Posts Tagged ‘SPJ Code of Ethics’


Keeping journalism honest

Keeping journalists honest is something that will help journalism thrive in 2018 and beyond. (Photo: Pixabay)

It is said that the things that are the simplest are often the most important. This can be said in the case of honesty, for an honest journalist is a credible journalist. Whether its a breaking news story, a recap of the day’s events or an enterprise story, journalists owe it to their audiences to be honest in their reporting.

Yet, in a year where many questions about the future of journalism included ones about trust, honesty should go beyond reporting. It should include the overall editorial process.

In a recent study from three journalism professors, educating consumers about the journalistic process can reduce the appeal of conspiracy theories, especially those the study calls “politically tempting”. According to a report from the Columbia Journalism Review, the study is part of a series of academic work that suggests that transparency and openness about the editorial process can lead to things in news being seen as believable.

In an interview with CJR, Melissa Tully, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Iowa, says the emphasis on understanding the link between journalism and democracy can help in reinforcing trust.

“News literacy tends to focus on content, trying to critically read an article, but we believe that people need to understand the industry side and the larger relationship between news structure and democracy,” Tully said.

Additionally, Stephanie Craft, a professor of journalism at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, says in a CJR interview that it is easier to teach people about how the media works rather than changing one’s political viewpoints.

Recently, I wrote about two examples of how news organizations were showcasing honesty – the first instance at the Washington Post with a series of videos on the fundamentals of journalism and the other being an interview with Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, as she put the principles of the program’s Transparency Project to the test on the project The Putin Files.

SPJ’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists and news organizations to be accountable and transparent and to curate such a conversation about the editorial process.

“Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences,” the code says. “Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.” (For the record, I serve on SPJ’s Ethics Committee.)

If journalists and news organizations were to make a list of New Year’s resolutions, then a more open conversation about what it means to be a journalist as well as the editorial process certainly should top that list.

We are known for holding those in power to account and (to borrow the name of the CNN TV segment) keeping them honest. Along the way, we must also keep ourselves honest and not be afraid to engage the public about what journalism means in daily life – whether its on the usage of anonymous sources in reporting or how a certain story was reported.

Recently, the New York Times, in its story on federal immigration policy under President Trump, included this paragraph.

While it is a start, more can be done by the likes of the Times and others in order to help restore audiences’ trust in the media.

A credible journalist is a forthright journalist, and a trusted news organization is an honest news organization – so in 2018, let’s strive as journalists to keep journalism honest – in the newsroom and in the public eye. The media ecosystem will be better for it, and so will the people that matter most in journalism – the audience.

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 unless otherwise specified 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.

An external conversation

One of the pressing questions journalism is facing is how outlets can restore the trust of the public. Last week, the Poynter Institute held a summit to discuss journalism ethics (which SPJ’s national president, Rebecca Baker, attended), which coincided with the release of a media trust survey.

During the summit, one way that the Institute found to help combat questions of trust is to be transparent about the reporting process.

Days after that event, The Washington Post began a video series which looks at the journalism process. The first installment looked at the story surrounding sexual harassment and assault allegations against Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for the vacant Senate seat in Alabama.

Reporters Beth Reinhard and Stephanie McCrummen were candid about the process that led to the story, from on the ground reporting in the state to the meticulous amount of vetting that followed, as they tried to put the story together.

“We needed to be very careful in vetting information, and making sure that the people we were talking to didn’t have an ax to grind,” Reinhard said. “Every sentence, we went through, and vetted, and with a story with so many details, it was painstaking fact-checking.”

McCrummen was asked about the interviewing process and how sources are treated, as some sources in the Moore story had expressed reluctance of going on the record.

“The first meeting was just a chance to hear her story in a way she felt comfortable telling it – which was off the record,” McCrummen said. “I try to treat someone how I would like to be treated, and I’m really interested in what the other person has to say. That’s why I’m there – I’m there to listen.”

McCrummen adds that applies irrespective of the desire to go on the record.

“I see my role more as offering a chance for people to go on the record or to tell their story if they want to,” McCrummen said, adding that it was much better to present a more human element when it came to reporting.

SPJ’s Code of Ethics, as part of the need to be accountable and transparent, encourages journalists and news organizations to encourage a conversation about the editorial process and to be transparent about it, a view shared by Poynter.

