Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.

The committee that revised the Society’s Code of Ethics felt the document’s tenets and underlying principles apply to all journalism regardless of how it’s ultimately presented. Still, the committee knew people interested in ethical journalism may benefit from additional guidance from the Society and other people and organizations.

Below are several resources that the Society’s ethics committee compiled to help people with day-to-day decisions. These resources are not formally part of the Code. Also, these lists will grow and change as more resources are found, or as resources become obsolete.

For those people who still have questions, please email the Society’s Ethics Hotline: ethics@spj.org


Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.

  • While it is important for journalists to be succinct – oversimplification that removes integral facts, or is in the service of manipulation is a violation of some of the Society’s basic principles, as the post from All Digitocracy shows. The post is about a story that came to be known as #Pointergate, in which Minnesota mayor is seen in a picture with a local activist. A local television reporter suggested the mayor and the activist were throwing up gang signs.
    SOURCE: http://alldigitocracy.org/pointergate-the-way-forward/

  • Journalists use new technologies to tell stories in ways never thought possible, but unfamiliarity brings potential pitfalls. Margaret Sullivan, public editor of the New York Times, discussed in her column the potential problems with virtual reality. One possible problem: uncomfortably close relationships between journalists and subjects.
    SOURCE: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/15/public-editor/new-york-times-virtual-reality-margaret-sullivan-public-editor.html
  • “Keeping news in proportion and not leaving important things out are also cornerstones of truthfulness,” according to a Pew Research Center study. “Journalism is a form of cartography: it creates a map for citizens to navigate society. Inflating events for sensation, neglecting others, stereotyping or being disproportionately negative all make a less reliable map. The map also should include news of all our communities, not just those with attractive demographics. This is best achieved by newsrooms with a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. The map is only an analogy; proportion and comprehensiveness are subjective, yet their elusiveness does not lessen their significance.”
    SOURCE: http://www.journalism.org/resources/principles-of-journalism/
  • Jeff Jarvis is considered of the “new school” of thought, but in his advocacy of “process” journalism – there is a defense of the the Society’s Code of Ethics to provide context. For starters – there is an implicit acknowledgment and acceptance of not knowing the whole story or being “perfect.” While it may hurt the ego – acknowledging this is a means of providing context: “Hey reader, we are working on this right now. Here’s what we now. We will provide more context as the story develops, so read into this just as far as our level of confidence suggests.” It’s in how journalists convey their level of confidence that they can provide this context.
    SOURCE: http://buzzmachine.com/2009/06/07/processjournalism/