Journalism Ethics is a Global Endeavor

Nearly every day I receive phone calls or emails from journalists in the United States posing ethical questions to me. It’s part of my job as chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists’ national ethics committee to help American journalist make wise decisions about their professional behavior.
In fact, between the journalists and members of the public, SPJ’s ethics committee answers more than 300 inquiries each year. A slow, but steady portion of those calls are coming from foreign journalists. In a recent week, I answered questions from journalists in Denmark, Russia and Pakistan. For a period of time a lot of questions came from Indian journalists. I’ve been interviewed by reporters and editors in Egypt, Iraq, Korea, Japan, Israel, England, Germany, Canada and Vietnam. We are happy to help anyone, of any nation, address ethical problems in this challenging media landscape.
That The Center for International Media Ethics is holding its second International Media Ethics Day is the indicator you need for understanding that media ethics issues abound and they transcend borders and cultures. CIME should be commended for helping support the good fight across the world, much the same way SPJ handles matters in the United States.
SPJ’s ethics code has been the hallmark of our work to secure the highest level of ethical compliance among journalists. It appears in newsrooms, employee handbooks and in classroom notes all over the U.S. There are several thousand in circulation. But, since the very first SPJ-written ethics book was published in 1992, the SPJ code has been translated into 12 languages. Today you can find the code in Arabic, Chinese, Croatian, Hungarian, Macedonian, Spanish, French, German, Greek and Portuguese as well as English. More are coming. You might want to help. Many of the foreign journalists who call, have the code with them.
Whether it’s SPJ or CIME, the message is the same – we have a moral obligation to conduct ourselves with the utmost ethics so we can secure and maintain our respect and credibility with the public we serve. There is no place for lies, innuendos and sensationalism. Fairness must always be a standard bearer. Conflicts of interest cannot jeopardize our independence, we must strive to minimize the harm we do to others in the quest for information, and we must always remain accountable for our shortcoming and admit our mistakes and correct them.
On Friday, Sept. 21, International Media Ethics Day, the national ethics committee of SPJ will meet during our national convention in Florida to present our goals and objectives for the coming year. I suspect one of those will be to extend our hand in cooperation to more and more foreign journalists and to work closer in cooperation with groups like CIME so that we can help provided the best ethical journalism of our time, no matter where in the world that takes place.
Congratulations to CIME and to all the ethical journalists in the world for this commitment.

Kevin Z. Smith
Chairman, National Ethics Committee
Society of Professional Journalists

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  • I’m going to say something nice about one of the gamergate entries. I’ve been waiting for one I thought was well-reported, and one finally came along. Glasgow’s article about WSB’s screw-up is pretty good, and needed to be reported. He attempted to reach the station, reported on what the station did and said, and told it in an engaging way. It was thorough and interesting.

    It wasn’t peppered with conspiracy-theory buzzwords, and lacked the snide rant-factor of the other gamergate entries.

  • Calem

    So one of the biggest events in the history of gaming journalism gets ignored with claims of “No one told me why or how this matters?”, but an article, about Games on the Apple Watch, which holds absolutely no significance at all, since it’s a product that is way too expensive and will never hold a large consumerbase to have any relevance for game developers is praised as important? I’ve read through the article, and for people not familiar with the tech terms used and described in that article, it’s a hard and boring read. I even skipped a few paragraphs.

    I’m sorry, but I can’t believe what I’m reading here. The article about the GJP clearly states the significance.

    “The GameJournoPros emails appear to confirm widely-held suspicions that video game journalists operate with one voice and collude on major issues to distort coverage of ethics violations and to support figures to whom they are politically sympathetic.”

    It gives clear examples of who was involved and how they tried to direct away attention from this event. As the quote above said, it was long suspected that there is huge corruption and collusion in the video game press and the uncover of this mailing list pretty much proved it. Journalists were actively colluding to suppress news about their own corruption. They actively pressured colleagues to take down articles about it. They went on to smear the people that called them out for their corruption. How can you claim that the article didn’t tell you how this matters when it’s clearly stated in the article?

