Posts Tagged ‘Laura Davis’


Let’s talk about ethics

We should talk about ethics, not just on the days of Ethics Week, but every day. (Photo: SPJ)

Next Monday (April 24th) begins Ethics Week, an annual event here at SPJ that looks at the role of ethics in journalism, why the Society’s own Code of Ethics is important – and to explore its four key principles – seek truth and report it, minimize harm, and be accountable and transparent.

This year’s observance of Ethics Week comes at an interesting time for journalism – a time where the digital age is challenging the industry and trust between journalists and the public continues to decline. In the conversation we’re having about our future, a vast plethora of subjects have been up for debate, from the future of the business models to how social media platforms are impacting how we curate and disseminate the news.

While ethics too has been a part of this conversation, it plays a particularly distinctive role.

When Lynn Walsh, SPJ’s national president, went to south Florida a few years ago for a panel with video game journalists and bloggers, there was some controversy in the organization’s participation, in light of the events known as Gamergate, consisting of ethical issues in reporting as well as harassment online.

Yet, there was a core reason as to why Walsh said yes to taking part in this – it was all about talking about ethics with the public.

“SPJ needs to share its Code of Ethics with more than traditionally trained journalists,” Walsh wrote in her column in Quill, SPJ’s bimonthly magazine. “This event was a start. It also solidified my belief that SPJ needs to share its Code of Ethics outside of journalism: with the public, bloggers and all people sharing information.”

For Walsh, however, it was more than just about the Ethics Code, as she discussed the usage of anonymous sources. It allowed for a more insightful conversation into the workings of journalism, as change remains at its crux.

“The exchange made me realize how important it is for SPJ to reach out to the public about how and why journalists do their jobs,” Walsh wrote. “We need to explain why we share certain information but choose not to publish other information, how we report on sensitive topics and how we chose stories.”

Reading about Walsh’s reasons reminded me of a theory that was advocated by Laura Davis of the Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication at the University of Southern California. Writing late last year for Nieman Lab, Davis wrote about the need for journalists to show their work – that transparency is a necessity in this evolving digital age.

“Show your work by explaining more of the reporting process to your audience,” Davis wrote. “Be authentic by being more honest about what you know and what you don’t. It’s a small part of all things we can do, but it’s something we can do now — and frankly should have been doing all along.”

This all links back to one of the Ethics Code’s steadfast principles – be accountable and transparent. Journalists should be accountable for their reporting, irrespective of platform. If there is an error, it should be corrected, along with an explanation about why it was corrected, either on Facebook or on your web site. If there is uncertainty surrounding information, speak up, and tell the audience that you’re working to confirm the facts, whether its in a tweet or on the air. If someone asks a question about reporting, it should receive a response.

The platforms may change, but the rules remain the same. No matter your venue, a forthright journalist is a credible journalist. Along the way, it helps the public to better understand how journalists do their jobs. This conversation is a cornerstone of journalism ethics, and though it may appear to be simple, the simplest things are often the most important.

Ethics is at the core of the conversation as we continue to figure out how journalism will work in the digital age. From the conversations between colleagues in outlets, to conversations with my colleagues in SPJ as well as within the Ethics Committee (of which I’m a member), we’re talking about ethics. We’re not going to stop talking about ethics – and neither should you.

So, this Ethics Week (and every week), as we press for ethics, we should talk about ethics. We as journalists will be better for it, and so will the people that matter – our audience.

Editor’s note: Ethics Week is being held from April 24th through the 28th. You can get involved with the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #pressforethics. If you have a question for the SPJ Ethics Committee, you can call the SPJ Ethics Hotline at 317-927-8000, extension 208, or email your question to ethics@spj.org. 

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Perspective: It’s important

Students at USC’s Annenberg School have reinforced the importance of perspective and ideas in the digital age. (Photo: Bobak Ha’Eri/Wikimedia Commons)

Last month, Laura Davis of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism curated a series written by her students about how products affect trust with news organizations.

Journalism, in all its forms, finds itself in a quandary as the digital age. Yet, it goes beyond the consumption of it – but how trust can be maintained and ethics can be preserved. We are in the midst of a significant conversation that will ultimately build how we go about work in this industry – and no angle or factor is spared.

