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Is PR Ethical?

"Can PR ever be ethical?" Professor Wright opened our class with this discussion question this week. To some, this may seem like an oxymoron, and to others this could be an automatic yes or no. But to PR students like us, the answer to this question is much more than a simple one-word response.

Now that I'm a junior, I have more space in my schedule to take courses that actually pertain to my major. This past semester, I have had the opportunity to dive deeper into the field by studying PR ethics specifically. As I learn more and more about the field, I find that there's a depth to the industry that most people don't see. PR professionals are seen to be unethical, liars, and spin-doctors. According to Shannon Bowen, "Current research supports a historical trend of associating public relations with all things unethical-lying, spin-doctoring, and even espionage." Why is it that we are constantly viewed in this negative perspective? What is the point of having a class about PR ethics-- doesn't it seem obvious to be ethical?

Every industry has situations where ethical dilemmas arise-- PR being one of them. In our society today, we hear more and more about the unethical occurrences around the world. So what's the point of taking a class about ethics in PR? It brings us back to the basics. It reminds us of what Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato all taught. This course refers us to theories created centuries ago and in our modern day. It challenges us to rethink our morals by putting us in real-life situations, whether it's advocating for a global issue or working with corporate employees. I've concluded that this question cannot be answered in a generic basis. It's up to the individual to make ethics a priority within the PR industry. So let me bring my professor's question back to you, "Can PR ever be ethical?"

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