A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Ethics Case Studies

By Quill

You won’t read this very often in a magazine or from any news outlet: Whatever you read in this section, steal it.

That’s right, take the words, work, ideas, and use them yourself. Make copies, pass them out at work and in class, disseminate far and wide. Then, do it again.

The following two case studies are part of SPJ’s growing ethics resources. Along with the Code of Ethics, these studies are meant to help drive ethical decision making in newsrooms and classrooms.

-Case One: Pirates and the Press

-Case Two: Naming Victims of Sexual Assault

(See these two and many others SPJ ethics resources here.)

Some of the cases are also found in SPJ’s ethics textbook, “Journalism Ethics: A Casebook of Professional Conduct for News Media.” Others come from SPJ Ethics Committee members and students in ethics classes at Baylor University and the University of Denver.

Important to remember is that ethics, like many journalistic processes, aren’t a black and white proposition. The outcomes presented in these case studies represent the authors’ reasoning. You may very well interpret and analyze the cases differently. There are very few actions in the Code of Ethics that are directly stated in black and white terms (e.g. “Never plagiarize”). Most ethical situations require nuance, interpretation and situational analysis.


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