What the Post has launched is a necessity in helping the public better understand the role of journalism, and other news organizations should follow suit, utilizing the platforms they have available to them, in an age where anyone can publish anything, whether or not its true – and the words “fake news” continue to become a norm as reporters carry out their work. Indeed, the more conversations journalists can externalize about their own future, the more that can be done in order to helping the public understand why journalism is and must continue to be a quintessential part of our democracy.

While the question of trust is something that cannot be solved overnight, the Post’s actions are a start in helping the public understand the role of journalists in the 21st century. More organizations should take the time to do the same – for it benefits everyone, and helps us all to better understand a fundamental goal of journalism – seeking the truth and reporting it.

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 unless otherwise specified 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.

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.

Twitter and the truth

Two tube stations within London’s Underground were reopened after reports emerged that shots were fired on Oxford Street in central London. In a message on Twitter, British Transport Police, which looks after trains and the subway network, said there was no such evidence of gunfire.

Transport Police responded alongside officers with the Metropolitan Police. According to a statement from the Met, they responded as if the incident was terrorism related. The cause of what happened is under investigation.

News organizations in Britain and internationally began reporting on the incident, as Oxford Circus’ tube station is known to be one of the busiest in the system, and central to much of London’s shopping areas and cultural life. As that news was reported, many saw the information disseminated on Twitter.

Twitter has become a way for audiences to get information quickly and to stay informed in a fast paced news environment. Yet, while there have been pros for journalists in using Twitter, there also have been cons – particularly on whether or not its credible, whether the tweet comes from a civilian or a British pop star known for a song in which his heart skipped a beat.

No matter who the person is receiving (or trying to disseminate) news, getting the right information out is essential. SPJ’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to seek truth and report it, to cross every t and dot every i, and advises that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy. This applies to all platforms, including and especially social media outlets like Twitter.

If you’re reporting a breaking news story on Twitter, here are some tips to remember:

  • Verify everything: If its a photo or testimonial, try to contact the user behind that to verify what happened. Vet the material before you use it, whether in an article or on the air.
  • Cite with caution: If you come across a report about a story you’re covering, consider if it will be helpful to you in your coverage. If you cite it, mention the report as you try to confirm information.
  • Be transparent: A forthright journalist is a credible journalist. If you get something wrong, correct it. If you’re not running with something because of uncertainty, explain why. Even if you’re retweeting a report, add a note at the top of the tweet for clarity and explain why its important.
  • Don’t tweet for tweeting’s sake: As mentioned above, if you find a report, consider if it will be helpful to you in your coverage. Will it help more than harm? Will it help the public as you tell the story? Would it benefit your friends, family or neighbors if you were telling them? Think twice before retweeting.
  • Verify everything: It’s so nice it’s worth saying twice! You have an obligation to get the most accurate information out to the public possible. Remember, it is better to be right than be first.

In the world where the news cycle has become fast paced, the goal of getting accurate information out to the public has not. So when you take to Twitter, and bear these tips in mind, you can show anyone, even that pop star, why the need to seek truth and report accurately is crucial.

You’ll also reduce the amount of skipping heartbeats along the way.

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.

The matter of facts (and their ethics)

Twitter has become a popular way to disseminate news. (Photo: Pixabay)

There is no question that social media has enhanced our abilities to disseminate information and to inform audiences about the events of the world. But alongside that ability has come a culture where anyone, with a click of a button, can publish anything, be it true or not.

A recent article from the American Press Institute recently considered the role journalists have in the Twitter age when it comes for information, and why Twitter, despite its frustrations in this noisy and competitive environment, is still necessary for journalists.

Yet, it also asks this: What should journalists do when it comes to information on the social network itself? Should we give facts or let the Twitter universe take care of itself?

SPJ’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to seek truth and report it – that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy, and also calls on journalists to be accountable and transparent. That is especially the case when it comes to reporting on Twitter.

As journalists, we should be advocates for the truth. We must verify everything, check our sources, cross every t and dot every i. We do so knowing in good faith that the truth will help the public be better informed so they can take the information presented away to make important decisions in their own life. As the debate continues on the quality of information available, we have a responsibility to present the facts, and let our audience make up their own minds, not to tell them what to think.

The API also cites a study from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University, which says that newsrooms “don’t consistently take the time to correct misinformation on social media.” While audiences have a right to express their views about the day’s events, the facts are presented as they are – fact, with no editorial judgment. Journalists should promote them and advocate for them.

