Archive for the ‘Quill’ Category

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


Can you really engage a community by telling them to “follow” and “like” you?

Sometimes the most obvious answers are the hardest to find – or at least require an “aha!” moment before they’re revealed.

That happened yesterday as I was writing an e-mail message to Quill subscribers and SPJ members about the new digital e-magazine version being available.

At the end I initially wrote: “Follow us on Twitter and Facebook,” giving links to SPJ’s accounts on those networks.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “community engagement” lately, no doubt fueled by following numerous community engagement managers and social media editors on Twitter. (Steve Buttry and Craig Kanalley to name just two.)

It struck me there: What about true community engagement is embedded in terms like “follow us” and “like us”? In short: nothing. I can’t think of a time I’ve felt deeply connected to or an equal part of a group by being told to “follow” or “like” something else.

So, I changed the construction in the e-mail to:

If you’re so inclined, join Quill and SPJ in discussing and reviewing journalism news and conversations on Twitter and Facebook.

If news outlets really are becoming greater partners with their audiences – if community engagement isn’t just the buzzword of the year (which I don’t believe it is) – then perhaps it’s time to re-examine how to interact with community members on the most basic level. Sure, having tweetups and hosting live-chats are essential and incredibly rewarding. But what message are you sending by telling audiences that they’re “followers” and that THEY should “like” YOU?

News and information sharing is a team effort. It takes a village to raise a child, we’re told. And it takes a collaborative community joining together to report, share and discuss the stories that are important to them.

Scott Leadingham is editor of Quill magazine. If you’re so inclined, you can join him in discussing, sharing and commenting on journalism and media issues on Twitter: @scottleadingham.

In search of storytellers (or what’s the point of storytelling, anyway?)

Posted by Scott Leadingham

What’s the point of storytelling? Specifically, in journalism, what are we trying to accomplish by “telling stories”?

At SPJ we often get e-mails and calls from aspiring journalists – students or otherwise – who want advice on becoming a full professional. There’s usually a theme in these conversations, something like: “I want to be a journalist because I love telling stories.”

Same thing goes when talking to journalists at conferences or in meetings or profiling them for Quill magazine. It’s a variation on a theme: “I got into journalism to tell stories about people and their communities, to have an impact on people’s lives.”

An NPR piece this week made me think about this with renewed fervor. Media correspondent David Folkenflik visited USC’s Annenberg School and asked: “What’s the point of journalism school, anyway?”

Upon hearing the report, I asked myself: “What’s the point of storytelling, anyway?” Why do many journalists hold it in such high regard? (Or, more cynically, why do so many journalists and outlets claim to value it when in reality so much journalism is stenography and infotainment?)

In thinking of Folkenflik’s piece, are the skills purported to be taught in journalism school – ethical responsibility, sound news judgment, mechanics for writing and production – the same as the art of storytelling? Does one really need to go to journalism school to learn storytelling the same way one learns, say, how to access public records?

All rhetorical questions, for sure.

For Quill, this blog, the SPJ website, heck, my own personal amusement, I’m looking to collect your thoughts on what it means to be a storyteller in journalism. Who does it well? What journalists, outlets or initiatives encapsulate what it means to be a “storyteller”?

Of course, there are many from which to choose. A short list in my mind includes “This American Life”/Ira Glass; “The Story”/Dick Gordon; Tom Hallman of The Oregonian; Amy Ellis Nutt of The Star-Ledger; Melissa Lyttle of The St. Petersburg Times; Boyd Huppert/Jonathan Malat of KARE-TV; and Rosette Royale of Real Change. Who do you suggest?

Leave a comment or drop me an e-mail. Heck, tell me a story while you’re at it.

Scott Leadingham is editor of SPJ’s Quill magazine. Twitter: @scottleadingham.

Nov/Dec issue of Quill is available (and there was much rejoicing)

Okay, try to contain your excitement. . .

The Nov/Dec issue of Quill magazine is available now (in print and online).

Quill - Nov/Dec 2009.  There’s A prize if you can identify the newspaper name and issue date from which the newsprint on the cover is taken.

Quill - Nov/Dec 2009. There’s a prize if you can identify the newspaper name and issue date from which the newsprint on the cover is taken.

Features in this issue:

News Hole:  Can local news Web sites fill the void left by shrinking newspapers?

The Eternal Optimists: If the industry is shrinking, why are there still so many journalism majors, and what do they think about their job prospects?

Three’s Company: With all the news about print going away, consider one Midwestern community served by a burgeoning trilingual newspaper.

All that plus the regular slate of Toolbox columns to help your career. And don’t miss the “10” interview with Rosette Royale, a truly inspiring journalist in Seattle whose work you’ll want to emulate (he won a Sigma Delta Chi Award last year).

As always, if you have questions, comments, concerns or snide remarks about Quill (print, online or otherwise), contact editor Scott Leadingham or leave a comment below. (And mom, if you’re reading this, please don’t sign your comments “Scottie’sMomma.”)

Happy reading!

Tip o’ the hat: SPLC turns 35

The non-profit Student Press Law Center is celebrating 35 years protecting the First Amendment rights of young journalists. And we here at SPJ headquarters – celebrating our centennial this year – wish all the best to SPLC and its cadre of volunteer lawyers, hardworking student interns, and, of course, ever-busy executive director Frank LoMonte.

SPLC sent a “party invitation” to recognize the occasion. There’s no physical party to attend – just a nicely designed campaign e-mail (and an ever-so-subtle suggestion to donate $35 … get it?).

One issue SPLC has been particularly in front of is opposition to FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The 35-year-old law is facing renewed scrutiny after a recent Columbus Dispatch investigation revealed universities arbitrarily and erroneously using the law to block public records. SPJ’s Quill magazine covered the controversy in the Sept/Oct 2009 issue, and SPLC’s Frank LoMonte was a crucial source. He provided some great tips for student journalists to overcome FERPA hurdles at their universities.

So, congratulations to SPLC on 35 years of defending the rights of the student press. Here’s to many more.

Lessons of Balloon Boy to Journalists – What do you think?

Sure, the American public, the world and the aliens receiving our telecommunications signals 500 years from now are sick of Balloon Boy – but there’s a lesson here somewhere.

Let’s find it.

SPJ and Quill magazine are in need of your opinions on the subject: “What lessons, if any, have journalists and newsrooms learned from Balloon Boy?”

For the next issue of Quill – online and print – journalists of all stripes and media are encouraged to tell us how Balloon Boy – and other “quick to air breaking news” events such as the Sept. 11, 2009, Potomac incident – shaped your news coverage for the future.

Did you learn anything? Did your newsroom change any procedures? Did you become jaded or more skeptical? Did you change the lessons in the reporting class you teach?

There’s no right or wrong answer, just a multitude of opinions and outlooks from which we can all mutually benefit.

To submit: E-mail a one-to-three sentence answer with your name, title, outlet/organization for which you work and daytime contact information to Scott Leadingham. Responses will be confirmed, edited if necessary and possibly used in Quill.

Thanks in advance for your contribution.


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