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Posts Tagged ‘Society of Professional Journalists’

SPJ postWe can’t have a reasonable debate about media coverage of mass killers if people fail to understand the opposing arguments.

Andrew Seaman’s post this week for the SPC Ethics Committee Blog misstates the arguments in favor of not naming or publishing photographs of mass killers.

The headline, “Ignoring a Problem Doesn’t Make It Go Away,” falsely implies that refusing to give mass killers the attention they seek is “ignoring” the problems of gun violence, mental illness or whatever problems each mass shooting illustrates.

That is as absurd as saying that withholding names of rape survivors from stories about sexual assault is tantamount to ignoring the problem of rape. We can cover rape without naming victims. We can cover national security without naming sources whose jobs or lives might be in jeopardy. And we can cover mass shootings without naming people whose actions and words leave no doubt that they are seeking attention.

The “censored” illustration with the graphic is a similarly inaccurate reflection of the argument not to name mass shooters. I have not suggested, and I don’t know anyone who has, that the government not allow publication of the names or photographs of mass shooters. That’s what censorship is, and I would fight such a measure as aggressively as anyone. To repeat my earlier analogy, news organizations are not censoring the names of rape victims or unnamed sources. Those organizations are making sound ethical and news judgments. A more appropriate illustration would have been a graphic depiction of the word judgment. (In fairness, I don’t know whether Seaman made or suggested the graphic, but the headline certainly reflects his post, which did refer to “ignoring” a problem.) (more…)

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I presented a webinar Wednesday for the Society of Professional Journalists on using (and reducing the use of unnamed sources).

I discussed points made in previous posts about using unnamed sources, including one on persuading people to talk for the record about difficult topics and another on using information from unnamed sources to persuade other sources to talk for the record. I also talked about the importance of power and eagerness in granting confidentiality, and suggested we should not quote spokespeople for powerful people and organizations without using their names.

I encourage using the Online News Association’s Build Your Own Ethics Code tool, which has a section to guide decisions on how to use unnamed sources.

Here are slides for the webinar:

Interested in a workshop?

If you’d like a workshop or webinar for your organization, on unnamed sources or one of the many other topics I teach, contact me at stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Today I am leading a webinar for the Society of Professional Journalists, “Leading Change in Your Organization.”

I will repeat points I made in my 2014 posts about Project Unbolt.

I’ll also cover points covered in these posts for the INMA Culture Change Blog:

Here are the slides for the presentation:

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I taught a class today in professional codes of ethics for various media careers.

A central point of the class was to discuss whether and why ethics codes should be updated: How much do they present timeless principles and how much should they provide specific guidance relevant to today’s ethical situations and challenges?

I won’t review all the points I made here, but I cited these ethics codes (or principles):

I also cited these narrower but more detailed examinations of slices of journalism ethics, all of them completed in the past few years:

We discussed native advertising, product placement as efforts to blur the lines between advertising and news or entertainment, including the Cities Energized paid post in the New York Times.

I also cited blog posts by Tom Rosenstiel and Tim McGuire about the relative merits of independence and transparency as core principles of journalism ethics.

I also cited Bob Steele‘s 10 questions to make ethical decisions as advice that is as helpful making ethical decisions today as when he first published them in 2002.

I made points covered in more detail in these earlier blog posts:

These were the slides I used in the class:

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BYO ethics codeIn late 2013 I called for detailed guidance for journalists on various ethics issues. I’m pleased to have had a role in answering that call through the Online News Association’s Build Your Own Ethics Code project.

The BYO code gives journalists and journalism organizations thoughtful guidance on 40 different topics relating to journalism ethics. Though it’s formally labeled ONAethics, the editing committee focused on Build Your Own and shortened it to BYO (hey, we’re journalists), which is how I’ll refer to it here.

The BYO project was released Thursday at the #ONA15 conference in Los Angeles (which, unfortunately, I am missing this year).

