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.
At the 2015 Excellence in Journalism conference in September, SPJ Ethics Committee chairman Andrew Seaman wasn’t in one place for long. Between leading training sessions and attending committee meetings, he was still able to find time to socialize with other journalists throughout the conference.
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 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?”
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.
It’s finally here. After over a year of listening, gathering input, releasing drafts, doing re-writes and addressing concerns, the newly revised Code of Ethics is ready for prime time. But the show isn’t over yet. Just like in show business, it’s not over until the proverbial fat lady sings.
September 3rd, 2014 • Quill Archives
Code of Ethics Revision: What’s Up and What Has Changed
The SPJ Ethics Committee met the weekend of July 11 to 13 in Columbus, Ohio, to put the finishing touches on a Code that will be presented to delegates at the national convention in Nashville, Sept. 4 to 6. Members of the SPJ Ethics Committee in Columbus for the in-person meeting were Kevin Z.
NOTE: A version of this critique from Steve Buttry first appeared on his blog. The rewrite of the SPJ Code of Ethics is moving in the right direction, just not far enough. In three monstrously long posts in 2010 and earlier this year, I called for an update of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics and criticized the first draft of an update by the Ethics Committee.
When delegates convene during the closing business session at the national convention this September, they will have an extraordinary vote before them: whether to support revisions to SPJ’s Code of Ethics. There have been three such revisions and two compete rewrites in the Society’s 105 years, so this is a big moment for SPJ.