Archive for November, 2017


Journalists Must Be Held Accountable

Charlie Rose in 2006. (Flickr Creative Commons/Thomas Hawk)

Journalism organizations and institutions should not shy away from holding people accountable for their actions.


CBS News, Bloomberg and PBS cut ties with Charlie Rose on Tuesday after numerous reports of sexual misconduct. The allegations, which were first reported in The Washington Post, are the latest to strike a major figure in the world of journalism.

Unlike most of the previous journalists recently accused of sexual misconduct, Rose presents an awkward position for several organizations and institutions that honored him with awards to recognize his long career.

The Radio Television Digital News Association honored Rose with its lifetime achievement award in 2016. The Society of Professional JournalistsDeadline Club inducted him into its hall of fame in 2015. Arizona State University awarded Rose with its excellence in journalism award in 2015. Other organizations undoubtedly honored him over the years, too.

ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication announced on Friday it is revoking Rose’s award in an “unprecedented action.” The Deadline Club is reportedly considering revoking its award.

Rescinding awards is often a divisive conversation, but it shouldn’t be in cases such as the one involving Rose, who apologized for his “inappropriate behavior” but said not all allegations against him were “accurate.” Organizations and institutions established to support and better journalism must not shy away from holding the field’s most powerful practitioners accountable.

 


The SPJ Code of Ethics ends with the principle that journalists should “abide by the same high standards they expect of others.” If journalists fall short, there should be appropriate ramifications as would be expected in any other profession. In this case, there is no debate that sexual harassment is completely wrong and unacceptable.

Some people argued on social media in response to ASU’s decision that these honors are typically awarded for the journalism a person produces – not for the lives they lived. A person’s career does not occur in a vacuum, however. The journalism a person produces cannot be separated from the pain and damage they may have caused along the way.

Organizations must also consider the people these awards promote and hold up as the profession’s role models. Does the award honor people who created a safe and educational environment for other good people wishing to enter the field? Or, does the award honor people regardless of the work environment they created and the talented people they turned away as a result? The correct answer should be obvious.

Lastly, the element of power cannot be ignored in many of these cases of sexual misconduct. If power and prominence contributed to these actions, the profession must be proactive in removing those as catalysts.

The Washington Post, The New York Times and many other news organizations – including CBS News – must be commended for reporting on these types of behaviors in journalism and other industries. Those reporters and editors are living up to the SPJ Code of Ethics, which says journalists should “be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable. Give voice to the voiceless.”

The journalism industry and profession turned a proverbial blind eye to sexual misconduct for too long. These past few weeks of revelations present an opportunity to change that culture and create a better present and future.

Ultimately, these debates come down to the question: How much sexual misconduct is acceptable? The answer is none.


Andrew M. Seaman is the ethics committee chairperson for the Society of Professional Journalists.

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Journalists Must Speak up for Colleagues

(Flickr Commons/Waffleboy)

Harassment and abuse has no place in the workplace – including newsrooms. Journalists must speak up.


In the wake of the scandal involving Harvey Weinstein, journalism is one of the several industries facing the reality that men – especially those in positions of power – are harassing and abusing female colleagues.

Well-known political reporter Mark Halperin lost several contracts and projects after reports of sexual harassment during his time at ABC News. Michael Oreskes also resigned as NPR’s senior vice president of news and editorial director after the networked investigated his behavior toward female colleagues. Other men resigned or were removed from their editorial positions in recent weeks in the wake of allegations.

Female journalists already shoulder an unfair burden of harassment from online trolls and people who lack civility. The last place they should be subjected to harassment or abuse is within the walls of their newsrooms and workplaces.

The recent high-profile cases should serve as a warning to other people who use positions of power to harass or abuse colleagues, but assuming that’s enough to solve the problem would be naïve and insulting to those who are the victims of these types of behaviors.

The duty then falls to the wider journalism community to help ensure safe workspaces for all journalists by calling out inappropriate behavior and supporting people who are the victims of abuse or harassment. Predators need to be put on notice that these types of actions won’t be tolerated.

Journalists are expected to call out inappropriate behavior and abuse in other industries. The quest for justice and safety should not stop at newsroom doors. After all, the Society of Professional JournalistsCode of Ethics calls on journalists to “expose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations” and to “abide by the same high standards they expect of others.”

Journalists must also challenge their news organization’s leadership to hold people accountable for harassment and abuse. Weak responses allow predators to go unchallenged and puts more people at risk.

The goal should be to rid the workplace of predators and create an environment in newsrooms where people who consider abusing or harassing colleagues are the ones feeling scared and anxious – not women and other journalists just trying to do their jobs.

The hope is that these last few weeks serve as a long-overdue turning point in the journalism industry, but to make that true will take a sustained commitment from all journalists to be vocal against abuse and harassment.

Silence is not an option.


Andrew M. Seaman is the chair of the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee.

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