Applied Communication Ethics

A Summary and Critique of the Research Literature

Authored by: Matthew W. Seeger , Timothy L. Sellnow , Robert R. Ulmer , Julie M. Novak

Routledge Handbook of Applied Communication Research

Print publication date:  June  2009
Online publication date:  July  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805849837
eBook ISBN: 9780203871645
Adobe ISBN: 9781135231798


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Communication scholars, particularly those interested in applied issues, have been slow to embrace research questions related to ethics. Since 1982, for example, only seven articles with an explicit focus on ethics have been published in the Journal of Applied Communication Research (JACR). In addition, although a 1998 special issue of JACR on “Communication and Social Justice Research” (Frey, 1998a) proposed social justice as a value premise for applied communication scholarship, it is not clear that many applied communication scholars have adopted this premise. There is, however, a general recognition that communication plays an instrumental role as both an area around which ethical questions arise and as a process necessary for constituting ethical climates, policies, and practices (Conrad, 1993). The neglect of ethical questions and issues can be attributed to several factors, such as the complexity of moral questions, lack of clarity regarding ethical standards, and traditional emphasis on “amoral” approaches and methods in many applied communication contexts (Redding, 1996). In addition, applied communication typically prioritizes goal-directed strategies and outcomes rather than value-based processes. Underlying these explanations, though, is the fact that examining communication ethics as they are applied in real life is difficult.

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