After watching “Wag the Dog” it is clear some journalism ethical codes were broken. The SPJ Code of Ethics says to seek and report the truth. Making up a war to distract the public from controversial allegations against the president is not seeking or reporting the truth, it is fabricating news and lying to the public. This breaks another rule as well, to cause no harm. Manipulating news or making up a war could cause panic to the public and harm the reputation of the country we are “at war with.” The dog in this case is the president’s sexual assault scandal and the tail is the fake war with Albania.
Although I do not agree with it, I can see both sides of this issue. Conrad Brean is trying to protect the reputation of the president before the upcoming election. This is his job, so I can see why he would go to such extreme measures to do it well. However, I would never go as far as creating a fake war. If I had to take action, I would find out if the allegations were true or not and depending on the answer I would handle it from there. There are no secrets in this world and I don’t think lying to the media or public in such an extreme case would be right or fly in today’s world.
The ramifications for journalism would be very negative. Not only are they reporting false information, they might even be doing so willingly. This defeats the whole purpose of journalism as a watchdog of the government. If they go along with what PR people say then they are surrendering their power of delivering the truth to the public and that can become a dangerous advantage to the government. Also, if the public finds out about the lies, then their trust in journalists and the media will fade drastically and when real stories occur, the public will be less likely to trust them.
Media manipulation refers to the act of creating an image or argument that favors their interests. It includes the use of propaganda techniques to manipulate the public. In the film we saw the shoe trend, which shows just how powerful the media can be in influencing mindsets and actions. A similar trend I can think of like that in our society is a half-staff flag on certain holidays or remembrance occasions. This is a government action that schools, business or anyplace with an American flag practice on such occasions. It shows how we are able to come together as a nation as a result of media and government persuasion and influence.
There are also real media manipulation examples, some we have talked about in class. Some examples are the CNN’s coverage of the first Gulf War by anchorman Charles Jaco. The coverage is clearly theatrical but in the 90s, people might have believed it. Another example is Photoshop. Some examples include the Kent State shooting photo, Time Magazine’s cover of OJ Simpson, the 9/11 tourist picture with the plane in the background and more. These are all problems because they trick the public into believing what is not real. Journalism in all forms serves as historical records and if not recorded factually our understanding of history can be misconstrued.