As vice chair of the SPJ Ethics Committee, I get a lot of questions from journalism students who want feedback for their assignments. “How would you define ’ethical journalism’?” “Have you ever been in an ethical situation?” I recently got this one: “How can journalists avoid running into ethical problems?”
I was on the SkyLine level of the Space Needle, making pleasant enough small talk with a pleasant enough woman, when I asked her something that had nothing to do with the event I was there to cover. It had everything to do with me.
“You don’t want to make any promises, Mr. Kane, you don’t want to keep.” Thus begins the most uncomfortable scene for any journalist in the classic 1941 film “Citizen Kane.” Charles Foster Kane, the fictional millionaire newspaper publisher based on William Randolph Hearst, has just handwritten a “Declaration of Principles” he’ll run under the front page nameplate of his daily newspaper.
It was late, I was tired, but I couldn’t pull away from Twitter and what was going on around Boston. Gunfire. Explosions. A massive police presence. Was this connected to the bombings at the Boston Marathon that Monday? It was looking like it.