Crossing the Line or Creating the Line: Media Effects and Scandals in the Internet Age

Institutional Communication Service

Date: 27 February 2018 / 17:00 - 18:30

Auditorio, USI campus di Lugano

The USI Institute of Management and Organisation (IMO) hosts Prof. Joseph Porac, George Daly Professor of Business Leadership at NYU Stern, for a public lecture (in English language) on "Crossing the Line or Creating the Line:  Media Effects and Scandals in the Internet Age".


Prof. Porac will discuss the topic of wrongdoing in organizations, which typically involves a triad of actors: a culprit and his/her suspect behavior, a “social control agent” charged with evaluating that behavior, and the media who report on both the behavior and the evaluations. So far, academic research on organizational wrongdoing has focused mostly upon the first (the culprit), in the belief that the other two are alien to the wrongdoing event itself. However, recent academic literature has shown that, on the contrary, the three actors are indeed endogenous to one another, and that it is the interaction among the three that shapes the eventual outcomes of organizational misconduct (e.g., resignations, terminations, punishment, etc.). One of the key questions raised is how deeply media reporting penetrates into the very definition of wrongdoing itself, and particularly, the assignment of blame.  

Prof. Joseph Porac has investigated the question within the context of the 2009 British Parliamentary expense scandal that captured the attention of the UK population over the summer and fall of 2009. According the analysis of over 300,000 press reports during a one-year period, Prof. Porac’s findings show how media-produced “semantic associations” between the scandal and particular Members of Parliament (MPs) shaped the pattern of MP resignations. Just as importantly, Porac shows how these semantic associations also shaped the judgments of the ad hoc Parliamentary committee charged with determining the degree of an MP’s wrongdoing.   

The research conducted by Prof. Porac also raises significant questions about how the meaning of organizational wrongdoing is worked out in the public sphere, and how blame and culpability are assigned. These questions are especially important in the age of the internet-mediated media explosion.