Posts Tagged ‘Society of Professional Journalists’


Matt Lauer and a transparent industry

NBC News has said it has fired Matt Lauer, the longtime co-host of the Today Show. In an email to staff, Andrew Lack, NBC News’ chairman, said a complaint was received on Monday night, and that a review of that complaint led to the termination of his employment.

Lack added that NBC News management was saddened about the events, and aimed to be as transparent about the news as possible.

Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie made the announcement as the Today Show went live in the Eastern Time Zone.

Matt Lauer, seen here in 2012, was fired from NBC News this week for allegations of sexual harassment. (Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons/CC)

The news of Lauer’s termination of employment comes a week after CBS fired Charlie Rose, the co-anchor of CBS This Morning, and that PBS terminated the distribution deal of his eponymous talk show.

While the subject can be difficult, it is necessary for journalists to be held to account. SPJ’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists and news organizations to be accountable and transparent. Producers at Today were right to make the announcement, and they handled it as they would other stories.

Indeed, as my colleague, Ethics Chair Committee Andrew Seaman, wrote last week, there is a need for journalists to be held accountable, and for journalists themselves to hold their newsrooms accountable. For the record, I also serve on the Ethics Committee.

Guthrie added that media organizations were going through a reckoning that is long overdue. Issues women in journalism have faced are limited to not just sexual harassment, but also issues of trolling and harassment on social networks, a debate that has reached no clear answer from social media companies.

NBC must keep its word to be open and transparent about this issue. Just because he is one of the most prominent journalists on the network does not excuse the behavior. Women enter journalism for the same reasons as men – to inform, engage and educate, and they should be able to do that in a workplace free from intimidation, bullying, or anything that impedes the ability to do just that.

The conversations about our industry are important ones to have, and companies must be transparent about it – whether the issue is sexual harassment allegations or whether its policies on trolling and the impact on the relationship journalists have with their audiences on social media – because transparency will benefit the public in the long run when it comes to trust in news organizations.

NBC can, and must be transparent, not just for its own sake, but for journalism’s. I hope they keep their word and do just that.

Editor’s note: This post was amended at 9:39am CT to amend a typo.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

#SPJ4All in action

One night in April 1986, Garrison Keillor stood on the stage of the World Theater (now the Fitzgerald Theater) in St. Paul, Minnesota, as part of celebrations for its grand reopening after years of renovation. His program, A Prairie Home Companion, was simulcast that evening on public radio and public television stations nationwide.

As the show’s association with the theater, and the timeline of events which led to the renovations were discussed, touching on a moment when things looked bleak, Keillor offered this remark: “Nobody likes to ask for help, but you find out about other people when you do.”

I know this feeling too well. This week marks the fourth month since I relocated to Minneapolis after 18 years in Chicago. I had a little family there and a couple of colleagues that I had worked with on SPJ matters, and I had been to Minneapolis twice in the five years since, but it was still relatively new territory to me. Despite being fueled by caffeine and adrenaline, I felt uneasy. Even to this day, I wonder what’s out there for me in this Midwestern metropolis.

Not a lot of people knew that I would be making the over 400 mile trek northwest, but in the couple of weeks since I made did, two people in this metropolis did something they didn’t have to do – they extended a hand to this early career journalist from Chicago.

It made an impact as I adjusted, and I consider their kindness not only to be a personal and professional joy, but a reminder that the ability to create something authentic and meaningful is being done every day. The desire and ability is out there, and it is something that I can contribute to.

This week, SPJ will run its 3rd #SPJ4All campaign. Robyn Davis Sekula, SPJ’s Membership Committee chair, came up with the idea in response to controversial legislation in Indiana that would have been branded as discriminatory to gay and lesbian couples. For the record, SPJ itself is based in Indianapolis.

While #SPJ4All is designed to be a campaign to encourage the need for a diverse membership within SPJ, I think it goes one step further. It encourages the need for those who produce journalism either behind the scenes, on air or behind a byline, and those who support it, to be united as one.

This is not a time for us to compete against one another. This is a time to collaborate, to work together, and to champion each other – so we together can seek truth and report it. When we support each other and encourage each other to be at our best, journalism and media can be at its best for the people who depend on it most – our audience.

