Archive for October, 2012

Bob Steele

As journalists discuss the need for some new guiding principles, I want to salute Bob Steele for the guiding principles that have served journalism well for a couple of decades.

Bob told me in an email exchange this week (see our Q&A at the end of this post) that he wrote the Guiding Principles for the Journalist in the early 1990s. I used them extensively in the ethics seminars I presented for the American Press Institute.

I have noted the need to update the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics (I’m not aware of any plans to do so). And I was pleased to be part of last week’s discussion about updating Bob’s guiding principles, which have considerable overlap with the SPJ Code. I blogged some suggestions for what the new principles should say. But I also want to salute Bob for how well these principles have served journalism.

Bob’s principles follow with my comments: (more…)

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This was originally published Feb. 12, 2008, on the Training Tracks blog I wrote for the American Press Institute. I repost it today as a supplement to a separate post about Bob Steele’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist. I removed outdated links and added a couple of updates.

Bob Steele

I hesitate to write about Bob Steele‘s accomplishments, because I don’t want this to sound like a eulogy. He’s not dead and he’s not retiring. He’s not even fully leaving Poynter.

But Bob’s contributions to journalism — specifically to the teaching and thinking about journalism ethics — have been monumental and his semi-departure from Poynter seems like a time to take note of those accomplishments.

Journalism is one of the most ethical pursuits in the world. Not only do we hold ourselves to high standards, but we enforce those standards with great transparency and public verbal floggings of offenders. Still, we don’t think enough about our ethical standards and how to make good ethical decisions. We think about those things a lot more — and a lot more clearly — though, than we did before Bob began teaching and writing about ethics for the Poynter Institute in 1989. (more…)

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As I blogged last week, I was involved in a discussion of new guiding principles for journalism.

I’m glad that Poynter and craigconnects are leading this effort. I think that we need some new guiding principles to cover the challenges of digital journalism and recent ethical controversies. I also think Poynter’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist are a good place to start (I blogged separately about those principles).

I would encourage retaining two of the primary section headings of the current guiding principles: “Seek Truth and Report It As Fully As Possible” and “Minimize Harm.” I would revise the other one, “Act Independently,” to read: Act Transparently and Independently.

I like Craig Silverman’s blog post, Journalism ethics are rooted in humanity, not technology. The principles he lists at the end there might be better headings than I propose, but I think most or all of my suggestions would fit under those headings.

I like the brevity of the points in the Guiding Principles. In some of my proposals here, I try to achieve similar brevity. At other times, I elaborate more than the principles probably should. While I hope our discussion of these issues is extensive (and some of my extended comments are part of that discussion), we want to keep the principles themselves clear and simple wherever possible.

In a preamble to the three main sections, I propose saying something like this: (more…)

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I have Storified some of the coverage of Hurricane Sandy on the websites and social media of more than two dozen Digital First newsrooms. The Storify did not publish here, but you can read it at the link above.

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Digital First Media newsrooms across the Northeast are covering Hurricane Sandy today (and have been covering the preparation and approach all weekend. The New Haven Register’s home page (screenshot above) shows how our news sites are giving this approaching disaster the huge-story coverage it merits.

Our national Thunderdome newsroom is providing coverage to all of our sites through a Hurricane Sandy News blog.

Coverage by Digital First newsrooms has included: (more…)

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This post was published originally on the old Newspaper Next site on the N2 Blog, Aug. 30, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I blogged last week about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated the links. Thanks to Elaine Clisham for reminding me of my contributions to the N2 Blog.  

At a recent reception, a colleague scorned efforts by the newspaper industry in the mid-1990s to appeal to young adults.

I could join that colleague (a former newspaper editor) in criticism of many things newspapers have tried in pursuit of young readers, but he was way off in one point that he made: He said newspapers were crazy to pursue nonconsumers. Who, he asked, ever succeeded by trying to sell to nonconsumers?

“Can you imagine the automobile industry targeting people who don’t drive?” he asked.

In a social setting where I didn’t feel like arguing, I let the comment pass. But it’s a point of view that inhibits innovation.

Let’s flip that editor’s question around: What business ever grew without winning over some nonconsumers?


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The Des Moines Register has endorsed Mitt Romney for president, a decision that has angered quite a few people I know.

To understand how critically important the Register’s endorsement is to Iowans, you should ask Presidents John Kerry, Walter Mondale, Bill Bradley or Hillary Clinton. They all got Register endorsements for Iowa caucuses or the general election but did not win in Iowa or nationally.

This is the first time since endorsing Richard Nixon in 1972 (not a particularly good call) that the Register has endorsed a Republican for president.

But here’s something you should know about the Des Moines Register’s endorsements in presidential races: A coin flip is about as good an indicator of how Iowans will vote. (more…)

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