Books -- Mass Communication Law and Ethics by Roy L. Moore

Article excerpt

*Moore, Roy L. (1994). Mass Communication Law and Ethics. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 610 pp. Hardback.

Whether it is pedagogically sound to include ethics in the communications law survey course has long been a smouldering --if not flaming--controversy among mass communication law professors. The law course, some argue, is the natural locus for a discussion of ethics; both law and ethics involve responsibilities, as well as rights, and a natural follow up to a discussion of what is legal is a discussion of what is right.

Others argue, however, that ethics should not be part of the communications law class; while it may seem logical to shove ethics into the law course, the two are only peripherally related, and the law professor already has too much to cover without bringing in peripheral issues. In addition, a law specialist is not necessarily an ethicist (and doesn't necessarily want to be one.)

Despite the debate, however, courses at a number of institutions combine ethics and law.

Roy L. Moore, a professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Kentucky, doesn't speak to the debate. Instead, he provides what he calls "the first book to explicitedly combine law and ethics." And his is a well-written book that deserves consideration by any professor who is saddled with a "communication law and ethics" course.

That is not to say that the book doesn't have problems. It does--some dictated by the nature of the beast, others by Moore's treatment of material. But overall the book is a notable entry into the already crowded market of comm law texts. It is one of the most readable of the texts, which means students will probably like it, even though it is virtually devoid of graphics.

One problem with Moore's book is caused simply by the effort to include ethics. Communication law is an increasingly complex area of study. Courses are no longer "journalism law" or even "media law" courses. Increasingly they cover other areas of free expression law: picketing, expressive conduct, hate speech, and the like. The ethical concerns in some of these areas are myriad and too complex to be covered briefly in a book primarily focusing on the legal concerns. …