    “Testing the Steam Refund system” isn’t even news. It’s barely journalism. It’s a “how to get a refund on steam” and gives a few details of the process. It doesn’t even explore the limitations of the refund system, like what if you play 2h 10m (the official max playtime you can refund a game is 2h). It doesn’t cover regional differences where different laws may apply (e.g. EU and NA). It’s just a walk through. Info that could have been found posted by users on forums via a simple google search. Even less info than that, since, as said, it doesn’t even explore more extreme cases. The author of that article didn’t try to refund a game he bought before steam refund was a thing and that he played for less than 2h (very common).

    Edit: Also what happens if you complete the game in under 2h. Can you still refund it? THIS are the questions I want to have answered, not the normal case of “bought a game, didn’t like it, refunded it under 2h playtime and within the 14d limitation).

    I just don’t see how this is worth a nomination alongside important stories like the Kotaku one about Crunch Time, the escapist one about the Star Citizen Employees, the Anatomy of a hoax, which is very significant or the Breitbart one about one of the biggest controversies in gaming journalism and journalism in general.

    I’m obviously biased, but I claim the same for the writer of the comment about the GJP.

  • As for the Breitbart piece, when I get time I’m going to set up a .mailing list called “Fuck-you-wingnuts—journalists-have-a-right-to-interact-with-each-other”

    A bit of a long name, but it gets the point across

  • Calem

    Interact with each other is not the same as pressure other journalists into removing articles, blacklist journalists that committed wrong-think, etc. There is obviously a line that was overstepped by that mailing list. It’s true that this single article might not have covered this yet, but there have been more in regards to this news piece.

    You can’t tell me that there is nothing wrong if a clique of journalists can dictate the conversation and influence other journalists not to work or just dismiss a single person, because this person doesn’t subscribe to their progressive views?

    Edit: Or worse, suppress news pieces and coordinate a wide spread attack on consumers as to appear that they are holding the opinions of the masses and representing what the consumer wants.

  • Aidey

    Don’t even bother. Read his comments on the other nominations. He is clearly biased and is willing to make shit up to try to discredit any nomination he sees as a gamergate one.

  • Aidey

    Got any examples of these conspiracy theory buzz words?

  • Calem

    Yeah, I just looked into him. He has been regularly retweeting anti-GG personalities like mmeyers, chu, fullmcintosh, graham linneham and amib, basically the who’s of the people that are actively arguing against GamerGate. Makes sense that he ignores the relevance and even mocks the existence of such a mailing list. He is basically against GamerGate himself and thinks we are all misogynist, sexist, racist, homophobic shitlords that don’t have a right to exist.

    Edit: Damn, Harper, Tauriq Moosa, Leigh Alexander, even goons like SuperSpacedad. This guy is apparently following everyone that is against gamergate. Very telling. He even retweeted the pedophile and these are just from february of this year. He’s probably following all of the Who’s.

  • Sulla Felix

    Keep doing good work to highlight quality writing. That is what every reader deserves.

  • chizwoz

    You have a right to fart in crowded lifts. Just don’t do it if you want to keep the rest of the world happy.

  • If I wanted to make everyone happy, I’d have chosen a different field. Maybe doughnut chef.

  • chizwoz

    Well I meant games journalists. Given that their salary comes from keeping their audience happy, it’s generally not a good idea to conspire behind closed doors, whilst presenting the illusion of competing companies to the public.

  • Kajisan

    Same thoughts. To be honest: Nobody really gave a bloody ink about the development time of Final Fantasy 15. It’s done when its done. It’s not like Star Citizen is some sort of Duke Nukem Forever or Daikatana. At the current state – its a game, deep in development and from first screenshots to current quality of game assets, they’re in quite a good shape. Nobody ever quoted Chris back in 2012 telling that the road map is supposed to run till 2020 and beyond. Expected 100 million and more? Probably calculated. The term “development” should already imply that some game features/modes may change during the production.

