Archive for December, 2016

An ethical resolution

Ethical journalism remains a quintessential part of society, and the SPJ Code of Ethics helps to reinforce it. (Image: Pixabay)

Journalism is in a quandary. As we prepare to say goodbye to 2016 and head into 2017, we do so with a challenge to the identity and culture of our profession. In light of the geopolitical headlines, notably with the recent US presidential election, we’re attempting to trace our next steps.

Writing in her column for the Society’s Quill magazine, SPJ national president Lynn Walsh says we have been challenged. Yet, in spite of it, there is opportunity abound.

“We, as journalists, have been challenged,” Walsh said. “And that means it’s our time to shine. We are not scum. We are not liars. We are not disgusting. We are not corrupt. We are professionals. We are protectors of the First Amendment. We are honest. We are compassionate.”

In this time of transition, it is a good time to stop, pause and reflect, and the SPJ Code of Ethics helps us to do just that. As I wrote over on the Generation J blog a couple of weeks earlier, it is a reminder of the principles of education, the quintessential component of journalism, the real reason why we seek to make careers for ourselves in this industry.

Yet, alongside its reminder for the need to educate, the Ethics Code reminds us of the simple principles that allows us to practice quality journalism — seek truth and report it, minimize harm, be accountable and transparent, and act independently.

With that in mind, here are some resolutions to keep in mind as we begin 2017.

Seek truth and report it: People still care about the facts. It isn’t about doing better than your competitor, but about informing and engaging the people that trust and come to you for information. Trust is sacrosanct, and to ensure it stays that way you must be meticulous with information. If you’re uncertain about something, check it. If you’re trying to confirm something, tell your audience that. Then pick up the phone and see what’s going on. It is better to be right about something and take the time to do it, than to say something and end up being wrong later.

Minimize harm: Every story as a pro and a con, and you have to consider what will best benefit the public’s interests, not your own. Consider the circumstances of an interview with an individual, and if it really helps your story. Avoid lurid curiosity, and be compassionate with others in their circumstances. Remember this line however most of all: “Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.”

Be accountable and transparent: We are humans, and like all humans, we make mistakes. We aren’t proud of them, but we make them. Remember always that if someone catches a mistake, acknowledge it, respond, and correct it. Keep the audience in the know about editorial conversations as it pertains to your story, and explain any decision making behind any story.

Act independently: Don’t be intimidated by a source. If you have a conflict of interest with a story, disclose it. Don’t pay for access to content to inform the public. Also, if you’re given something for free, refuse it, and consider the work you do outside of journalism, and ensure it doesn’t damage your credibility, integrity or impartiality.

The challenge that we have before us appears daunting. Though we don’t have the answers to all of the questions that are being asked in journalism, we have the opportunity to answer them. With the help of the Ethics Code, we can show the world why journalism continues to remain important, as it continues to evolve in the digital age.

We also can remind ourselves that it isn’t really about us, but instead the people who matter most of all — the audience.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. He also is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Generation J Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Facebook’s live circle

Facebook’s live audio introduction can have an impact on the identity of broadcasters, including Minnesota Public Radio. (Photo: Tony Webster/Flickr under CC)

It started last year with Facebook Live as a way to boost engagement with live videos, be it a Q&A, analysis or reporting during a breaking news story. Now, Facebook has gone full circle with the introduction of live audio.

In an announcement, the social network said the move was an expansion of features on Live, after the introduction of Live 360, with publishers saying they were looking for new ways to go live. Initial partners in the initial launch include the BBC World Service and the book publisher HarperCollins, with a roll out to all of its users being scheduled for early next year.

Facebook has been noted in its abilities to aide audience engagement to journalists and new s organizations, so the introduction of live audio will likely help with that engagement and how stories are told, be it a story local in nature, or one with geopolitical connections. It will expand the reach of broadcasters, be it a local station in Seattle or the business program Marketplace.

Yet, it also raises a couple of questions as to the role and identity of broadcasters, especially public broadcasters, in the digital age, and to what level the content could complement their offerings on the radio. As audiences consume news and media besides the conventional print and broadcast methods, organizations have had to be creative in how these stories are told, with the ultimate goal to find the balance between engaging and informing, especially with younger audiences.

As they do, broadcasters are not simply broadcasters anymore – they are brands, and broadcasting is simply a part of the work that is done. Some have done well in adapting into the digital age, recognizing their obligation to produce quality, ethical journalism, while some have not.

While Facebook’s announcement has its pros for audience engagement, it also is forcing broadcasters to revolutionize their thinking in the digital age, to complement the work that is featured on some of the best mediums in the world, irrespective of subject area or beat.

