A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

$11,125 doled out for Ethics Week programs

By Quill


Each year, SPJ’s Ethics Committee awards grants to student and professional chapters to be used for programming during the annual Ethics in Journalism Week, scheduled for April 21-27. This year, grants totaling $11,125 were given to chapters hosting programs that further drive the SPJ Code of Ethics’ principle of acting independently. Funding was graciously donated by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Listed below are some great programming ideas from the receiving chapters. Use these ideas for chapter programs of your own.

Region 1: Ithaca College SPJ

Program name: “Closing the Gates”

Description: The term “Act Independently” means different things to different journalists. In the case of independent mobile journalists, it means an isolated existence, free of the constraints of corporate media. Ithaca College’s program, “Closing the Gates,” will take a unique look at “Act Independently” by holding a forum to discuss the lack of gate-keeping practices at TV, print and Internet media outlets. Participants will discuss the ethical implications of one person controlling a majority of content that finds its way to the consumer of news. Journalists from WashingtonPost.com, News 10 Syracuse and the Ithaca Journal will participate in a panel.

Region 2: Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter

Program name: “The Ethics of Blogging”

Description: Increasingly, journalists are being asked to contribute to some kind of blog for their news operations. In some cases, they write about issues completely unrelated to the people and topics they cover. But many write specifically about the topics and people they cover every day; in some cases, they take on the role of advocate and critic. To many, that poses an ethical dilemma.

Taking it one step further, suppose a reporter has a page on a social networking site like MySpace.com where they reveal their personal political and social views or post pictures that may or may not be germane to their job. How appropriate is that, especially if they reveal info that could leave their “independence” open to question. The chapter will team up with the National Press Club for the panel discussion.

Region 3: University of South Carolina SPJ

Program name: “Act Independently”

Description: The program will offer journalism students an experience that would be different from the monthly members’ meetings, which are generally panel discussions. For each day of Ethics in Journalism Week, the campus chapter will post ethical scenarios around the Journalism School and ask students to weigh-in.

The scenarios will explore various dimensions of journalistic independence (accepting freebies, cutting deals with sources, letting sources preview stories, etc). Participants will be guided to a designated Web site where they can post their reactions and responses to the problem of the day.

Region 4: Indiana University of Pennsylvania SPJ

Program name: “News Media in Indiana, Pa.: Of Whom, By Whom, For Whom?”

Description: The program will be a journalism symposium at which local news-media representatives will join a panel to address the title question, discuss issues related to it and answer questions from a moderator and from students and citizens from the campus and surrounding community. The chapter’s objectives are to illuminate the work of professional journalists in the community, to shed light on the pressures they face on the job and to invite citizen appreciation for and constructive criticism of their performance.

Region 4: Central Ohio Pro

Program name: “Gray Matter: Working in a Freebie Culture”

Description: We live in a freebie culture, from free doughnuts to game tickets. Are all gifts to be refused? Is there a gray area? The Central Ohio Pro “Act Independently” Ethics Program will give analysis of real-life examples; provide ethical insight from journalists and public relations professionals; and encourage group discussion with the panel.

Region 5: Bluegrass Pro

Program name: “Maintaining Independence When Covering Local Sports”

Description: The chapter will hold a workshop for sports journalists on dealing with ethical issues that arise at different levels of sports reporting. The purpose of the workshop will be to help provide sports journalists tools and tactics to use when confronted with angry coaches, parents and players.

The workshop will also be designed to foster a better understanding of one another’s views of sports journalism. The workshop will also touch on how sports journalists can deal with freebies they are offered in the form of tickets, food and transportation to events they cover.

Region 6: Minnesota Pro

Program name: “Wartime Journalism: The Challenges to Remaining Independent”

Description: The Minnesota Pro Chapter will partner with the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota to produce the program. What is the role of the news media in covering controversial issues “in time of war,” particularly when a national election looms? How do the media maintain their independence and their role as a watchdog without alienating readers and viewers?

The two-hour program will feature a 60-minute lecture from a keynote speaker, to be followed by a 60-minute panel discussion and Q&A session that will focus on the challenges journalists face when trying to remain independent during times of crisis and war.

Region 7: University of Missouri, Columbia SPJ

Program name: “Ethics Program 2008”

Description: The program will examine how Spanish-language newspapers function in communities. By looking at independent papers and publications that are owned by bigger companies, the chapter will see how these media outlets act as separate entities from their parent companies. Local and national Spanish-language newspaper editors, journalists and publishers will be invited to appear on the panel.

Region 8: Baylor University SPJ

Program name: “Ethics Challenge 2008”

Description: The chapter will hold two mock journalism scenarios with chapter officers and members playing various roles. The scenarios will represent ethical challenges journalists face while trying to maintain their independence. After the scenarios are presented, Baylor journalism professors and students will discuss how these situations apply to real life.

Region 10: Western Washington Pro

Program name: “The Words We Choose”

Description: The program will look at the terms that journalists adopt in reporting the news and how those language choices are affected by close association with official sources (police spokesmen, military embedding, etc.) as well as how they affect the message of the report. Does the use of mil-speak (IED for bomb) accurately reflect the reality? Do we get too close to official sources or give them more credibility than they would otherwise have by adopting their jargon? The goal is to make student and professional journalists and editors more aware of how language affects the objectivity and independence of our reporting.

Region 11: Greater Los Angeles Pro

Program name: “Ethics in the Digital Age”

Description: The panel will address how reporters can ethically use the Internet in their research and reporting. The issues that will be discussed include how reporters can authenticate Internet sources; when it is appropriate to interview subjects via e-mail or over the Internet; and when it is ethical for broadcast outlets to use program material that appears on YouTube or competitors’ Web sites.

Region 12: University of Mississippi SPJ,

Kathleen Wickham

Program name: “Josh Wolf: The Importance of a Free and Independent Press”

Description: The chapter will invite to campus freelance videographer and blogger Josh Wolf, the man behind the arrest of department chairman Samir Husni. Husni found himself in handcuffs and led out of a campus building by a campus police officer because he agreed to help the school’s SPJ chapter raise money for jailed freelance videographer Josh Wolf. Husni was arrested Nov. 13, 2006, in front of close to 100 students and transported to his office in the rear of a police car. The objective of bringing Wolf to campus is to complete the conversation that began last year. Certainly, in making the decision to go to jail, Wolf argued for independence of the news media.

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