Disclaimer up front acknowledging my obvious bias in writing about this: I was a leading contributor in the writing of the project and participated with four others in editing. I will applaud all of them and others personally later, but first want to address the final product.

Disclaimer #2: Though we’ve been working on this project for two years, it’s still a work in progress. We welcome your feedback and will improve it as we receive suggestions and people point out flaws that we missed. And we’re still working on some design issues. The link I provide above is a beta. We welcome beta testers.

As I’ve said many times, good ethical decisions don’t come from good rules but from good conversations about ethics. What I like most about the BYO project is that it’s designed to prompt newsroom conversations about ethics, or at least to prompt individual journalists to think about the issues. As you use the tool to develop a code for your organization (or yourself), you have to think about what your values are and how to apply them in your journalism. (more…)

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I led a webinar Wednesday for the Society of Professional Journalists on job-hunting for journalists (but non-journos are welcome, too):

I just hit some highlights from my many blog posts on job-seeking, but those links are below. I’ve updated the top of this post to add my slides and to turn the post from future to past tense. From here on, it’s Monday’s post, which was seeking advice from other journalists. Thanks to all who send advice. That advice (from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and email) is shared in the slides above.

 

Here’s what I posted Monday, seeking that advice:

To stimulate your thinking, I’ll share a few tips here from previous posts on the topic, with links (I’ll suggest this post as further reading for webinar participants) and questions (in bold, to facilitate skimming here) to stimulate your thinking:

Prep for the job hunt

If you have a great job and you’re lucky (and want to) stay in it, I hope you stay where you are for many years to come. But the sad fact of journalism is (and always was) that you could lose your job abruptly, with little warning. I lost a job with no warning once (told on Friday to clean out my office that evening) and last year I got three months’ notice. Other times you feel like you’re ready for a move up that’s not likely to come in your own newsroom. Or you can’t stand your boss or your company or you want more money or a different beat. The reasons for starting a job hunt are plentiful. But your path to the next job starts while you’re happy and secure (or at least still welcome to come in every day, if no one feels secure any more) in your current job.

I wrote a blog post last year on preparing for your next job while you’re still working. One of my tips from that post: “you should always be learning new digital skills.”

What are some things you’ve done, before you started a job hunt, that helped once you started trying to find your next job (whether voluntary or by necessity)? 

Network

One of my tips in the blog post on preparing for the next job hunt (and most, if not all, of my posts relating to this topic) is to build your professional network. In a 2010 post about job-hunting tips, I noted that Jeff Sonderman and Mandy Jenkins contacted me as soon as I got hired at TBD, before I had posted any job openings. They both eventually got jobs on my community engagement team.

What are your tips on building a network and using that network to help land your next job?

Digital profile

I blogged in 2009 about building and tending your digital profile and in 2012 about using digital tools to showcase your career and your work. Perhaps my most important advice from those posts: Google yourself so you will see yourself as prospective bosses see you (in a 2013 post, I advised editors to check job candidates’ digital profiles).

If you think you’ve showcased your career and your work effectively, please send me a link. I may use your profile page as an example in the webinar.

Resumé

We will cover resumés briefly in the webinar. My key pieces of advice: Keep it to one page, but hyperlink to a page that gives more detail about your career and to actual examples of any works you cite in the resumé. (I included more resumé tips in that 2010 post).

Do you have any resumé tips? Or a resumé you’re proud of that I could share in the webinar and on the blog?

The Pitch

We will discuss how to pitch for a job. This will include the cover letter, of course, but also other ways of connecting with a prospective boss and making your pitch. As noted in that 2010 post, I made my initial (successful) pitch for a job with a direct message on Twitter.

Do you have a great cover letter you’d like to share (I could omit your name, if you prefer, but if it’s not your cover letter, I want permission from the sender to use, with or without name)? Or tell me how you pitched effectively other than through a cover letter.

Prep

Prep is helpful in two phases of the job hunt: researching the person, job and organization before you even make your pitch and doing even more research before your interview. Another point in that 2010 post was that candidates scored points in my interviews for TBD jobs with their knowledge about our people and strategy and what we had written about our plans.