But this raises a broader question. What does it mean to not only be a journalist in the Twitter age, but what does it means for the relationship with journalists and audiences? We ask these questions as the relationship changes with as fast a pace as the social networks themselves, and the words fake news continue to become a prominent core of the lexicon.

Understanding that relationship and making it better requires work that cannot be confined to 140 characters, and work that cannot be done overnight. In an age where the line between news and opinion is blurred, and where drama takes precedence over the sober presentation of information, there are simple things that can be done now by news organizations – including labeling opinion as opinion, and verifying every last detail before running with the story (remember the maxim – it is better to be right than be first).

Yet, it’s more than that. It involves the conversation with audiences and the public, the emphasis on media literacy in schools, and the need to fully emphasize the teaching of ethics in the curriculum of journalism programs at universities to ensure that for the next generation of journalists, they can do ethical journalism in a time where technology continues to evolve.

No one person can do this by themselves. We need to collaborate, not compete, when it comes to the advocacy of facts, when it comes to the need for journalism, when it comes to enhancing the relationship between journalists and audiences. We need to do this not just for our sake, not just for journalism’s, but for democracy’s sake.

The facts matter. The truth matters. Journalism matters, and as so long as a need for the facts exist, so long as the necessity to seek truth and report it is evident, irrespective of platform, we should, and we must, advocate for it – because if we don’t, who will?

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 social question

There is no question that social media has challenged how audiences consume journalism, but it has raised several ethical concerns, notably surrounding the algorithm. But not enough is being done, nor is enough being asked about it.

That was a point Jon Snow, a presenter of Britain’s Channel 4 News, raised this week in Edinburgh, Scotland. Giving the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, Snow said that few questions have been raised by news organizations about the social network’s reach, despite the positives presented for organizations.

Snow said that two organizations had held such a monopoly over the world’s information – Facebook and Google.

“We are in an age where everyone from Trump downwards is a publisher,” Snow said. “In any given year, more photos and more information is published than in any decades of the 20th century.”

Snow said also that the reach is down to the whim of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, and raised concerns about the issue of accuracy versus viral content.

“He says he cares about news, but does he really?” Snow said. “Or does he care about keeping people on Facebook?”

Snow made a final call for action to Facebook to take action.

“Facebook has a moral duty to prioritize veracity over virality,” Snow said. “It is fundamental to our democracy.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. Facebook has faced criticism for a lack of transparency surrounding its algorithm. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

At its F8 conference in California earlier this year, Facebook has acknowledged that it hasn’t been the best in communicating measures on the algorithm. But despite that acknowledgment, more needs to be done.

The Society’s Code of Ethics calls on journalists and media organizations to be accountable and transparent. Though Facebook itself is not by nature a traditional media company, it is the curator of much of the information that is published by other news organizations.

It therefore owes it to journalists, news organizations and audiences, to explain its algorithm in detail, why it does what it does, and the impact it has on the relationship between the social network and news organizations.

Today, it announced what is a small step in that direction, by hiring Liz Spayd, the former public editor of The New York Times. A Facebook spokesperson told the technology news publication Recode that Spayd would “help expand early moves to chronicle what it does related to everything from terrorism to fake news to privacy.”

Considering Spayd’s work as a public editor, as well as with top journalism publications, the insight she will provide will likely help Facebook develop its public face, especially when it comes to its relationship with journalists and news organizations.

The ultimate question is if Zuckerberg will take her suggestions seriously and implement them, and whether the priorities, as Snow put it, will be on news, or keeping people on Facebook.

These are questions that must be asked, and journalists should not be afraid to ask these questions – despite the relationship their employers have with the social network. Journalists would not be doing their job if these questions weren’t asked and ensuring Facebook is held to account. The rule also applies to Twitter, Google and other platforms where information is curated and disseminated.

There have been positives for news organizations when it comes to outreach on social media, whether it comes from exposure to new audiences or new ways to publish and disseminate the news. But the algorithm’s prioritizing of stories that no longer appear to be accurate is discourteous not just to the social networks, but also the profession and practice of journalism itself. It also is discourteous to democracy and to the audiences we serve.

The more these questions are asked, the more this is discussed. So let’s keep asking them – so that we as journalists can set out to do what we do each day, irrespective of platform – seek truth and report it.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 3:34pm CT to reflect the hiring of Spayd by Facebook.

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.

Ethics and authenticity

At NPR’s headquarters in Washington, two sets of keyboards, both connected to microphones, appear before a musician. He sits down and performs three tracks from his album – a performance that is as intimate as it gets, a performance that is powerful and can showcase talent.

