June 11th, 2018 • Quill Blog, SPJ Works
Colorado Pro chapter helps high school newspaper in Senegal
High school girls in Senegal, one of the poorest countries in Africa, have been granted $2,000 by the SPJ Colorado Pro chapter to help them start an online newspaper. The international effort, a first for the Colorado chapter, was proposed by Bob Burdick, a chapter board member and former editor of the Denver Rocky Mountain News.
I am not convinced that ethics can be taught, even though I’ve been trying to do it for six or more of the eight years since I (sort of) retired from The Denver Post. When you think about it, ethics depends on a person’s good moral instincts, and those are the product of many things, including parents, peers, good and bad examples, religion and other beliefs, all producing a gut feeling for what’s right and what’s wrong.
More than four years ago at a meeting of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board of directors in Indianapolis, two board members asked if I’d be interested in editing a fourth edition of SPJ’s widely acclaimed book on journalism ethics. It was in a dark and smoky cigar bar in Indianapolis, Mac McKerral insists, though I remember the rather sterile second floor of the SPJ headquarters where McKerral, a former SPJ president, and Howard Dubin, longtime treasurer of the SDX Foundation, first mentioned it to me.
The death of Princess Diana in 1997 was a legitimate news story. After a while, the coverage got a bit overwrought, but the princess was more than just a celebrity. The murder trial of O.J. Simpson, starting much earlier with that bizarre slow-speed police chase, deserved coverage too; probably not as much as it ended up getting, but he had been a star in football and film and had also been a role model.
Old-line media’s embrace of the Internet may be the logical — and faintly disquieting — extension of the “civic journalism” movement of a decade or two ago. Civic, or community, journalism is an attempt to engage the public in the affairs of its community.
Students in a communication ethics class I taught at the University of Denver last fall were heavily supportive of the “Dateline NBC” project, “To Catch a Predator.” This was a class of nontraditional students, and most of them were mothers of young children.
We just had another media explosion in my neck of the woods. A relapse of JonBenet Fever was triggered by a pathetic pedophile who said he murdered the 6-year-old beauty queen 10 years ago. It seems that he really thought he did, but alarms should have been raised from the beginning.
September 1st, 2006 • Quill Archives
Journalist suspended for leading gay-rights parade
Frank Whelan, a features writer who also wrote a history column for the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call, took part in a gay-rights parade on June 17 and stirred up a classic ethical dilemma. The situation raises any number of questions about what is and isn’t a conflict of interest.
Those who endeavor to teach ethics to budding journalists are always looking for case studies. Unfortunately, there seems to be no shortage of ethical problems facing today’s media. The Society of Professional Journalists would like to serve as a repository for some of these cases.
The Internet offers many challenges and opportunities for mainstream journalists. The challenges: The Internet is luring away a chunk of mainstream media’s readers and viewers. Also, there is a risk when reporters use the Web as a resource because much of its content is not accurate.
Minimize Harm. It’s one of the four major sections of the SPJ Code of Ethics. It’s also a major factor in moral reasoning and ethical decision-making. Many ethical decisions, in journalism and elsewhere, are a struggle between doing one’s duty and being responsible about the consequences of that action.
March 30th, 2006 • Quill Archives
Letting sources check your story can be a good thing
The idea of prepublication review makes some reporters cringe in revulsion or puff up in righteous indignation, but in this complicated world, it should be done more often. The stories we cover are more complex. Our sources, and our readers and viewers, don’t trust us as much as they used to.
SAD can make you glad — or at least more confident in your ethical decision-making. When I started teaching a communication ethics course at the University of Denver, I inherited a syllabus used by Laura Ruehl, now at the University of North Carolina.
January 31st, 2006 • Quill Archives
Did sexual abuse story cross the line of fairness?
When it comes to training, ethics is different from other newsroom workshops. It is a more esoteric subject than, say, using numbers in reporting, or writing without bias. In ethics, there are no pat answers. The trick is to ask the right questions, to hash it out so you’re able to justify your decision to yourself and the public.
December 1st, 2005 • Quill Archives
Studies: Americans are tuning out traditional news
Despite all the media choices available to them in this technology glutted world, is it possible that a significant number of Americans are simply choosing to ignore what we used to call “news”? Not a large number, mind you, certainly nowhere near a majority, maybe not even a double-digit percentile — but enough to cause concern about the future of a fully informed citizenry and all that implies for good government.
October 12th, 2005 • Quill Archives
Getting involved is better than ‘stony detachment’
As journalists, we know better than to get involved in a story we are covering. But what does that mean, exactly? Some reporters will say not getting involved means you should always be totally detached — an observer, never a participant.