While a plethora of researchers have studied risk factors related to sexual violence, few studies have explored what differences account for the various ways women seek and process information about sexual violence. The study seeks to accomplish this by applying the Risk Information Seeking and Processing model (RISP) to the risk of sexual aggression among young women 18-25. RISP has been utilized to effectively explore the individual traits that influence how people seek and process risk information in a number of contexts. This work is an extension of work done by Greg Calhoun in his Marquette College of Communication thesis completed in 2012 that focused on only full-time female undergraduates at Marquette. By expanding the sample nationally and outside a college campus environment, Dr. Pokrywczynski and Mr. Calhoun will introduce a richer set of insights into the different communication environments that play a role in influencing how knowledgeable vulnerable segments in society are regarding sexual aggression. An added component, not addressed in Mr. Calhoun’s previous work, several message themes will be investigated that could be used in ads and persuasive message forms. These themes will also be tested for their resonance with respondents.


The “Hope for Athens” Historical Timeline Project

Danielle Beverly, Department of Digital Media and Performing Arts

The “Hope for Athens” Historical Timeline Project is designed to supplement and complement the reach of a feature length documentary titled “Old South”, which investigates racial conflict in a Southern neighborhood. Unlike the film, which specifically tracks 3+ years in the historically African American neighborhood, the Historical Timeline reaches back 150 years to see how this neighborhood was a thriving black community for 140 of those years, and then dramatically shifted due to gentrification and encroachment by an elite, white college fraternity known to fly a confederate flag and hold a yearly antebellum parade. Primary sources including census data, Sanborn Maps, original photographs, oral histories of residents (including new ones), and short video interviews will be procured, catalogued and then integrated into the interactive web-based timeline. Residents and community stakeholders will be invited to contribute their own memorabilia and content though open storytelling portals. Recognized historians will vet the research, the process and the outcomes. Launching during the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, “Hope for Athens” will be a robust, interactive 150 year picture of one block in Athens, GA – one that is highly emblematic of rapidly gentrifying and racially shifting communities across the American South.


Investigating Predictors of Preferences for Deliberative Qualities of Political Conversations Using the Analytic Hierarchy Process

Dr. Sumana Chattopadhyay, Department of Digital Media and Performing Arts and Dave Brinker, Jr. Graduate Assistant, Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, Pennsylvania State University

Deliberation is the cornerstone of every democracy. A healthy civic life cannot exist without citizens who are engaged with the political deliberative process. Recent studies of public deliberation have centered on how procedural discourse can improve public discourse or citizenship, measured in terms of post-exposure traits of citizen participants in deliberative events.

This paper examines a method for understanding how citizens approach deliberation before participating in deliberative events. An initial study used a unique method incorporating a portion of Saaty’s (1980) Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) to force pairwise choices between each of the deliberative qualities, resulting in a preference ranking. This ranking was shown to be statistically related to culturally-informed political worldview. This suggests that when ideal political discourse is not possible, respondents would prefer different types of discourse based on their political disposition.

We propose a replication and extension of the earlier study to extend the application of the AHP to document the consistency between the forced-choice rankings and the perceptions of the qualities of actually selected discourse (i.e., news media). The findings from the proposed research project will help better document the mechanism by which preferences for deliberative qualities become culturally-biased and by which actual media preferences become culturally biased as well. This project will help us test direction hypotheses (not proposed in the initial study) and enable us to build a model of discourse selection grounded in research consistent with theoretical and empirical research on ideologically-motivated reasoning.