His name is Sampha – a singer, songwriter and producer from south London who has come to DC for a Tiny Desk concert, part of the All Songs Considered series, and as it provided some very good background music as I made research calls today, it also made me think.

Although this is a performance, there is a lesson that can be taken from it for journalists – the ability to be authentic, amid the competition of being the first at everything.

In this age where social media has helped organizations disseminate news, information and other content, it has also been a more competitive environment. Who can get to Twitter the quickest with that exclusive or that first bit of new information? Who can I tell first about that story or that performance?

Its a tricky situation, because sometimes in the rush of getting it out there, some errors are made when it comes to information, or you feel because you wanted to be first you couldn’t do justice to the story you wanted to tell, or because that FOI officer with the government in San Diego didn’t respond to your request that an element of the story was missing. When all is said and done, you feel uneasy and concerned, wondering if you did your best work that day.

Allow me to say this: Breathe – it’s okay.

In this social media age, some emphasis has been made on likes for quantity, not quality. (Photo: Pixabay)

The Society’s Code of Ethics calls on journalists to seek truth and report it, that one should be responsible for the accuracy of the work, and that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

I think however in this social age it has become more than that. It is a reason to be authentic, to go in-depth, to do some uniquely awesome stuff for your audience.

Take these Tiny Desk concerts, for example – these concerts take time and precision. A performance cannot be rushed. A performance is a story, after all – you don’t want it to abruptly finish when clearly the storyteller has more to write or the performer has more to perform of the song.

You could also make the same argument for that interview on Fresh Air or that report you hear on All Things Considered or Morning Edition – stories and interviews that probe and provide context cannot be rushed, and shouldn’t end when there’s more to be seen.

There is room for these in-depth stories, and an appetite for them, whether its a long narrative in the New York Times, on NPR’s web site or in podcast form. Indeed, some of this in-depth stories recently helped NPR to achieve record audience figures.

Yet, in the world of in-depth stories, also exists is the world of deadlines – deadlines which must be met. Even if its a quick story you’re going to do, there still is an opportunity to be authentic. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are some unanswered questions that come from it?
  • Is there an under-reported part of this story that can be incorporated? If it can’t be done immediately, can it be for a future story?
  • Is this angle just to help with space or time – or can it really help my audience understand the story better?

In this age of journalism, I favor stories that take time to tell – something that can go beyond what is reported daily. If that approach is taken, I know my audience will get something that is not just helping them understand the world around them, but I’m also offering something authentic.

So when you’re thinking about your story, take a step back. Think about the subject and the type of story you want to tell. Give yourself an excuse to go beyond the norm, and to experiment.

Then take the time to do it, channeling not just your role to seek truth and report it per the Ethics Code, but this – it is not only better to be right than be first, but to do something well instead of doing it at all.

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.

Ethics: Twitter style

Twitter has become essential for journalists, but the ethics rules haven’t changed. (Photo: Pixabay)

In spite of financial concerns outlined last week where its stock prices fell 11 percent, Twitter continues to play a dominant role in the world of journalism. Whether its consuming news, disseminating information or gathering material for a story, Twitter has become ubiquitous with journalism, while journalism has become an essential component of the business of social media.

Yet, while Twitter is still one of those new platforms, it isn’t exempt from the rules and ever-evolving practices of ethical journalism. Journalists need to remember to practice these ethics on the social networking platform, in an age where accusations of fake news and post-truth have had connotations for journalists working on the web.

The Society’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to practice journalism through these four key principles – Seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable and transparent.

That said, here are five things to consider when disseminating information on Twitter – with a twist, done in 140 characters each (or less).

Be accurate: Neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy, so take the time to make sure all of your facts are right before you post.

Be forthright: Don’t know something? Trying to confirm the accuracy of information? Tell your audience. An honest tweeter is a credible tweeter.

Be cautious: Ask yourself: Is the information you post helpful to your story? Will it inform? Or are you tweeting for the sake of tweeting?

Be accountable: We make mistakes – we’re human. If something is wrong, fix it. Issue a correction and explain what you did. Be upfront.

Be accurate: It’s so nice its worth saying twice! Remember the old maxim – it is better to be right than to be first.

Twitter can be helpful for journalists, but also hinder them. Keeping these key points in mind, you can make Twitter work for you and do the most important thing possible – seek truth and report it.

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.

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