The interview

Of course, you have to nail the interview. In a 2011 post, I shared a tip from Justin Karp: “Don’t be afraid to be bold when you meet someone.”

How have you nailed an interview (or screwed one up)? How have people that you interviewed excelled or stumbled? If you’ve been the boss doing the interviews, what are some important questions you ask?

Follow-up

Unless you get offered the job during the interview (that has happened to me, but it’s rare), your work is not done when the interview finishes. In a post from last year, I noted that I helped land my job with the American Press Institute by spending my flight home writing up my strategy for pursuing the job I’d just interviewed for. I emailed my prospective boss the strategy when I got home and within a week, I got an excellent offer that I accepted.

How have you followed up an interview effectively to help you land a job?

Don’t feel limited by my questions. I welcome your advice, whether in response to my questions or just from your own experience. Share a tip or tell a story about what worked for you or what didn’t.

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People who think journalism ethics principles are timeless have short memories. Or no knowledge of journalism history.

When I failed last year to persuade the Society of Professional Journalists to address linking in the update of its Code of Ethics, some ethics committee members didn’t want the code to refer to specific technology (such as hyperlinks) because they wanted a code of “timeless” journalism principles.

Never mind that the code had been updated before as society and journalism changed. They thought ethics were based on timeless principles and ethics codes should stand as a rock during changing times, rather than being updated to reflect the times.

In a speech at an ethics symposium last year, I noted how values change in other areas of life, and said journalism values change, too.

If you think the ethical principle of journalism independence is timeless, read Sunday’s column by Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Hartman has been a journalist for 70 years, and he’s reminiscing as the Star Tribune prepares to move out of its longtime downtown headquarters. I’m not going to question his ethics. In fact, he notes in the column that some of the practices he recalls wouldn’t be acceptable today. But you can’t read his column and then defend the notion that journalism ethics are timeless.

Here’s an excerpt:

In those days most every member of the small 10-man staff — compared with about 40 now — was allowed to earn some extra cash by doing public relations for the different sports teams in town. That’s why I was allowed to be involved with the Lakers.

No metro newspaper would allow that sort of dual relationship today. But we’ve kind of come full circle, with leagues and teams hiring journalists to cover themselves on their own websites, and other companies, government agencies and non-profit organizations creating elaborate operations to produce journalism that is anything but independent.

When the Star Tribune’s former longtime owner and Minneapolis civic leader John Cowles was trying to bring more major league sports teams to the Twin Cities, it was perfectly fine for his sports editor and columnist to be part of the campaign, as Hartman recounts:

The Star and Tribune had its own airplane then, and Cowles allowed (Sports Editor Charles) Johnson and myself to travel any place that was needed to lure any of the major league teams here. …

When it came to the Vikings, Cowles sent then Chamber of Commerce President Gerald Moore and me to Chicago to try to lure the Chicago Cardinals, who were not doing well, to play in Bloomington. And when we made a deal with Cardinals President Walter Wolfner to pay him $125,000 per game to play two regular-season games here in 1959, Cowles guaranteed the check. The two games sold out and helped get the NFL here soon after.

That sort of collaboration with community movers and shakers would be unacceptable in journalism today.

Journalism changes. Organizations that lead us in ethical thought should strive to stay current, not pretend we can cling to timeless principles.

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I was a long-distance participant in a workshop today for the Madison, Wis., chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

My first session, about going digital-first in your newsroom, drew heavily from my Project Unbolt posts, particularly those on breaking news, enterprise reporting, routine daily reporting and the post about the Five Satins story. Here are the slides for that workshop, on which I collaborated with Joel Christopher:

I collaborated on the second workshop, on mobile news-gathering, with Nick Penzenstadler. That relied heavily on my posts about live coverage and my livetweeting tips. Here are Nick’s slides (used with his permission), followed by mine:

Nick Penzenstadler SPJ2014

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spjlogo-for-headerThe Society of Professional Journalists adopted a new Code of Ethics Saturday at its meeting in Nashville.

