A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists


August 2nd, 2010 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics Toolbox

At the intersection of technology and journalism, there’s a debate about fairness, privacy and punishment. Because of the Internet, news about arrests of people in many of our local communities is permanently and easily available online. Some people object that stories or cop-log briefs about arrests pop up during Google searches, years after the cases were resolved and the offenders tried to move on.

May 31st, 2010 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics Toolbox – May/June 2010

I love connections. A friend and I regularly trade “Six Degrees” stories about who we just met and how they fit into some other facet of our lives, through channels we wouldn’t have predicted. Professionally, though, I’m leery of having ties to people, places or events in my community.

March 31st, 2010 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics Toolbox

The New York Times is accustomed to controversy and criticism for its high-profile journalistic decisions. Recently, in a peculiar turn of events, the newspaper was targeted for saying and doing nothing. As best as I could tell, the Times was not to blame for the frenzied rumors swirling around the capitol in Albany, N.Y.

January 31st, 2010 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics Toolbox

When the SPJ Ethics Committee started a blog, and we wanted a catchy name, I suggested “Canon Fodder.” Others on the committee correctly rejected that idea. The double meaning didn’t work. We didn’t want anyone confusing the rules governing other professions with the principles guiding journalism.

December 2nd, 2009 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics Toolbox

Jeremiah Charles Overbaugh met the woman he’d marry while inspecting chickens at a hatchery. As a single parent, Marlene Plant got her driver’s license when she was in her 40s and later beat cancer. Ann Mary Roberts had six best friends: her dogs Quigley, Sadie and Shamrock and her cats Hootie, Miss Kitty and Sweetie Man.

October 3rd, 2009 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics Toolbox

The sudden appearance of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho’s mental health records in July, more than two years after the massacre, brings renewed interest in how the mental health of college students is monitored. Suicide is a very present and real threat on America’s college campuses.

August 10th, 2009 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics Toolbox

We all likely committed some version of this cognitive error while driving: We bawled out “What a stupid idiot!” to some driver who swerved into the wrong lane. It’s instinctive. We assume that the person behind that car’s wheel has to have an IQ of zero and no coordination.

July 11th, 2009 • Quill Archives, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics Toolbox

The photo ran on the front page, above the fold. Several government officials were lined up; one smiled and held oversized scissors, about to cut a ribbon. President Barack Obama, also grinning, was tucked into the group. One of my co-workers saw the front page and the picture in a vending box, briefly frozen by our competitor’s prominent scoop.

August 25th, 2008 • Quill Archives
Learning ethics as a second language

So many calls to the SPJ Ethics Hotline are questions on deadline, and we’re always happy to help. Then came a request from Ohio, where Stephanie Calondis Geiger of the Columbus Council on World Affairs was teaching journalism to 60 teenagers.

August 1st, 2008 • Quill Archives
Ethics: Fundamentals should still apply, even in digital age

These days I’m several ounces heavier as I travel to my reporting assignments. That’s because of the Flip video camera in my breast pocket. It’s a little bigger than a credit card. Its stature in my newsroom, though, is large. After a gradual start about a year ago, video has become part of our daily routine.

March 28th, 2008 • Quill Archives
Adherence to ethics key to restoring faith

Journalism and the media in these days of rapidly developing digital technology, self-publishing and the incredible advances of the Internet seem like the Wild, Wild West. Certainly, the world has gotten smaller and access to the kind of publishing apparatus once the purview of newspaper companies that owned printing presses and broadcast companies with FCC licenses has grown.

March 28th, 2008 • Quill Archives
$11,125 doled out for Ethics Week programs

STAFF REPORT Each year, SPJ’s Ethics Committee awards grants to student and professional chapters to be used for programming during the annual Ethics in Journalism Week, scheduled for April 21-27. This year, grants totaling $11,125 were given to chapters hosting programs that further drive the SPJ Code of Ethics’ principle of acting independently.

March 28th, 2008 • Quill Archives
Brown-bag Ethics

There seems to be no shortage of ethical issues in journalism these days. And we know not every decision is an easy one. But the most important thing in your decision is that you use sound reasoning when coming to a conclusion.

May 7th, 2007 • Quill Archives
Ethics: Just say ‘no, thank you’

For journalists, the opportunities for freebies are plentiful and tempting. Hors d’oeuvres are within reach at catered functions. A source wants to break the ice by buying us a drink. That new book on sale? Go ahead and take one, the author says; share it with your colleagues.

April 2nd, 2007 • Quill Archives
SPJ always working to improve ethics

Let’s just say I wasn’t too pleased to find out that the recently elected president of my homeowners association in Denver is a lawyer who works for a firm that represents the developer of my neighborhood. How did I learn this?

April 2nd, 2007 • Quill Archives
Meet your new ethics committee chairman

My first live encounter with the SPJ Ethics Committee turned into a test of ethics. I joined SPJ in 2002, but, living 70 miles from the closest active chapter, it took me a while to make much of a connection. On a whim, with a sense of exploration, I went to the national convention in Tampa in 2003.

December 1st, 2006 • Quill Archives
Newspaper works to include blogging in code of ethics

Editor Steve Smith said he knew there had to be a change in the Spokane Spokesman-Review code of ethics when the newspaper began sponsoring blogs. The only question was: How does the paper incorporate the loose, sometimes marginal journalism blog postings into the company’s code?