    In the end, nobody outside the industry really knows that higher quality “movie like” 3D assets take up more time to be build than regular game assets. Watching a five minute long 3d artist credit list at the end of Avengers or The Force Awakens probably gives a wink how much effort it takes to create a few shots in a two hour movie..and upcoming games.

    The article was internet trolling at it’s best, like pornographic looking thumbnails on Youtube to get a million clicks a day. Not even starting with the Derek Smart drama around the same time, with Escapist jumping on top of it like Spotlight hunting catholic pastors. As if the world is not bad enough. No, we need even more drama.

  • Kajisan

    Little addendum: Yes, internal problems may happen. Every game or movie or automobile company has to deal with it every day. Making these problems public, writing an article about – not sure if this is worth getting an award, especially since the Jury doesn’t have any background to judge over this article or the things that lead to it. It makes no sense, not for me.

  • Be sure to pass this critical information on to the judges, along with a color coded graph with lines running to everyone I’ve ever retweeted, and everyone THEY’VE ever retweeted. You can’t be too careful, or too obsessive.

  • Calem

    No need. You aren’t important enough for that.

  • Vetarnias

    “blacklist journalists that committed wrong-think”

    Because that’s not what GG’s own DeepFreeze is about, of course.

    Also, you really don’t get it. “The consumer” isn’t some kind of almighty God you can invoke to justify getting rid of voices you don’t like, whether it’s in video games journalism, academe, or in games production. It’s not even whether the journalists in question are “corrupt” (according to any credible meaning of the word, like payola, or giving high scores just to keep your job) — you don’t like the message, so you want it gone. Recently, you’ve even turned against Jeff Gerstmann, formerly your idea of Mr. Ethics (as a result of that 2007 affair at GameSpot), because he was now “anti-consumer” — just because he told you that if you complained that much about localized editions of Japanese games, maybe you should consider learning Japanese.

    From what I’ve seen of Gaters, you think a reviewer is “corrupt” because he gave the lowest score to a game, and that you justify this by saying (1) this low score is “objectively” proven to be wrong if it deviates from the rest of the 9.0 consensus; and (2) the reviewer is lying and he’s just being contrarian for clicks.

    And naturally, if it has all that Social-Justice-Warriory Cultural-Marxist propaganda in it, then the sooner it’s gone, the better to you. As if “SJWs” didn’t count as “consumers”. As if The Consumer could only be a white middle-class guy with an extended adolescence whose self-esteem is so fragile that his tastes must be validated at every time of his existence — oh wait, don’t you accuse “SJWs” of being too fragile with their safe-spacing BS and that they should just grow a thicker skin?

    Ironically, Gaters might have had a point about “SJWs”, a term I don’t use because I don’t like cliches, but which I saw in action long before GG — if Gaters weren’t exactly like them in their attempts to censor material which runs contrary to their view of the world. Worse, Gaters add on top of that a layer of hypocrisy by pretending they’re for free speech when they are in actuality the commissars of free speech.

    Hence my incomprehension at the SPJ’s desire to give in to the desires of people whose ideas run contrary to freedom of the press. Gater are not just anti-free-press, but anti-intellectual and anti-art as well. Trumpism with training wheels.

  • David Kleidon

    It was trash journalism / click-bait at best. The story lacked one very important ingredient, FACTS ! The story was based on pure innuendo, not a single fact to back up the article. Also the ex-employees were from a website called Glassdoor where anyone could post that they work for a company and had issues when they never in fact even worked there. It was such trash, just like the author, pure trash!

  • itsnotmyfault

    I love the Adrian Chmielarz piece. I was so disappointed when it wasn’t a finalist for a feature story (because I nominated as a feature), but now there’s some recognition for his cautious, well-researched, thoughtful, and thought provoking writing. I hope he wins!


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