Archive for the ‘Journalism Ethics’ Category


SPJ in 2017: The Year in Review

It’s been quite a year for journalism. In 2017, journalists have been arrested, threatened and bullied. They’ve been harassed by sources – and each other. But more than anything, 2017 has been a year when journalists have proven they will continue to do their jobs no matter the obstacles they face.

That’s why SPJ has been hard at work fighting for journalists everywhere, but much of our work is done behind the scenes.

In 2017, SPJ has continued strong advocacy work in fighting for journalists’ rights; recognized amazing works of journalism with our Sigma Delta Chi Awards, Mark of Excellence Awards and many others; launched an Inauguration Day membership drive and continued to partner and support other journalism organizations.

Here are some of our highlights:

ADVOCACY

We signed onto at least 17 court briefs whose cases would have major effects on journalism this year. We wrote and signed onto a plethora of letters in support of issues that would affect free press, ethical journalism, net neutrality and more. We also committed thousands of dollars from the SPJ Legal Defense Fund this year to journalists facing legal issues.

SPJ spearheaded a letter, signed by 70 journalism and open government organizations, to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence requesting a meeting about government transparency. The groups seek to build on the meeting SPJ led in December 2015 with the Obama administration. To date, however, the Trump administration has not responded.

In February, SPJ – along with Committee to Protect Journalists, Native American Journalists Association, National Press Photographers Association and Online News Association – sent a letter to officials in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, to allow journalists to cover the events at Standing Rock safely.

After speaking out against a judge’s actions regarding “prior restraint” in December 2016, SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund Committee granted Isaac Avilucea, a reporter for the (Trenton, New Jersey) Trentonian, $5,000 in March to help with his legal fees. Avilucea obtained a confidential child custody report from the child’s mother. Without giving notice to the newspaper or Avilucea, a New Jersey judge issued an emergency order prohibiting him and the newspaper from publishing information obtained from the complaint. Avilucea won his case in March.

SPJ had its biggest and best Ethics Week in April – with the help of some friends in New York City, we displayed the Code of Ethics on billboards in Times Square. We also had our very first Day of Giving, where we raised $22,025.

Dan Heyman, a West Virginia Public News Service journalist, was arrested in May for questioning Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and White House adviser Kellyanne Conway. SPJ urged West Virginia officials to drop the charges. SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund Committee later granted Heyman’s lawyer, Tim DiPiero, $5,000 to cover his fees. DiPiero, along with the law firm of Wilmer Hale, which worked on a pro bono basis, was instrumental in securing a complete and unconditional dismissal of the charges.

In June, SPJ headquarters staffers and leaders met with lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to discuss the importance of journalism and explain what organizations like SPJ do to help the industry. We also joined a group of press freedom groups in filing a formal complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics asking that Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) be disciplined after his assault charge for allegedly “body-slamming” a reporter for The Guardian.

SPJ and 32 other journalism and open government organizations sent a letter in July to Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) urging the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the state of media in the United States.

Throughout the year, SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Andrew Seaman shared his thoughts on ethical journalism and the SPJ Code of Ethics, via the Code Words blog. He wrote about journalists speaking out against discrimination; the reasons why journalists are not the dishonest enemies of America like POTUS says; how to cover natural disasters and the situation in Puerto Rico; why journalism organizations and institutions should be held accountable and more.

SPJ joined Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom of the Press Foundation and 17 other press freedom organizations to launch the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. We also launched a website to continue fighting restrictions on information from Public Information Officers.

SPJ raised more than $10,000 for Giving News Day in support of the Legal Defense Fund, the First Amendment Forever Fund, the President’s Club and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

SPJ spoke out against the secretive new owners of LA Weekly and, most recently, compiled and released a list of resources for journalists combating sexual harassment in the newsroom.

AWARDS

SPJ received more than 3,500 entries for the Mark of Excellence collegiate awards. There were 51 national winners across 12 regions. This year, SPJ also introduced a new videography category for the 2017 awards.

SPJ had more than 1,300 entries for the Sigma Delta Chi awards for professional journalists, with 86 national winners. These awards recognize the best of the best in journalism, which truly makes a difference in people’s lives.

