Thanksgiving Reading: 25 Recent Ethical Issues

As Thanksgiving approaches, I wanted to take a minute and just say how thankful I am to the outstanding students in my Public Relations Ethics class (COM525) as Boston University.  We meet once a week for three hours.

We start every class by discussing ethical issues we have seen or read about over the past week.  At the start of the semester, I would be lucky if one or two students would share an example. Now, most of the class has their hands up and I need to stop discussion after 30 minutes.

I firmly believe one of the best ways of relating ethics to management is by sharing stories of challenges and situations. That is what I do every week on EthicalVoices.

But there are other voices as well. Following are 25 ethical challenges and situations the students and I identified and discussed over the semester. These stories were ripped from the headlines and are timely. It shows how pervasive ethical issues are. If you missed them, they are worth another review. They make great reading.

Note: We discussed ethics and government frequently, but I left it off above list as I wanted to draw attention to topics that people might not be reading about every day. Plus, I figure politics will already be a topic at most Thanksgiving dinner tables.

  1. Northwestern Newspaper apologizes for reporting
  2. The Dean’s Great Response
  3. Harvard Journalists attacked for seeking a quote from an organization being attacked
  4. Should Ben Shapiro be allowed to speak at Boston University?
  5. Ethics and Disney+’s censorship
  6. Is Quantas’ pledge to be carbon neutral real or greenwashing?
  7. Just how many ethics violations are potentially involved in Google’s Project Nightingale
  8. Astros using technology for an unfair advantage
  9. Fisher Advisors loses $3B investments and question over PR response to CEO’s comments
  10. AI/Algorithms creating racial bias in medical treatments
  11. Ethics of smart drugs and work
  12. AI has learned how to create fake news stories
  13. Ethics of research on captive dolphins
  14. The ethics of wining and dining
  15. Disinformation as a service
  16. PRCA clears Fleishman
  17. Astroturning: Who is behind Chinese conspiracy ads in Ohio nuclear referendum?
  18. Whole Foods, healthcare and the Business Roundtable
  19. Greta Thunberg and the ethical issues around her
  20. Ethics of Deepfakes
  21. Ethical issues with social credit and gun ownership
  22. Ethics of the New England Patriots and Antonio Brown
  23. Oreo defacing books to gain followers
  24. Bospar’s media and ethics survey
  25. Is it appropriate for police to strip search 12-year old girls at music festivals?

I hope you found these as interesting as the class and I did.  What else did I leave off that we should highlight?



Mark McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA
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Mark W. McClennan, APR, Fellow PRSA, is the general manager of C+C's Boston office. C+C is a communications agency all about the good and purpose-driven brands. He has more than 20 years of tech and fintech agency experience, served as the 2016 National Chair of PRSA, drove the creation of the PRSA Ethics App and is the host of


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