Editor’s Note – David Ozar, an ethicist and professor of philosophy at Loyola Chicago University, and co-founder of the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists, recently appeared on NPR’s “On the Media” to discuss the AdviceLine and its impact on the media. The AdviceLine was co-founded by Ozar and SPJ’s Chicago Headline Club and is funded in part by Sigma Delta Chi Foundation grants.
In January, 2001, the Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice and the Chicago Headline Club set out on an experiment. If a group of trained ethicists made itself available on a volunteer basis with a free advice service in journalism ethics, would journalists use the service? The answer was “yes.” Four years later, the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists is alive and well.
The ethical issues that individual journalists face are often subtle and difficult to resolve. Through a simple confidential voice or e-mail message, AdviceLine puts a concerned journalist in conversation with a person specifically trained in journalism ethics. The volunteers who respond to AdviceLine calls are a team of Loyola University faculty and other Chicago area experts in business and professional ethics who also consult regularly with a group of local journalists so their assistance to callers is responsive to the daily challenges of professional journalism practice.
The respondent’s aim is to assist the caller in making an ethical decision that:
* Is well-informed by available standards of professional journalistic practice, especially the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.
* Takes account of the perspectives of all the parties involved in the situation.
* Employs clear and careful ethical thinking in reaching a decision.
AdviceLine answers about 100 calls per year, getting back to callers usually within 24 hours. Confidentiality is given for all calls seeking ethics advice, although permission routinely is sought to discuss these cases for educational purposes.
About half of the ethical questions that come into AdviceLine concern conflict of interest issues. Most of the rest involve questions about weighing benefits and harms, the harms that might come about from a story against the potential benefit of the story for the public.
Get in Touch
* The toll-free number for AdviceLine is 866-DILEMMA (866-345-3662).
* Chicago number: (312) 409-3334.
* On the Web at www.ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org
Tagged under: Ethics