But ultimately, no matter the content that is produced, broadcasters should have one consideration in mind – not to Facebook, nor the content that be considered viral successes, but to the people that will matter the most – their audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. He also is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Twitter Chat: “Enhance Your Reporting 360 Degrees”

Join SPJ Digital Dec. 20, 2016 at 8 PM (Eastern Standard Time) for an hour-long chat about how to use 360-degree video to enhance your every day reporting. We’ll talk with four experts about tools, tips and best practices.

Search #SPJDigiChat on Twitter to join the conversation.

Meet the experts:

1.) BEN KREIMER  (@benkreimer)

As a journalism technologist, Ben Kreimer specializes in storytelling with drones, virtual reality, 360° video, 3D reconstructions, and open source hardware sensor platforms. He focuses on helping storytellers and mission-driven organizations leverage these emerging technologies for telling immersive stories and amplifying their work. Ben brought 360° video to BuzzFeed as the first fellow in their San Francisco based Open Lab, a media R&D space. He has co-produced many of BuzzFeed’s 360° videos, including their first, which has received over six million views. He is also an adviser for the Drone Journalism Lab and African skyCAM, and has worked with academic institutions and organizations including Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Times of India, CCTV Africa, VICE News, African Wildlife Foundation, SecondMuse, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Antiochia ad Cragum Archaeological Research Project in Turkey.
2.) MIKE REILLEY  (@journtoolbox)
Mike works with in business development and also works as a Google News Lab trainer, teaching cutting-edge skills to journalists throughout the U.S.
In 2015 and 2016, Mike was the director of digital production and professor of practice at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. He and his digital production students rebuilt, updated and produced multimedia, mobile stories and data visualizations for Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS. His group also built the Carnegie-Knight News21 Weed Rush and Nicaragua: Channeling the Future sites.
He taught several classes over 6 1/2 years at DePaul University, including Reporting for Converged Newsrooms, Online Journalism I, Online Journalism II, Mobile Journalism, News Editing and Multiplatform News Editing. In winter 2011, he launched The Red Line Project with students in his Online Journalism II class. The site won many national and regional awards — including honors from ONA and Editor & Publisher — in its 4 1/2 years.
He also served as founder and faculty adviser the SPJ/ONA DePaul student organization. The group was named the 2013 and 2011 SPJ National Campus Chapter of the Year, Region 5 Campus Chapter of the Year and was DePaul University’s 2012 Outstanding Student Organization. Reilley was named DePaul’s Outstanding Faculty Adviser in 2012 and won SPJ’s David Eshelman Award for Outstanding Campus Adviser in 2013.
Mike is a former reporter and copy editor at the Los Angeles Times and was one of the founding editors of He’s a former news editor at and ran the 2000 Summer Olympics copy desk for AOL. Mike also founded the journalism research site, The Journalist’s Toolbox , that he sold to the Society of Professional Journalists in 2007 and continues to update for SPJ. He also blogged about the Chicago Bear for two seasons on the NFL Blog Blitz  site.
Lakshmi Sarah is a multimedia journalist with a focus on South Asia, identity and the arts. Over the past few years she has worked with newspapers, radio and magazines from Gaborone, Botswana to Los Angeles, California. She has written and produced for Mic, Global Voices, Al Jazeera Online, AJ+, KQED and Fusion. She co-founded Tiny World Productions to focus on immersive video content.
Melissa Bosworth is a multimedia journalist and 360 video producer. In her work as a reporter, features writer, digital producer and videographer she has covered energy, the environment, technology and policy across the Americas and in Europe. She is co-founder of Tiny World Productions.
4.) ROBERT HERNANDEZ  @webjournalist

Robert Hernandez, aka WebJournalist, has made a name for himself as a journalist of the Web, not just on the Web. His primary focus is exploring and developing the intersection of technology and journalism – to empower people, inform reporting and storytelling, engage community, improve distribution and, whenever possible, enhance revenue. He is an Associate Professor of Professional Practice at USC Annenberg, but he’s not an academic… he’s more of a “hackademic” and specializes in “MacGyvering” Web journalism solutions. He connects dots and people. He has worked for,,, La Prensa Gráfica, among others. Hernandez is also the co-founder of #wjchat and co-creator of the Diversify Journalism Project. His most recent work includes Augmented Reality, Wearables/Google Glass and Virtual Reality — he and his students produce VR experiences under their brand: Jovrnalism. He serves on the Online News Association board and a lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He is the recipient of SPJ’s 2015 Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award. He has made it to imgur’s front page more than once.


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