Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.

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


  • Journalists carry the responsibility of what their readers, viewers and listeners are and are not exposed to in reports. The Society’s Ethics Committee tackled many questions related to grief, tragedy and victims in a previous position paper.
    SOURCE: https://www.spj.org/ethics-papers-grief.asp

 

  • In a case study for the Society’s Ethics Committee, the question of publishing offensive images is examines. For example, should cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which some people may find offensive, be published?
    SOURCE: http://www.spj.org/ecs2.asp

 

  • While it’s a unique case, The Washington Post – in conjunction with The New York Times – decided to publish a 35,000-word supplement written by Ted Kaczynski, who was known as the Unabomber. Kaczynski killed three people over two decades by planting or mailing bombs. The editorial leadership of the Post and Times received the anonymous manifesto with a note that promised to stop the killings if it was printed. The decision to publish the lengthy document eventually led to Kaczynski’s capture. A story in the Post 20 years after the manifesto’s publication shines light on the decision to publish this kind of document, which is a common part of mass or public killings. In this case, the promise to stop the killings and the possibility to capture the unknown bomber tipped the scales in favor of publication.
    SOURCE:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-publishing-a-35000-word-manifesto-led-to-the-unabomber/2015/09/18/e55229e0-5cac-11e5-9757-e49273f05f65_story.html

 

  • Amber Orand and Sara Stone examine for the Society’s Ethics Committee what to do about naming the possible victims of sex crimes. Also, what should journalists do when people, whose names are widely used, later turn out to be the victims of sex crimes?
    SOURCE:
    http://www.spj.org/ecs11.asp

 

  • FiveThirtyEight examines the urge of many people – including health professionals – to diagnose mental illnesses in public figures without a proper examination.
    SOURCE: http://53eig.ht/2uFI80A

 

  • Journalists and news organizations often avoid reporting on suicide, but – like other public health issues – blindly ignoring the topic is irresponsible. The Society’s ethics committee is currently working on a document to guide journalist reporting on suicide, but there are already several other resource available to educate jouranlists. The first resource – known as Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide – comes from several authoritative voices on mental health. The San Diego Society of Professional Journalists also offers quality resources on its website about mental health reporting. Additionally, Andy Schotz provided a brief overview in the Society’s Quill about why it’s necessary for journalist to responsibly report on suicides.
    SOURCE: http://reportingonsuicide.org/
    SOURCE: http://spjsandiego.org/resources-for-journalists/reporting-on-suicide-and-mental-illness/
    SOURCE: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/spj/quill0108/index.php?startid=28