My tenure as the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee chairperson began in September 2014. A Minneapolis news station would broadcast a story now known as #Pointergate in early November. Rolling Stone would publish its now-infamous story on sexual assault a couple of weeks later.
April 24th, 2018 • Featured
Journalism’s complicated relationship with transparency
Despite first being added to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics in 2014, “transparency” has always been an elemental part of journalism. As SPJ embarks on its 15th annual Ethics Week and the organization calls for more transparency throughout journalism, it’s important to look back at the complicated relationship between the concept and the profession.
April 9th, 2018 • Featured
Sinclair’s ‘teachable moment’ raises even more questions
Sinclair Broadcast Group executives reportedly called the recent backlash to its company-wide promotional videos “teachable moment” in a call Wednesday with representatives from the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. That same day, the National Press Photographers Association issued a statement calling on all media companies to “improve and celebrate ethical journalism in effective, meaningful and respectful ways.”
April 3rd, 2018 • Featured
Sinclair’s mandates threaten independent, local journalism
Journalists at Sinclair Broadcast Group stations across the country have been appearing in carbon-copy promotional videos claiming that some media outlets are publishing “fake stories” and that some members of the media “push their own personal bias and agenda.” How America’s largest local TV owner turned its news anchors into soldiers in Trump’s war on the media: https://t.co/iLVtKRQycL
Journalists must know when to move discussions off air. Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, granted many interviews to journalists Monday that produced several accusations and conflicting statements.
November 2nd, 2017 • Quill Archives
Newsroom ethics discussions don’t have to be uncomfortable
No person likes to confront co-workers or managers about issues in the workplace. The conversations can be uncomfortable and lead to hurt feelings. However, those discussions are often necessary to create a good work environment. In addition to topics such as salary issues and disputes with co-workers, journalists may sometimes need to confront managers and co-workers about another touchy subject: ethics.
Ricky John Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Micah David-Cole Fletcher were stabbed May 26 when they attempted to stop a man from harassing two teens with racist and anti-Muslim rants on a train in Portland, Oregon. Best and Namkai-Meche died. A lot of the attention on social media following the attack centered on the news media’s use or avoidance of the word “terrorism” in discussing the events.
Newsrooms have heard for years now: engage, engage, engage. Build community. Connect. Interact. And maybe in so doing, you’ll get clicks that turn into dollars. Beyond the buzzwords, beyond the advice of so-called “gurus” and self-proclaimed experts, what does engagement – truly, practically, deeply – mean with the public?
People are told since childhood to be cautious about the company they keep. Parents don’t want their children hanging with the proverbial bad kids or those known to make trouble. The old adage is important to remember as journalists and news organizations become increasingly involved with various collaborations.
Emails soliciting entries for various awards flood journalists’ inboxes toward the end of each year. Organizations like SPJ and the Online News Association administer most major contests, but many advocacy organizations offer similar awards intended to recognize journalists’ work. Non-profit organizations that advocate for cancer or environmental research, for example, may sponsor award contests for journalists covering those beats.
February 21st, 2017 • Quill Archives
Online Harassment Is An Ethics Issue For Journalists
The internet inarguably shook up the profession of journalism more than any other technology throughout its history. People spend a lot of time discussing the internet’s impact on storytelling and the business of journalism, but they typically ignore the harassment it unleashed on journalists.
The SPJ Ethics Committee handles a lot of issues that, as expected, involve news outlets representing all kinds of media. What may surprise some people is that we also deal with a lot of issues involving non-fiction books. These issues often involve works that could be classified as creative non-fiction.
Opinion writing or broadcasting is a challenging endeavor. Crafting persuasive prose requires a lot of brain power, and sometimes it’s difficult to know what ethical boundaries exist when arguing a specific position. The Weekender, an alternative weekly publication in Northeast Pennsylvania, recently published a column from a regular contributor about him and his friend pretending to be veterans of the U.S.
As everyone knows, the business of news changed dramatically over the past two decades. Major newspapers, websites, television and radio stations now crave clicks and screen time. In that quest, news organizations ceded a lot of editorial power to social media companies.
Nearly 1,000 shootings involving four or more people have occurred in the U.S. since 26 people – including 20 children – were killed in Newtown, Conn., by a gunman in December 2012, according to the crowdsourced Mass Shooting Tracker. While estimates suggest gun violence is less common today than decades ago, there are an increasing number of questions submitted to SPJ’s Ethics Hotline with every new mass shooting that gains widespread attention.
One of the reasons I enjoy being a health reporter is that there are few topics that apply to everyone on such a personal level. Health is important for many reasons, including that it will likely dictate how long a person lives.
As a car show was getting underway in Northeastern Pennsylvania in 2009, one of the cars turning into the parking lot burst into flames after it was hit from behind by another vehicle. Trapped inside, the car’s only occupant — a 64-year-old man — died.
He is one of the people in modern history most quoted by journalists. He knows everything, but goes by many names. Some call him an official. Some call him a source close to the matter. Others just call him anonymous. After years of work, many say he should be forced into retirement.
My peers in middle school often sent letters asking for autographs to famous athletes. I, on the other hand, wrote letters to Walter Cronkite. My father spent many hours during my childhood explaining to me the role the “most trusted man in American” played in the latter half of the 20th Century.
With an overwhelming chorus of “ayes” in September, delegates of the Society of Professional Journalists ushered in a new era of journalism ethics. After a year of work and debate, approved revisions to the SPJ Code of Ethics for the first time in 18 years.