With the Internet making it possible for almost anyone to establish their own news and entertainment outlets, the area of new media ethics is increasingly important.
The new Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications is announced today. A selection committee, headed by Mr Claude Ryan, is looking for an outstanding candidate.
With the Internet making it possible for almost anyone to establish their own news and entertainment outlets, the area of new media ethics is increasingly important. Who will establish and enforce standards for online journalists? Will citizens be able to distinguish between editorial content and advertising? What about privacy or human rights? These are just some of the issues to be considered by the new Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications announced today by McGill University and Timothy Aitken, the president of the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation. Mr Aitken said that "the Chair, cornerstone of a centre to be developed under the Chairs leadership, will explore these issues in order to examine the profound cultural influence of the media and therefore the ethics that must guide them."
Grandson of Lord Beaverbrook, renowned Canadian statesman, businessman and newspaper magnate, Timothy Aitken travelled to Montreal from New York, where he lives, to attend the McGill press conference. He noted that "for certain people, a chair in ethics, media and communications might seem like an oxymoron, and this disillusionment suggests a major societal concern which the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation wants to help address." He continued, "We expect the individual who will assume this Chair to have the stature to rise above special interests."
A McGill graduate who spent 15 years in the news media himself, writing for newspapers and later running a television company in Britain, Timothy Aitken said he hopes the Chair will be "someone controversial and interesting." He pointed out that "on the one hand we have unimaginable freedom, thanks to the power of communications, and yet on the other hand were faced with terrible abuses. Our society is badly in need of intellectual leadership to examine the issues objectively and to help us interpret their evolution. Most importantly, since the media shape the way societies see themselves, we believe, and most people would agree, that in this 21st-century world, ethics serve as a critical guide."
Aitken described his grandfather, who raised him, as someone who was an inspiration to others and who had a strong affinity for young people. "He only allowed me to leave school early when I promised to attend a Canadian university," said Aitken. "So I came to McGill."
Principal Bernard Shapiro was delighted to express the Universitys gratitude to the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation for its generosity in establishing the Chair. Dr Shapiro noted that the initiative would have a national and international focus and, it is hoped, a global impact.
"Given the overlapping areas of concern and their increasing universality, this is a unique approach to a very complex challenge," Principal Shapiro said. "With McGills diversity of strengths across the spectrum, we believe the Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications will be a powerful catalyst."
Shapiro added, "The lively interest of so many faculty members testifies to the scope and importance of this initiative. McGill has experts like Margaret Somerville and Sunny Handa in law, Katherine Young in religious studies, Michael Hallett in philosophy, Will Straw in communications studies, Andrew Large in library and information studies, Frances Westley in management -- all these and many more with particular strengths that will be useful to this new and exciting transdisciplinary field." Moreover, concluded Shapiro, the collaboration of at least four different deans, from Arts, Law, Management and Religious Studies, "will ensure the Beaverbrook Chair in Ethics, Media and Communications receives the prominence and support it deserves."
Lord Beaverbrook, who grew up in New Brunswick as William Maxwell Aitken, had a successful business career in Montreal before eventually moving to Britain and becoming a member of Parliament. Knighted in 1911 and made a peer in 1917, he went into the newspaper business and bought the Daily Express and the Evening Standard. He also created the Sunday Express. As minister of aircraft production during World War II, he galvanized the aircraft industry. A key member of Winston Churchills cabinet throughout the war, Lord Beaverbrook developed a close personal relationship with Churchill. After the war, he gave up politics to write memoirs and biographies of his influential friends and to supervise his newspapers. At the time of his death in 1964, the Daily Express boasted one of the largest circulations in the world -- reaching 4.5 million people every day.
The Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation was established by Lord Beaverbrook in 1960 by Act of the Canadian Parliament.