March 30th, 2006 • Quill Archives
Why SPJ doesn’t enforce its code of ethics

The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics is voluntary. We do not have a mechanism for investigating complaints or enforcing discipline on SPJ members, much less other journalists. But our code does provide a framework to evaluate ethical behavior, and we encourage fellow journalists and the public to hold news reports and commentary up to ethical scrutiny.

March 30th, 2006 • Quill Archives
Editor: Opinion boards need a strong foundation in ethics

As he starts each new day at the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City, Jay Evensen is faced continually with ethical issues. Evensen is editorial page editor for a newspaper that is wholly owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

January 31st, 2006 • Quill Archives
SDX to fund 16 ‘Ethics Week’ programs

“Seek truth and report it.” It’s been referred to as the “prime directive” in the SPJ Code of Ethics, and it will be the theme of the Fourth Annual Ethics in Journalism Week. SPJ chapters, leaders and members have set aside April 24-28 to place a special emphasis on discussions and activities that support responsible reporting.

April 1st, 2005 • Briefs
Ethics – In-brief

Story of Gannon/Guckert raises ethical questions Charlie Savage and Alan Wirzbicki first reported on Feb. 2 in the Boston Globe about the questionable journalistic credentials of former Talon news reporter Jeff Gannon, whose news organization allegedly was backed by a conservative Web site, GOPUSA.com.

April 1st, 2005 • Quill Archives
Heroes in ethics

VIRGINIA GERST Virginia Gerst calls it the “easiest and the hardest decision I have ever made.” She’s referring to the day she walked away from a job she’d held for two decades rather than compromise her integrity. Gerst was arts and entertainment editor at Pioneer Press, a chain of weeklies in suburban Chicago.

April 1st, 2005 • Quill Archives
Ethics AdviceLine going strong

Editor’s Note – David Ozar, an ethicist and professor of philosophy at Loyola Chicago University, and co-founder of the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists, recently appeared on NPR’s “On the Media” to discuss the AdviceLine and its impact on the media. The AdviceLine was co-founded by Ozar and SPJ’s Chicago Headline Club and is funded in part by Sigma Delta Chi Foundation grants.

September 21st, 2004 • Quill Archives
Teaching and studying journalism ethics

The question is deceptively simplistic: What are our objectives in teaching and studying journalism ethics? The subject matter lends itself, on the one hand, to investigating a body of knowledge or academic concepts and, on the other, the teaching of values, moral character and “good” behaviors.

September 21st, 2004 • Quill Archives
Ethics in the classroom

This spring, Jerry Ceppos, vice president for news at Knight Ridder, finished his term as president of the organization that accredits journalism schools. In a speech at the April 30 meeting of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, Ceppos ticked off a list of plagiarism cases that had cropped up at newspapers over the previous year.

March 17th, 2004 • Briefs

USA Today questions reporter’s stories USA Today correspondent Jack Kelley, an award-winning international journalist who risked his life covering war zones around the world, resigned Jan. 6 after the paper’s top editors questioned whether some of his stories had been fabricated.

March 17th, 2004 • Quill Archives
Ethics calls apply widely

The SPJ Ethics Committee never lacks for questions to answer. Headquarters probably forwards an average of three or four questions a week to Gary Hill, Casey Bukro or me. Two of the most recent are problems often faced by journalists: An educator wanted to know when it’s appropriate and necessary to attribute facts.

February 9th, 2004 • Briefs

Pentagon criticizes NBC war coverage The story that became a world exclusive for NBC’s Jim Miklaszewski in early November turned into a question of ethics posed by the Pentagon at journalists. Miklaszewski was the only television reporter able to show early television footage of a devastating attack on the al-Rashid, a Baghdad hotel where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying.

December 9th, 2003 • Quill Archives
Ethics IN-BIEF

Early letters prompt order from judge The judge presiding over the Michael Peterson murder trial in Durham, N.C., told jurors Oct. 9 to disregard a letter by a local television reporter inviting them to dinner after the trial. At least one of the jurors in the case received a letter at home from WTVD Channel 11 television reporter Sonya Pfeiffer.

November 12th, 2003 • Quill Archives
Start planning for Ethics Week now

Our timing was superbly ironic. The first national Ethics in Journalism Week, April 24 to May 3, 2003, also was the week in which the antics of Jayson Blair shamed The New York Times. It also was when two reporters at the Salt Lake Tribune were caught collecting money from a supermarket tabloid without telling their editors.

November 12th, 2003 • Briefs

Photog loses awards over altered entries A Charlotte Observer photographer found himself in hot water in August when the North Carolina Press Photographers Association rescinded three of his 2002 awards after discovering he’d violated an organization’s code of ethics. The photographer, Patrick Schneider, apparently removed the entire backgrounds from some of his winning pictures, a manipulation in violation of the National Press Photographer Association’s code of ethics.

July 24th, 2003 • Quill Archives
Ethics week brought plenty of ethics discussion

The Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, as you know, thought it would be a good idea to designate the last week in April as “National Ethics in Journalism Week.” We had no idea what would happen. We thought we’d call attention to the need for journalists to behave responsibly and ethically in their pursuit of the truth.