These are difficult times for journalism, and uncertainty is the norm, especially for early career journalists. But amid uncertainty come reminders that the ability to inform, educate and engage is available in vivacious abundance – that if you feel uneasy, you can be inspired, and when you are inspired, you can make a difference.

Every day, here in the Twin Cities, people respond to the calling of journalism. They believe in its mission and the impact it can have – whether its journalists like Jenna Ross, Briana Bierschbach and Laura Yuen, or bloggers and writers like Jade and Andrea Swensson.

Yet, it doesn’t apply solely to the people of the Twin Cities – it applies to people across the country and around the world – from Dhruti Shah at the BBC and Taylor Mirfendereski at KING-TV in Seattle (who also co-chairs the Digital Community, which oversees this blog), to Beth Francesco at the University of Texas at Arlington, as well as my colleagues on the Ethics and Freedom of Information committees – and all who strive to seek the truth and report it.

The work we do collectively as one entity demonstrates why journalism continues to be important, day in and day out, and in difficult times, communities like these are essential things to have – not just for one’s own sake, but for journalism’s too.

Early career journalists may feel uneasy at first in asking for help, but take it from me – when you do ask, you find a community that is supportive and wants you to be at your best. You find people who listen to you, who value you and your contributions, and give you a sense of belonging.

It exists in a community that has your back. That community is found not just in one’s own newsroom or professional network, but within SPJ as a whole. Of all the reasons there are to be an SPJ member, the community aspect is the one I identify with the most, and really what #SPJ4All is all about.

These communities can only exist however when we work together. After all, we are stronger together when we collaborate and promote the exchange of ideas together. We are stronger together because we make journalism better together. We are stronger together making SPJ better together – because if we don’t do it, who will?

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

What’s your idea?

The author and long time public radio broadcaster Garrison Keillor has a saying which accompanies the end of his Writer’s Almanac programs on Minnesota Public Radio: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

We live in an age where journalism is evolving every second, and as it evolves, so does how we think about it – whether it comes to our own crafts, how we can support our newsroom and industry colleagues, or how we can improve our relationship with the public.

We enter this profession because we want to ensure our audiences are at their best. Along the way, we need to be at our best. The best way to do that is by working together, and embracing a collaborative spirit to help make the industry we love even stronger.

At its root is education – something that I am hoping to expand on as my SPJ colleagues gather in Southern California for the annual Excellence in Journalism conference, an opportunity to reflect and to look ahead as to what we can do to help enhance journalism.

But this education, I find, has more meaning when we work together. So I want to hear from you. What do you want to see from this blog in the next year? What would help you make a difference to your audience?

Another thing I wondered is what you want to see – would you like more reporting or guest essays? Is there a topic that isn’t touched on very much that you feel would help you?

I’d love to know what you think. You can tweet me @alex_veeneman or email me through my web site.

We can strengthen journalism, but we can’t do it alone. We must do it together and echo Keillor’s philosophy, because when we’re at our best, the people who matter most – your audience, will be too.

I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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 education

President Trump will not change his behavior towards the media. It is down to us to educate the public about the importance of journalism. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

“I don’t know what to make of the news. But I promise we will cover it with fairness and without fear. We work for America.”

That is how Scott Simon, the longtime NPR correspondent and host of Weekend Edition Saturday, put it on Twitter at the end of a day where the relationship between the media and President Donald Trump was a lead story, coming off of a press conference that had been considered to be combative.

The press conference took place days after the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, amidst criticism of conflicting statements on the attacks from The White House.

Hours before that press conference, Trump had retweeted a tweet depicting a CNN journalist being run over by a train. The tweet has since been deleted.

Criticism of the media by Trump is not new, as he has utilized Twitter to criticize the media on multiple occasions. Indeed, as CNN’s Brian Stelter wrote in last night’s Reliable Sources newsletter, Trump was reported to be furious about media coverage of events Monday evening.

