New Code of Ethics draft available

Not long after comments from the first revision began pouring in, the group working to revise SPJ’s Ethics Code attacked Round 2.

That draft is now available here, and we hope you will take time to provide input before July 9. This will give the group a few days to evaluate those comments before it meets July 12 in Columbus, Ohio. On that day, it will hammer out what I would define as the first fully-vetted draft of the updated Code.


If you can’t provide input before the meeting, join us at SPJ.org on July 12. We will be live streaming the meeting, and I’ll be hosting a daylong Twitter chat (#spjethics) while the process unfolds. This will, in part, allow the group to consider real-time input from around the globe.

Moving forward, the draft that comes out of that meeting will be shared with members, the larger journalism community, the SPJ Board of Directors and, eventually, SPJ’s voting delegates during EIJ14 in Nashville. Before the delegates receive the draft, however, members will have the opportunity to cast an advisory vote during SPJ’s annual elections. The board will also make a recommendation to the delegates. Armed with board and member input, the delegates (which are the supreme legislative body of SPJ) will make the decision to accept the latest version, or send it back to the drawing board.

It’s entirely possible SPJ could have an updated Code of Ethics before October. It’s also entirely possible this process could continue for another year. Case in point, it took two years to adopt the current code.

But, back to the current draft:

Similar to version 1.0, subcommittees tackled each of the Code’s four sections: Seek Truth, Minimize Harm, Act Independently, Be Accountable.

Ethics Committee Chairman Kevin Smith opened discussion of Round 2 with the idea of moving away from the four guiding principles. Although the group felt the current structure of the Code remains important and relevant, the latest version does contain an updated principle: Be Accountable and Transparent.

In order to gain fresh perspectives on each section, Smith reassigned the subcommittees, and tasked them with sections different from what they worked on during the initial draft. Furthermore, he appointed different people within the group to lead each subcommittee. Smith, meanwhile, refrained from participating on any subcommittee – freeing himself to oversee the process and jump in as a reserve if needed.

The assignments for the latest revision were:

Seek Truth
Chris Robert, chairman
Fred Brown
Lauren Bartlett
Kelly McBride

Minimize Harm
Hagit Limor, chairwoman
Elizabeth Donald
Lynn Walsh
Irwin Gratz

Be Independent
Monica Guzman, chairwoman
Stephen Ward
Jim Pumarlo
Andrew Seaman

Be Accountable
Mike Farrell, chairman
Carole Feldman
Paul Fletcher
Jan Leach

On Monday, the subcommittees submitted their work. Smith compiled that into one document – the latest revision.

Since August 2013, SPJ has conducted a session at its national convention and sessions at several regional conferences around the country. It has accepted comments online (which actually started prior to Aug. 2013), and engaged the larger community via Twitter chats and other social media engagement. Many chapters have conducted their own programs, and passed along their findings.

This has resulted in hundreds of comments, which have been considered by the group to formulate the latest version. So, please keep those comments coming. We aren’t at the finish line yet.

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