Bruce Sanford, longtime SPJ attorney and First Amendment advocate, was given the highest SPJ honor – the Wells Memorial Key. Jerry Seib, Lawrence Pintak and Stephen Shepard were named Fellows of the Society for their extraordinary contributions to journalism. Rochelle Riley was given the $75,000 Pulliam Fellowship in Editorial Writing. Riley plans to spend the next year studying the effect of trauma and a toxic environment on children’s learning.

Ohio University was named the best SPJ campus chapter, and the Press Club of Long Island, Florida Pro Chapter and Cincinnati Pro Chapter were named the best professional chapters of SPJ.

MEMBERSHIP

SPJ gained 219 members in response to an Inauguration Day special membership promotion for professional members. Thanks to the “Fight Back” campaign, we’re trending up in membership compared to this time last year, finally reversing a multi-year decline.

EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM 2017

More than 1,800 people attended this year’s journalism conference in Anaheim, California. At EIJ17, more than $5,500 was raised for the Legal Defense Fund through the LDF auction, and #EIJ17 was tweeted more than 11,600 times during the three-day conference.

JOURNALISM SUPPORT

SPJ’s partnerships with other journalism organizations also grew in 2017. Now, SPJ provides association management services such as bookkeeping, communications and conference planning to the American Copy Editors Society, Journalism and Women Symposium, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Society of Environmental Journalists and Radio Television Digital News Association, to name a few. Our work with the “boring office stuff” allows them to focus heavily on their mission, which continues to improve journalism across the board.

SPJ regularly partners with more than 100 other journalism and open government organizations across the country on letters, statements, court briefs, etc. We couldn’t do what we do without them.

We know 2018 will bring more challenges for all of us to fight for the First Amendment, freedom of the press and journalists everywhere. It will also bring more opportunities to share with the public who we are, what we do and how and why we do it.

From all of us at SPJ to all of you, best wishes for a happy, healthy and productive 2018.

How to be a journalist and a human being in five easy steps

As the Society of Professional Journalists is vigorously combing through its Code of Ethics for revision, I am left pondering the deeper meanings of the Code.

I know, so intellectual of me. But, honestly, I think sometimes journalists forget in the craziness of deadline-meeting and note-taking and other juggling to throw in a little humanity. This is what I think SPJ’s Code of Ethics should be: A guide for the human journalist.

Yes, a feeling, compassionate, news-hound with a mission, but also a heart. The only problem is I kind of lied in my headline, because I don’t think there are five easy steps for the Code of Ethics to line up with this humanness. This is the journalist’s (aka human’s) job.

I’m not the only one in the SPJ family with some ideas swirling about regarding this long-overdue revision. Our Executive Director, Joe Skeel, wrote a great blog post outlining his feelings about the project and his conclusion that the Code of Ethics should be broad, rather than detailed in nature.

I agree.

In that post, he also spoke about the first time many journalists come in contact with the Code of Ethics, which mirrored my own experience with my first ethics code run-in.

I stumbled upon SPJ’s Code of Ethics in the mass amounts of papers I was handed for a media ethics class that I took at Purdue during my junior year. I spent my entire semester writing papers, having discussions and arguments, and simply sorting out how to take this Code of Ethics and apply it to real-life journalistic ethical problems.

There wasn’t ever a right answer, and it drove me crazy.

As a journalist I am used to absolute truth. Either the house caught on fire or it didn’t, and it is my job to find out which happened and report it. Not: Well it did catch on fire but it’s really up for interpretation. No! I don’t like this answer, nor what the Code of Ethics made me do:  think.

As I spent a year as opinions editor at The Exponent, I actually had to apply this thinking and decision-making process on a daily basis. Unbeknownst to me when I took the position, you can’t publish any opinion you feel like or are sent by readers. There is this whole minimize harm notion that applies. And, of course, libel. I learned this the hard way when I published a letter to the editor that made false claims about members of Purdue’s administration.

Oops. Big oops, actually.

I learned my lesson though, as every college journalist can relate at some point in their schooling, and started weighing the costs and benefits of publishing opinions that could be harmful in the future. That is what SPJ’s Code of Ethics taught me.

I started thinking like a human and a journalist, rather than just a journalist. And I think that’s the key to this whole ethics code revision “debate.”