I am pleased that SPJ updated a code that I described four years ago as profoundly outdated. But I’m disappointed that SPJ didn’t provide better leadership in this code.

Before I address my disappointments, I’ll say what pleases me:

Why I’m pleased

I’m pleased that SPJ has a more timely, relevant code. The code has been outdated for years, and I applaud progress. I’m pleased that the code mostly improved since I criticized the first draft in two lengthy blog posts in April and improved a bit more since I criticized the third draft in July. It even improved since Friday morning, when I was one of many during an Excellence in Journalism conference session who criticized the “final draft” that was approved by the Ethics Committee Aug. 28. In a Friday evening meeting, the SPJ Ethics Committee and Board adopted some of the changes suggested by Andy Schotz in a blog post and at Friday morning’s discussion. That I wish for more doesn’t change the fact that this is progress and I do appreciate that. (more…)

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Update: The final draft of the code update was revised again yesterday. I like what I’ve heard about the changes, but I haven’t analyzed it yet.

I will be leading a session at the Excellence in Journalism conference today about the broader ethics discussion in journalism.

At the EIJ conference, the Society of Professional Journalists will vote on adoption of a new ethics code. Here is the latest draft of the code, though it could be amended in floor debate today. My criticism of the revision stands, and I won’t belabor it either in this post or in my EIJ session.

Other ethics initiatives I will discuss include:

Poynter’s Guiding Principles

McBride_New_Ethics_of_JournalismThe new Poynter Guiding Principles for the Journalist, published in the 2013 book, The New Ethics of Journalism, edited by Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel. I blogged in 2012 from a Poynter event to discuss updating the Guiding Principles, then blogged again with suggestions for the new principles and in 2013 with praise and criticism for the completed guidelines. Among other changes, the guiding principles changed two of the three core values from the original Guiding Principles, authored by Bob Steele in the early 1990s. The 1990s principles were organized around the values of truthfulness, independence and minimizing harm. Now the core values are truthfulness, transparency and community. The 1990s SPJ Code and Guiding Principles were strongly similar, with SPJ using the same three core values, plus accountability (Bob dealt with accountability in his elaboration on the other values). In the final draft of the SPJ update, the core values are unchanged, except that transparency is paired with accountability in the last section. (more…)

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I led a webinar today on digital approaches to enterprise stories. It mentioned these links as advice and examples:

Questions to help newsrooms unbolt enterprise reporting from the ‘Sunday story’

Five Satins: A ‘Sunday’ story published digitally the Monday before

‘In the Still of the Night’: Five Satins recorded biggest hit in New Haven church basement

Sunshine Week project showed digital-first enterprise approach

Sunshine Week project

Denver Post’s Chasing the Beast

Denver Post’s The Fire Line

Nola.com’s then-and-now Hurricane Katrina photos

ProPublica Patient Harm Facebook group

Gettysburg 150 app

Here are my slides from the webinar:

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This continues my analysis of a draft of a revision to Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. I commented Friday on the changes to the “Seek Truth” section of the code. Here I’ll address the next three sections: Minimize Harm, Act Independently and Be Accountable.

I remain disappointed in the revisions and hopeful that SPJ members will insist on a more thorough update. My primary criticisms from Friday’s post still stand: The Ethics Committee went into this process with most members having already decided that the current Code of Ethics, adopted in 1996, just needed a little tweaking. I argued in 2010 and on various occasions since that the code needs an overhaul. I don’t know if we’re in a majority of journalists, but lots of people have told me privately that they agree (a poll on that 2010 post showed a vote of 138-22 in favor of updating, but I’m under no illusion that my blog readers are a cross-section of journalists.

The committee’s draft just tweaked and didn’t sufficiently address the needs of journalists today or the recommendations of a digital “subcommittee” on which I served (only one member of the subcommittee was an actual member of the Ethics Committee). (more…)

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