Under fire, journalists must not change mission and standards, SPJ Ethics Committee chair says

At a time of conflict, stress and challenge, journalists must not change their mission and their standards, the chair of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Ethics Committee told journalists at the University of Kentucky Wednesday evening.

Andrew Seaman, senior health-policy reporter for Reuters, noted that public trust in the news media is at al all-time low, but health-insurance companies have somehow improved their public regard in recent years, and “If they can gain trust, so can journalists.”

Even though journalists have “the most powerful person in the world attacking us,” they must not take the bait of an adviser to President Trump and become “the opposition party,” Seaman said. They must continue to do the work that democracy and society demand, and “be careful of the friends you make while you are under attack.

He said journalists would do well to remember the maxim of Washington Post Editor Martin Baron: “We’re not at war. We’re at work.”

Seaman made another point familiar to rural journalists: “Be part of the communities you serve,” spending time that doesn’t involve reporting.

At the same time, he said, journalists must be educators and advocates for their craft, explaining controversial decisions. And finally, he said, “Be human,” empathizing and observing the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

About Challenges to Journalism Series:

Seaman’s appearance was the latest in a series of “Challenges to Journalism” programs sponsored by the UK School of Journalism and Media, its Scripps Howard First Amendment Center and Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, the UK Department of Communication and the campus SPJ chapter and Bluegrass SPJ chapter. The next one will feature Rich Boehne, CEO of E.W. Scripps Co., March 30.

Al Cross is director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based at the University of Kentucky, and an associate professor in the university’s School of Journalism and Telecommunications. He’s also co-adviser for UK’s chapter of SPJ.This post originally appeared on the The Rural Blog. .


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  • Harland

    Media ARE the opposition party. It makes me sad that SPJ is advising its members not to change, when change is so badly needed in journalism.

    Journalists don’t want the media to stop being partisans– they just want them to be *more effective* partisans! To be more effective at beating Trump.

    The assumptions and goals are the same — Trump is evil, he should be destroyed.

    It never occurs to the media or their ”critics” that the media is not supposed to have any skin in the game….you can only ”lose” if you are fighting an opponent…and THAT’S THE PROBLEM.

    What bothers me the most about the media is that not only are they horribly prejudiced – they don’t even seem to be able to recognize their prejudice. That’s so bad.

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