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: firstname.lastname@example.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.
- In a post to the Society’s Ethics Committee blog, Andrew Seaman examines the line journalists walk between harm and serving the greater good. “A primary care doctor may prescribe medicine that causes side effects to control an even worse condition,” he writes. “Likewise, journalists may cause disruption in families, communities or countries to achieve their mission.”
- Paul Fletcher writes for the Society’s Ethics Committee blog that journalists must balance harm especially when it comes to private individuals. “A journalist must weigh the consequences of publishing that information, all in a way that seeks to minimize harm,” he writes.
- New virtual reality devices allow journalists to immerse their audience into a scene. Sometimes those scene may be a bit too close to reality for some, however. In her column as the New York Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan addresses some of the concerns readers have with the technology. One is that, “These aren’t computer-generated faces and landscapes; they’re real people in real places, and I felt like I was standing there myself, not just observing from afar.”
- The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press takes a look at the legal concerns journalists must be aware of when they start looking into people’s private lives. “Because intrusion is based on offensive prying and not the publication of offensive material, you may be liable for intrusion regardless of what you learned through the intrusive act and whether you published the information,” they write.
- 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.