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Posts Tagged ‘Guiding Principles for the Journalist’

I will be teaching a class today on updating ethical guidance for journalists. We’ll be discussing these ethics codes:

Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics

Poynter’s Guiding Principles for the Journalist

Radio, Television Digital News Association Code of Ethics

Online News Association’s Build Your Own Ethics Code project

Verification HandbookIn addition, we’ll discuss these ethics projects:

Rules of the Road

Telling the Truth and Nothing But

Verification Handbook

Here are some blog posts I’ve written about the codes and other projects that make some of the points I will cover in class:

New SPJ Code of Ethics: an improvement but a disappointment

New Guiding Principles for Journalists a big step forward (but they neglect linking)

ONA project provides helpful, detailed ethics advice

‘Rules of the Road’: A conversation starter on digital journalism ethics

Journalists need to use links to show our work

The Verification Handbook is now available

My version of Craig Silverman’s accuracy checklist

Here are my slides for the class:

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Ethics codes should guide journalists in the world where we live and work, not the world where we wish we worked.

At a discussion at the Excellence in Journalism conference last August, several members of the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Committee indicated they thought the SPJ Code of Ethics just needed “tweaking,” if it needed anything.

Here’s a surprise: They decided just to tweak it.

The code needs an overhaul and it got a touch-up.

Journalism is changing and journalists make ethical decisions in unfamiliar situations. Journalism ethics codes need to provide helpful guidance for journalists. The SPJ Code of Ethics, last revised in 1996, is perhaps the most-cited code and for many years was the most helpful. Now it’s terribly outdated and needs to reflect the world where journalists work.

The first draft at an update feels more like an effort to resist change than an effort to guide journalists in a time of change. (more…)

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McBride_New_Ethics_of_JournalismI like the new Guiding Principles for the Journalist, spelled out in the opening chapter of The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century.

The overall concepts of these principles reflect the same core values as Bob Steele’s Guiding Principles from about 20 years ago, but also reflect the need to update journalism ethics. Bob’s principles were organized around these three themes:

  • Truthfulness
  • Independence
  • Minimizing harm

The new principles, authored by the book’s editors, Poynter’s Kelly McBride and the American Press Institute’s Tom Rosenstiel, are organized around these three themes:

  • Truthfulness
  • Transparency
  • Community

The new principles note the value of independence, but recognize the complexity of today’s journalism and give excellent advice on being transparent about connections that may influence our content. In my October suggestions for the Guiding Principles, I merged independence and transparency into one section, so I’m pleased with this change. The new principles still call on journalists to minimize harm, but do so in the broader context of guidance about our relationships to the communities we serve. As a frequent advocate of community engagement, I am delighted to see it recognized as a core principle of journalism.

My primary disappointment in reading through the principles was their failure to explicitly address the ethics of linking. The transparency section generally calls on journalists to show their work and “explain” their sources, but in an apparent effort to avoid mentioning specific platforms in the principles, the authors stopped short of directly addressing a significant issue on which many journalists are either lazy or resistant. (more…)

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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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