It has been clear for sometime that Trump’s behavior towards the media will not change, as my SPJ colleague, Ethics Committee chair Andrew Seaman wrote last month (for the record, I also serve on the Committee). As a result, the focus within the industry must shift towards educating the American people on the importance of journalism and its role in civic life, instead of responding to Trump’s criticism.

This education is necessary, but it is also quintessential in an age where Americans increasingly get their news online and on social media. New data from the Pew Research Center shows that roughly 9 out of 10 Americans get their news online, and social media is at the core of online news consumption.

Changes on attitudes towards the media will not change overnight, and it will take some time as well as many conversations, both internally and externally, to have an impact on the relationship with journalists and their audiences as the digital age.

Yet, SPJ’s Code of Ethics provides some ideas on how journalists can start this education with their audiences now. That said, here are some tips on how to best go about it.

  • Be honest with your audience. Whether it is uncertainty about a piece of information, or making a correction, tell them about it and explain why you did what you did.
  • It’s better to be right than first. Twitter and the web is seen as a race to be the first person with the story, but it isn’t. Take the time to get everything right before you hit publish.
  • Tell them about it. When you’re making a correction or decide to delay running with a story, have a conversation with your audience as to why this is so. An honest journalist is a credible journalist.
  • Cite early and often. Cite any reports from any organizations as you report a story. Corroborate any reports.
  • Verify everything. It’s so nice it’s worth saying twice! As the Code says, neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy, so take the time to ensure everything is correct in your story. Remember – it is better to be right than first.

We are truth seekers – and in the digital age, the truth is more important than ever. We owe it to ourselves to remember the importance of ethics, to talk about ethics and to not be afraid to do the most important tasks of all as journalists – informing, educating and engaging our audience.

As Simon said, we work for America – and it is for them, and no one else, that we get up each day, sit down, and do what journalists set out to do – seek truth and report it.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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.

The pros of verifying

Twitter has become important for disseminating information, but you need to make sure its accurate before publishing. (Photo: Pixabay)

Last Thursday, the UK held a general election which saw a hung parliament. It also saw negotiations begin on a minority government between Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservatives, and the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.

But as the news of the election results came down, so did a statistic on youth voter turnout – which indicated that 72 percent of voters between 18 and 24 voted.

There was widespread praise as the statistic was tweeted near and far, as the issue of young people participating in elections had been raised over the course of the campaign.

There was one problem though – it wasn’t proven to be true. As a result, it raised many questions by journalists and from other observers as to its origins, which began from a voting organization that supports the youth vote, and later tweeted by MPs, political advocates and others.

When all was said and done, it was a talking point on Twitter, and it got the attention of many news organizations, as attempts to verify the claim were made.

Twitter has its pros and cons when it comes to journalism, but one of the issues is that of the quality of information. The Society’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to seek truth and report it, but most of all, neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

What happened on Twitter that election night serves as a reminder that verifying information is important, even more so in this digital age where anyone can publish anything, whether its true or not.

Here is a guide when it comes to publishing verified information, especially on Twitter.

Don’t run on first instinct: If you’re aware of reports of something, be it politics, business or otherwise, don’t assume its right. Just because Twitter and other platforms are new doesn’t mean the rules surrounding ethics change.

Be honest and forthright: Tell your audience you are trying to confirm the information. Then make inquiries and try to figure out what is going on. Being forthright allows you to be a more credible journalist to your followers and beyond.

Don’t be afraid to cite: Be specific about the reports – you can either quote the tweet or cite the user. Explain to audiences how you’ve spotted the claim and anything you’ve been able to find. Yet, don’t cite endlessly, cite when you feel it is warranted.

Once you’ve confirmed it, tweet it: You have sought the truth, and you now know it is true. Now report it.

Disseminating information on social media is a part of journalism today – ensuring its verified helps ethical journalism thrive on social media. Credibility on the platform is important more than ever, and if you take the time to ensure everything is accurate, people will come back to you for the truth.

When faced with dealing with information that may not be true, remember – it is better to be right than be first. You’ll be a better journalist as a result of it.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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.

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.

Why it is truly #SPJ4All

My photo for #SPJ4All.

My photo for #SPJ4All.

