Posts Tagged ‘Lynn Walsh’


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.

An ethical resolution

Ethical journalism remains a quintessential part of society, and the SPJ Code of Ethics helps to reinforce it. (Image: Pixabay)

Journalism is in a quandary. As we prepare to say goodbye to 2016 and head into 2017, we do so with a challenge to the identity and culture of our profession. In light of the geopolitical headlines, notably with the recent US presidential election, we’re attempting to trace our next steps.

Writing in her column for the Society’s Quill magazine, SPJ national president Lynn Walsh says we have been challenged. Yet, in spite of it, there is opportunity abound.

“We, as journalists, have been challenged,” Walsh said. “And that means it’s our time to shine. We are not scum. We are not liars. We are not disgusting. We are not corrupt. We are professionals. We are protectors of the First Amendment. We are honest. We are compassionate.”

In this time of transition, it is a good time to stop, pause and reflect, and the SPJ Code of Ethics helps us to do just that. As I wrote over on the Generation J blog a couple of weeks earlier, it is a reminder of the principles of education, the quintessential component of journalism, the real reason why we seek to make careers for ourselves in this industry.

Yet, alongside its reminder for the need to educate, the Ethics Code reminds us of the simple principles that allows us to practice quality journalism — seek truth and report it, minimize harm, be accountable and transparent, and act independently.

With that in mind, here are some resolutions to keep in mind as we begin 2017.

Seek truth and report it: People still care about the facts. It isn’t about doing better than your competitor, but about informing and engaging the people that trust and come to you for information. Trust is sacrosanct, and to ensure it stays that way you must be meticulous with information. If you’re uncertain about something, check it. If you’re trying to confirm something, tell your audience that. Then pick up the phone and see what’s going on. It is better to be right about something and take the time to do it, than to say something and end up being wrong later.

Minimize harm: Every story as a pro and a con, and you have to consider what will best benefit the public’s interests, not your own. Consider the circumstances of an interview with an individual, and if it really helps your story. Avoid lurid curiosity, and be compassionate with others in their circumstances. Remember this line however most of all: “Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.”

Be accountable and transparent: We are humans, and like all humans, we make mistakes. We aren’t proud of them, but we make them. Remember always that if someone catches a mistake, acknowledge it, respond, and correct it. Keep the audience in the know about editorial conversations as it pertains to your story, and explain any decision making behind any story.

Act independently: Don’t be intimidated by a source. If you have a conflict of interest with a story, disclose it. Don’t pay for access to content to inform the public. Also, if you’re given something for free, refuse it, and consider the work you do outside of journalism, and ensure it doesn’t damage your credibility, integrity or impartiality.

The challenge that we have before us appears daunting. Though we don’t have the answers to all of the questions that are being asked in journalism, we have the opportunity to answer them. With the help of the Ethics Code, we can show the world why journalism continues to remain important, as it continues to evolve in the digital age.

We also can remind ourselves that it isn’t really about us, but instead the people who matter most of all — the audience.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

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

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 Generation J Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Tweet responsibly: Consider the ethics code

As Twitter prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism is significant. As part of a series leading up to its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, SPJ President-Elect Lynn Walsh shares tips when it comes to sharing and curating a story. 

As it prepares 10, Twitter is regarded essential for journalists. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

As it prepares 10, Twitter is regarded essential for journalists. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

By now, I think it’s fair to say most people are on board and understand the important role social media can play in journalism. From helping journalists obtain information and connect with sources to providing an online space to share information quickly, around the world, social media, especially Twitter, is a journalists friend.

As we have learned, a tweet can be as powerful as a headline story in a major newspaper. Some may argue Twitter users are also more forgiving of mistakes or errors, but that doesn’t mean we, as journalists or bloggers, should be less diligent about what we are sharing on the social media site.

RTing:
Attribute. If you are sharing someone else’s story, give them credit. This goes for publication and/or individual journalists. Also, attribute to and mention people involved in the story directly, including their usernames in the Tweet. In breaking news, attribute quotes and information whenever possible.

Confirm. This is especially important in breaking news situations. Just because there are 100-plus tweets saying one thing, if you or your news agency cannot confirm, I would wait to RT. Or make sure you are attributing or making it clear where the information is coming from. You could also tweet it, but say you are working to confirm.

SPJ president-elect Lynn Walsh says a tweet is powerful in the digital age, and standards should apply with anything you write. (Photo via Twitter)

SPJ president-elect Lynn Walsh says a tweet is powerful in the digital age, and standards should apply with anything you write. (Photo via Twitter)

Share developments. If you say you are working to confirm, be sure to follow-up with your followers with new developments. This is extremely important when it comes to breaking news or when you are live tweeting. For daily stories, if there are big developments, be sure to share those, even if you are no longer covering the story for your news organization.

Be fair. Are you sharing both sides of the story? Are you only RTing certain individuals? Could there be others, with different opinions you should also be sharing? Fairness is one goal, you as a journalist, should aim for. Look for all side of the story on Twitter and the people representing them just like you would any other story.

Corrections:
Make them. While it is never fun to be incorrect, the best thing to do is correct the information when you are. It can be hard but it’s important. Even if it is a misspelling, send out a follow-up Tweet with the correction.

Be timely. As soon as you realize something was incorrect, fix it and fix it on every platform. Not just in the web script or TV script, on Twitter and social media too. We are quick to share news, let’s be quick to correct anything we got wrong.

Clarify. Maybe you weren’t incorrect but for some reason the tweet is confusing your followers. Be sure to respond and clarify the information. You can do this by responding directly to people or sending out new Tweets explaining or clarifying.

Mention. If there was something I corrected and you named people directly, be sure to include them in the correction so their followers can see it as well.

Even though the posts are short, they can be powerful. Use the same standards you would with anything you write and as you prepare your next 140 character post, don’t forget about the SPJ Code of Ethics.

Share responsibly my friends.

Lynn Walsh is President-Elect of the Society of Professional Journalists and a member of the SPJ Ethics and FOI committees. Outside of SPJ, she leads the Investigations team at KNSD, the NBC owned station in San Diego. You can connect with Walsh 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.

Teaching social media ethics must be a priority

Ethics Week is the perfect time to remember journalism ethics, especially social media. (Photo: SPJ)

Ethics Week is the perfect time to remember journalism ethics, especially social media.
(Photo: SPJ)

This week is the SPJ’s annual Ethics Week, a celebration of, and a time to examine deeper, the Code of Ethics and its primary values – to seek truth, report it, minimize harm, be accountable and transparent, and act independent.

With the rise of new technologies and platforms shaping this industry, it is important to remember the ethics and principles of journalism and adapt them with modern technology. My SPJ colleague, Lynn Walsh, has written a blog post over on the Code Words blog on ethics in the internet age, especially on social media, which should be a must read this week for every journalist practicing in the digital age, student or professional.

As new technologies change how we think about journalism and how we approach it, it is essential that ethics must be considered. This is especially true with social media ethics, from compiling information to its verification, irrespective of platform, as it becomes a larger part of most news organizations’ multi-platform operations, be it a newspaper, television or radio station, or web site.

This learning, especially now, should be made essential by every news organization, and it must be emphasized to every student at every university that teaches journalism. The more knowledge that can be contributed into how social media can work in a journalistic context, and how it can be used responsibly, the better we will be as journalists, and the better this industry will be in the future.

Social media is part of the norm for consuming news. Its ethics must be part of the norm for every practicing journalist. We owe it not just to our profession, but to our audience, and there is no better time to make that happen than right now.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. Veeneman also blogs for the web site ChicagoNowYou can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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

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