Ethics, smithics

Gideon Grudo and Tyler Krome

There are ethics, and there are smithics.


Kevin Smith sits on the board of SPJ’s foundation, called Sigma Delta Chi. Yesterday, he endorsed a candidate for SPJ office.

Smith posted on the Excellence in Journalism convention app…

Rebecca Baker deserves your vote for secretary-treasurer. As past president, board member I know her commitment and visions and I support her leadership of the Society.

Should a director of SPJ’s foundation publicly endorse a candidate? When I said this was “bad form,” Smith replied, “I have every right to endorse my friend for office.”

Not really. Not according to Smith’s boss, SDX chairman Robert Leger.

Leger says in April 2012, a committee “discussed a policy covering SDX Foundation board members’ role during SPJ officer and director elections.” The results? Leger told me…

The committee concluded a policy wasn’t needed and offered the following guidance statement: “Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board members are cautioned against actively participating in SPJ election campaigns.” The minutes indicate the board approved the guideline.

Those minutes don’t indicate if Smith voted against it, but he’s definitely violating it now. Sure, it’s not an ironclad rule. But it’s at least unethical to brazenly flout this guideline.

Thing is, Smith is the previous chairman of SPJ’s Ethics Committee, and he’s a journalism professor. It must be easier to teach ethics than to practice them.

So what happens now? Probably nothing. Smith knows the best defense is to be offensive. When I confronted him on the EIJ app, he publicly accused me of doing the same with Baker’s opponent, Jason Parsley, who hails from my chapter…

Since South Florida endorsed him and your fingerprints are all over that chapter I can’t imagine you weren’t involved in that process…So let’s dispense with the conflicts of interest lecture. You’ve always been good at double standards and bad form.

SPJ Florida’s president and past president corrected Smith – because I had nothing to do with that endorsement. As an SPJ national board member, I’ve been following our own guideline: “Current national SPJ board members should remain neutral in all elections.”

I even interviewed the candidates and wrote equally nice things about Baker and Parsley. (I was less kind to other candidates.)

But I guess I’m just not very good at smithics.


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