Last May, I picked up the telephone at my desk and dialed into New Albany, Indiana. Situated on the Indiana-Kentucky border, it was the town that was home to an idea that is at the core of SPJ’s beliefs, principles and ideas.

The idea took root last year when Indiana lawmakers were considering legislation which would have been branded as discriminatory to gay and lesbian couples. Membership Committee chair Robyn Davis Sekula then came up with the idea to do #SPJ4All, a social media campaign that emphasizes SPJ (which itself is based in Indianapolis) is welcome and accepting of all of its members, irrespective of their gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation.

With the help of SPJ colleagues nationally, it developed into an event. After it launched, it got immediate reaction, not just through this blog, but also across social media. When I spoke to her about it last year, Sekula said she wanted to start a conversation.

“We cover news better when we have a wider variety of perspective to bring to the events,” Sekula said.

Today, the SPJ is running the campaign once more, showing that we are truly welcoming and accepting. I recall the conversation for this post, as I believe these ideas make not just SPJ a better organization, but makes the industry stronger, and those who work in the industry better at what they do.

I have been an SPJ member for a little over two years. I joined shortly after my graduation from university, as I tried to figure out the next steps in my career. Since that time, I have been the beneficiary of hearing some wonderful ideas, ideas that are ubiquitous to the future of not just SPJ, but also this industry. I continue to benefit from these ideas not just through contributing to this network of blogs, but through my work as Community Coordinator and other initiatives I take part in for SPJ, as well as through my professional work.

Journalism is changing, and what continues to make this industry stronger and resilient are these ideas that come from a wide variety of people. In order for us to be a stronger industry, all ideas should be heard. You may not necessarily agree with an idea, but its worth hearing, for it may be the one that allows journalism to continue to be at its best.

What I like about SPJ is that all ideas can be heard without fear or vigorous disdain. No one will write you off, and no one will belittle you. Instead, you say your idea in a welcoming environment, and an open, lively conversation ensues, whether its on an issue of governance, an idea for an event, a resolution for the Excellence in Journalism conference, or indeed, journalism itself. It is conducted for all of our benefit.

We are stronger together when we collaborate and exchange ideas together. We are stronger together because we are making journalism better together. We are stronger together when we make your SPJ better together.

That is why we are truly #SPJ4All, and frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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 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.

The SPJ Ethics Code applies to Twitter too

SPJ's Ethics Week, held next week, is an important time to remember the Code of Ethics, and how they apply to reporting on Twitter. (Photo: SPJ)

Ethics Week is an important time to remember the Code of Ethics, and how they apply to Twitter. (Photo: SPJ)

Next week is Ethics Week here at SPJ, a time to celebrate the Code of Ethics, and to examine and consider its four principle values in journalism — to seek truth and report it, minimize harm, be accountable and transparent, and act independent.

The subject for this year’s Ethics Week is best practices in new technology, including social media. Social media, most notably Twitter, has had significant influence in not just how people consume journalism, but how it can enhance the journalism that we practice. We use Twitter to curate conversations, reach out to sources, but most importantly, report, engaging audiences through 140 character messages, challenging and complementing the traditional means of storytelling.

It is therefore important to consider the four principles of the SPJ Code of Ethics and how they apply to journalism by Twitter.

Seek truth and report it: Twitter is another platform for your journalism, and the rules for fair, impartial reporting apply. Report what you know. If you are reporting while trying to confirm a specific piece of information, tell your audience about the report, credit the report, and say you are working to confirm it. Additionally, for curating conversations, ensure all sides of the conversation are being shared. As my SPJ colleague Lynn Walsh wrote here earlier this year, look for all sides of the conversation as you would for any other story.

Most importantly, accuracy is key. It is more important to be right rather than be the first one with the story. Your audience will thank you for it.

Minimize harm: When it comes to breaking news, including disasters, you should be respectful of your sources as if you were interviewing them face to face. If you are asking for an interview over Twitter, be considerate in the language you use to ask for an interview. If the source declines, move on.

When interviewing, show compassion for those who have been impacted by events, and consider if the information you are being told is important to the story you’re telling. In this case, not everything you’re told is essential, so consider what is necessary to inform while balancing the privacy of a source.