It’s like running to the scene of a car accident to cover it and not helping the person bleeding inside the car when you are the only one there. If journalists put away the keyboard sometimes and remember how it feels to be on the other side of the computer screen, maybe just maybe whatever the Code of Ethics is revised to say can be interpreted fairly by human beings.

Some might believe that SPJ is not ethically revising its ethics code (ironic). Others won’t like it when it is revised, probably just like there are many who already don’t agree with its current incarnation. But, if it starts newsroom discussions, even just one, where the balance between printing and holding information is weighed in order to minimize harm or report the truth, then it has done its job.

The code could stay the way it is now and be fine, but as journalism is changing the code is too, and so should the journalists interpreting that code.

Make it detailed, make it broad, make it behind closed doors with everyone blindfolded and tied to chairs. I don’t so much care how the Code of Ethics revision process is done. Just interpret it as humans once it is complete.

Taylor Carlier is the communications coordinator at the Society of Professional Journalists. She is a 2014 Purdue University graduate of Mass Communication: Journalism and previously was the special projects editor at The Exponent. She can be reached at tcarlier@spj.org or interact on Twitter: @Taylorcarlier.

Notes on the news, Twitter and public hunger for accuracy

There was a lot of bad.

The bombings — tragic.
A city gripped by fearful uncertainty — terrible.
News media spewing inaccurate information — beyond disappointing.

Much has already been said about the journalism mistakes: the impact on the industry, the misuse of social media and what to consider the next time big news breaks.

Among those valuable takeaways, it’s important to highlight news consumers’ reactions to media blunders.

More than ever, they’re not having it.

That’s my unscientific observation. In my year with SPJ, I’ve monitored the social media reactions to the SCOTUS ruling on the Affordable Care Act, the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., damage caused by superstorm Sandy, the Newtown, Conn., school shooting and now the Boston Marathon bombings and the manhunt that followed. (There was the U.S. Presidential election, but that went smoothly. Did I miss anything? Probably.)

As big breaking-news events occurred, news consumers became increasingly intolerant of inaccurate reporting. Via Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, they ask for verification and urge news deliverers to exercise patience and ethical judgements.

Setting aside the inaccuracies churned out on those same platforms, it’s wonderful to see a hunger for quality journalism. Plenty of journalists got it right, but the ones that didn’t must take note of their audiences’ reactions. People want — they demand — informative, accurate reports.

Give the people what they want.

___

FYI, the SPJ Code of Ethics is a great reference » http://spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email, cdigangi@spj.org, or Twitter,@cdigang.

What’s your personal journalism code of ethics?

SPJ’s Code of Ethics is among the most cited codes for journalism professionals, but there are certainly more from other organizations and news outlets. These codes are mostly starting points to guide ethical decision making. Often the gray areas of journalism ethics require your own additional thought process.

So, we ask, what’s your personal code of ethics? Are there more points you use to steer your own work? What, in addition to SPJ’s Code or other institutional rules, do you follow?

This is a question we pose in the upcoming issue of Quill magazine, the annual ethics issue.

Share your personal code of ethics in the comments below, on Facebook, or email to me. Keep it relatively short — 50 to 150 words or so. We’ll highlight some in a future issue and online.

As an example, we asked Steve Buttry, digital transformation editor at Digital First Media and a frequent writer on journalism ethics topics, to give us his personal code of ethics. (Steve has previously written on his blog and for Quill about the need to update the SPJ Code.)

Steve Buttry’s Personal Code of Ethics

A journalist’s job is pretty much like a witness’s oath in court: to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This goes deeper and broader than the call in codes of ethics to seek and report the truth. We must tell the whole truth about our reporting: showing our work and linking to our sources (including the competition). We must tell the whole truth about connections and experiences that might influence our reporting. This means acknowledging that we are humans with biases and opinions, not insisting that we’re objects. We must tell nothing but the truth. This means that we don’t settle for the faux balance of he-said-she-said journalism, but dig for verification and learn who is telling the truth. We must fact-check and call out the liars who too often use media as megaphones.

That’s Steve’s take. What’s yours?

Scott Leadingham is SPJ’s Director of Education and editor of Quill. Interact on Twitter: @scottleadingham

 

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