A Shift in Focus

by cindybrugge


My “Ethics, Law & Diversity in Mass Communication” ended today. It was my last course of my college career. 

Today, I finished my last course of my college career. It was surprisingly sad to say goodbye (not officially, because I don’t graduate for a week and a half.) But I still had that twinge of sadness to leave it all behind. Of course, it was hiding under gallons of the excitement associated with an end to all-night study sessions and brain-bending, soul-crushing group projects. However, it got me thinking about what I have gotten out of my public relations degree at the University of North Texas.

Full disclosure: Lately, I have wondered if I should have pursued a more extensive and difficult degree, such as engineering or math. I question if I should have chosen a path that didn’t come naturally to me. I’ve pondered if should have spent the same amount of money on a college education that taught me something completely out of my comfort zone, knowing that I earned every moment I was there with the blood, sweat and tears of learning something new.

It’s a good question. Was a communications degree worth it?

Communication has always come very easily for me. I am the oldest of three girls, so I’m a natural leader (which is just the code word for bossy.) However, with two sisters, you quickly learn to be a mediator and a counselor, as well. We have talked our feelings and thoughts to death. We’ve discussed schoolwork and professional issues. We have fought. And when girls disagree, we have no use for fists. Nasty words are much sharper and do far more damage. Plus, most of my family is very extroverted. Like I said, communication is instinct for me.

So, entering into a journalism degree with a focus in public relations was just up my alley and in high school they encourage you to pursue what you’re passionate about. Therefore, I fell into the loving arms of PR.

But the question remains, was it worth it? Did I learn anything new. 

This question haunted me this afternoon, as I left my final ethics course. Were this course and my time worth the money? Immediately, my answer was a resounding yes. 

In “Ethics, Law and Diversity in Mass Communication” alone, I have learned more than I expected. I think it’s one thing to understand the daily tasks and skills of a profession, but what I’ve seen in this course is that the ethical dilemmas bring in the nitty-gritty situations that separate individuals within an industry.

My actions and their resonant implications define who I am as a professional. Choosing ethical actions highlights me and sets my eyes to higher standard. This is imperative for the public relations industry, which is so commonly deemed unworthy of ethical distinction. We are seen as the greasy guys doing the dirty work to make a bad person look good.

I don’t want that for my life or my career. I choose a life in the light. I want to help people – good people – share their talents with the world. I want to associate with worthwhile causes and meaningful organizations. I want to do good and bring positivity to this world.

All of this starts with ethics. It begins where we draw the lines of right and wrong. Yet, it can come crashing down just as fast, when ethics is overlooked to pursue another goal. Case studies have shown me that, in reality, it’s not always quite so simple. Sometimes there is no right answer and no right way of doing it. These studies have given me grace for others in sticky situations and patience for stupidity.

However, they are also a reminder of where the prize remains. I’m in this for the long haul, but to stay in the game, I must engage in ethical decisions on a regular basis. I must be a reminder to my clients of not just what they want, but what is right. I mustn’t lose my heart in the pursuit of money or fame or anything else.

I know this all sounds very idealistic and somewhat childish. But I must ask people thinking that I’m just a silly girl, why does this have to be unrealistic? It is our actions and our thought processes that bring about our reality.

We can choose a new reality for this profession and rearrange the negative image of public relations. We don’t change this image through a PR campaign. No. We change our daily work. We change our incentives. We change our focus.