Be accountable and transparent: Honesty is a quintessential part of the relationship between you and your audience. As I wrote here last month, an honest reporter is a forthright reporter, and audiences appreciate forthright reporters, for they’ll trust you and come back to you for information in the future. Do not be afraid to cite — do it early and often. Identify all of the angles. If there is a mistake, own up to it and correct it. Don’t let it wait.

Honesty is the best policy — and it will serve you well. You know what you know, and that is all that you know.

Act independent: Disclose any conflict of interests with your audience, and if you encounter a source on Twitter that pays you for information, refuse it. As mentioned earlier, cite and identify your reports clearly and correctly, and distinguish between what is news and what is advertising.

Most importantly, tell the story the way it is meant to be told, without bias or pressure to influence coverage, irrespective of beat, and reject pressure raised by advertisers, donors, organizations, or others that would impact your story.

Twitter has shaped how we practice journalism today in many ways. We must be able to practice it the way it should be practiced — fairly, impartially, accurately, and ethically, no matter the platform, not just for us, but ultimately the people we work for, our audiences.

Ethics Week is April 24-30. SPJ’s Ethics Committee will have blog posts on the subject over the course of the week on Code Words, the Committee’s blog.

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 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.

One experience can change everything

The SPA member badge, which is displayed on my web site. (Photo: SPA)

The SPA member badge, which is displayed on my web site. (Photo: SPA)

This weekend, in Loughborough in the English Midlands, a few of my colleagues and their peers are getting together for the Student Publication Association‘s annual conference.

At the helm of the conference are sessions on honing the journalistic craft, alongside awards, networking and the ability to celebrate the work of these student publications up and down the UK.

The timing of their meeting comes at an interesting time for media in Britain, as The Independent, once the UK’s youngest newspaper, ended a 30 year run in print to become a digital only publication.

In addition, there are continued talks in Parliament about the future of the BBC, as its Royal Charter comes up for renewal next year, as the publications owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation continue to make headlines ahead of Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking.

Indeed, student media in the UK too has not had it easy recently, something observed in my writing and coverage of British media, from censorship of The Badger, the student newspaper of The Badger at the University of Sussex in southern England in the beginning of the academic year, to the threat of expulsion raised by University College London against one of its students, Rebecca Pinnington, for something she wrote for Pi Media, the university’s student media hub.

Yet, aside from the questions surrounding the future of media in the UK, and the issues surrounding student media, there is a common thread between my colleagues and their peers. Indeed, it is the reason why people the world over go into journalism — they do it not to seek fame or fortune, but to do a service for their communities, large or small, irrespective of beat.

Many of those in attendance at that conference are either journalism students, or students studying a variety of subjects, including English Literature, History, Politics and Economics, hoping to either pursue an MA in journalism or go to a training course to obtain an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) qualification. They’ve done work placements at broadcasters, newspapers or web sites, and also worked in student media.

But irrespective of what they study, and the route they plan to take, they all have one thing in common — they believe in journalism and the Fourth Estate, the role it has in a democracy, and the role it can have to help millions of people cope better with the world around them. All they want to do is tell stories and make a difference. They want to be a part of journalism’s future, even as the industry itself around the world goes through changes.

I think of this as this week marks four years since I joined Kettle Magazine, a fellow SPA member (I also, for the record, hold a personal membership with the Association). Even though I am working 3,000 miles away from the UK, I have been able to receive a unique education.

The people I have met, who have become my friends, and the ability to help the next generation of journalists ignited the passion for why I wanted to go into journalism, and the sort of work I want to do. Its a reason why I signed up to be an SPA member, and why recently I renewed my membership with SPJ for another year. Its an education I am deeply grateful for, an education I hope to continue receiving, and an education I hope I can experience on the ground in due course.

They’ve also reinforced one other thing — irrespective of platform, and where the industry goes, there is always going to be a need for journalists. Indeed, even in this digital age, no matter what country your from, it takes one experience to remind you why you sought to enter this profession, and the rewards that come from it.

And that is worth celebrating, not just today, 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 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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