This conversation also evolves those who are looking to pursue work in this industry. Everyone who seeks to come into this industry does so for the same reasons – to inform, educate and stimulate the public. The ways that the news is disseminated will evolve, but the goal, as the former public editor of The New York Times (now Washington Post media columnist) Margaret Sullivan put it, remains the same – a reason to be optimistic:

“What matters is the journalism, not the medium. It’s happening before our eyes, and while there’s clearly reason to worry, there’s reason to hope, too.”

If Davis, her colleagues at Annenberg and her students have done anything through this albeit brief project, it is the need for perspective. The ideas of those who will be the future of this industry are just as important as the ideas of those currently in it – for when all is said and done, these ideas can strengthen and bolster journalism, confirm its quintessential importance for our democracy, and give the reason for why our profession’s work is a necessity.

So thank you, Annenberg students, for sharing this insight. May you continue to do so, and may your teachers and professors encourage you to do so.

Along the way, may you encourage other journalism students to do just the same – for we’ll need your perspective, now, and in the years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Celebrating women in journalism

Today is International Women’s Day — a day to celebrate and recognize the contributions women have made to the world. As journalism evolves, ideas and contributions by women have allowed to make the industry stronger for the future.

International Women’s Day occurs amid interesting roles for gender equity in the industry. Recent studies, notably from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University in Britain, showed that more women are studying journalism compared to men in multiple countries, including the United States. However, there is still difficulty when it comes to representation of women when you enter the industry.

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff anchoring the PBS Newshour during the election of 2012. (Photo: Newshour/Flickr under CC)

Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff anchoring the PBS Newshour during the election of 2012. (Photo: Newshour/Flickr under CC)

Data from the non-profit Women’s Media Center, showcased in their State of Women in the US Media in 2015, showcased that within newspapers, the Chicago Sun-Times had 55 percent of women having bylines, and both The Wall Street Journal and the LA Times had 40 percent of women with bylines. The New York Times had only 32 percent of women with bylines, USA Today had 33 percent and The Washington Post had 39 percent. More men were on the paper’s editorial boards compared to women.

On the major television networks, consisting of PBS, ABC, CBS and NBC, PBS had the most female reporters of the four with 44 percent. In addition, Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill co-anchor the PBS Newshour program, weeknights. At ABC, 30 percent of the reporters were women, with 29 percent at CBS and 43 percent at NBC. Men anchor the main evening newscasts on those networks (David Muir, Scott Pelley and Lester Holt, respectively). Specific data for cable networks (Fox, CNN, MSNBC) were not available, however the Center’s data indicates there is a larger amount of men working in TV news (58.8 percent) compared to women (41.2 percent).

In online journalism, four news sites were surveyed — The Huffington Post, CNN, The Daily Beast, and Fox News. The Huffington Post had the most female reporters with 53 percent, compared to CNN’s 42 percent, Fox’s 39 percent and The Daily Beast’s 31 percent. Of the two wire services (AP and Reuters), Reuters had more women reporters than the AP (41 percent and 35 percent respectively).

When it came to beats however, there were significant differences. More men covered US and global politics, as well as business, technology, sports, culture and weather. There was an equal paring with lifestyle, and more women covered education and religion compared to men.

At the SPJ, research for this blog post indicated more women holding leadership positions compared to men. Of the 23 members of the Board of Directors, 14 of them are women. Within the 12 regions, the gender balance among directors is equally split.

In the 9 active committees, six of them have women either serving as chair or vice chair. In the network of five active communities, four of them have women serving as chair or co-chair of that community.

Frontline executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath (right), who took over the role after David Fanning (left) stepped down and became executive producer at-large. (Image: The Peabody Awards/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Frontline executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath (right), who took over the role after David Fanning (left) stepped down and became executive producer at-large. (Image: The Peabody Awards/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Women make significant contributions to the future of journalism every day, especially in digital journalism, including Laura Davis at the University of Southern California, Kim Bui at Reported.ly, Tory Starr at WGBH in Boston, Katie Hawkins-Gaar of the Poynter Institute, Millie Tran at BuzzFeed and Kat Chow at NPR.

While the issue of gender equity won’t be solved overnight, it is important that everyone recognizes the role they have in this ever changing industry. what matters is not the differences in gender, race or sexual orientation in someone, but the ideas they bring — ideas that are worth listening to now, and in the months and years ahead.

After all, that great idea will be the idea that keeps journalism continuing to be at its best, and its something that I celebrate not just on this day, but every day.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer on journalism and media issues for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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