WMU News

WMU student wins first place in communication ethics competition

August 4, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University student Marie E. Lee of Kalamazoo has won the top award in a national communication ethics competition for graduate students.

Lee, who is pursuing a master's degree in communication, is the author of a paper that took first place in the graduate division of the 1998 Carol Burnett/University of Hawaii/Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication ethics contest.

Her winning paper, "The Ethics of Crisis Response Strategies: An Analysis," focused on crisis communication and the strategies businesses use to justify their behavior in cases such as the Exxon incident. The first place award includes a $150 stipend to travel to the AEJMC's annual meeting Aug. 7 in Baltimore, a $350 cash award and priority consideration for publication in the Journal of Mass Media Ethics.

"Success like this comes not from a one-shot piece of work, but from a sustained effort to pursue a significant research area from several different perspectives," says Dr. James A. Gilchrist, chairperson of WMU's department of communications.

Papers were judged on the importance of the topic and the use of related literature and background information as well as on the quality of research, writing and organization. "Judges looked for the ability to take a topic and analyze it using a strong ethical and theoretical background," Lee says.

As an organizational communication student, Lee began the research project in the first course she took in the graduate program, Gilchrist says. In that course, she wrote a paper on crisis communication planning in organizations. She continued the same focus of study in subsequent courses that covered organizational communication, issues management and organizational communication ethics.

At the advice of her principal adviser, Dr. Sandra Borden, assistant professor of communication, Lee revised the paper to fit judging criteria for the AEJMC competition. Her paper is currently being revamped again as she adapts it for possible publication in the Journal of Mass Media Ethics.

"We are among the few departments of communication to specifically designate a faculty position to issues of ethics." Gilchrist says. "Marie's winning an award for work in communication ethics goes right along with the department's strong emphasis in this area for years."

Note to editors: Lee earned a bachelor of arts degree in Journalism from Idaho State University in 1986.

Media contact: Jill Dobson, 616 387-8400, 98dobson@wmich.edu

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