As the Society of Professional Journalists celebrates its 110th anniversary in 2019, it may come as a surprise that SPJ did not have its signature Code of Ethics for the group’s first 17 years. In 1909 when the young men at DePauw University founded SPJ as a college fraternity, Sigma Delta Chi, one of their goals was “to advance the standards of the press by fostering a higher ethical code.” But they could not agree on just what that code would be.
Public information officers at federal agencies have become gatekeepers and minders of federal employees, preventing journalists from doing their job and getting past a carefully controlled message from on high. That’s one of the things that Josh Earnest, President Barack Obama’s press secretary, heard Dec.
Good news on campus, for once. After all, student journalists have been having a rough stretch. But before the good, here’s the bad (and the ugly). As was big news in the news cycle (and on Twitter) for a week in November, at the University of Missouri a professor sought to shut down press coverage during high-profile protests by calling for “some muscle” to remove a student who identified himself as a journalist.
The Freedom of Information Act will mark its 50th anniversary next summer. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill, passed unanimously by both houses of Congress, on July 4, 1966, amid much fanfare. Leaders of Sigma Delta Chi, the predecessor of SPJ, had worked Capitol Hill for 10 years to get a federal open records bill passed.
The SPJ Code of Ethics provides valuable guidelines to journalists for handling sticky issues that inevitably arise. SPJ’s Ethics Committee has noted in one of its position papers that the Code is regarded as the “gold standard” when it comes to aspirational codes of ethics.