April 16th, 2021 • Featured, Quill Blog
Hicks: DeSantis square off with “60 Minutes” feeds media distrust
It sounded familiar: A politician brazenly admonishing the press for a story that portrayed him unfavorably, accusing the reporter of bias and the “big corporate media” of smearing his name for profit. But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ excoriation of a “60 Minutes” report on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout landed differently because a significant aspect of his criticism — a questionable allegation of wrongdoing — was echoed by respected mainstream journalists and news organizations, elevating the credibility of his complaint.
June 4th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics: Should journalists show the faces of protesters?
Taking photos or video of protesters and people marching or demonstrating in public spaces is a right afforded to journalists under the First Amendment. In the United States people have a right to information. Journalists help fulfill that right to information by responsibly reporting on what is happening in communities across the country.
April 8th, 2020 • Featured, Quill Blog, Code Words, Ethics Toolbox
Ethics: Answering questions about COVID-19 coverage
At the Society of Professional Journalists, we talk a lot about how your ethical standards should not change no matter the medium or type of story you are producing. While covering COVID-19, the same is true: Ethics apply no matter the medium.
As the Society of Professional Journalists celebrates its 110th anniversary in 2019, it may come as a surprise that SPJ did not have its signature Code of Ethics for the group’s first 17 years. In 1909 when the young men at DePauw University founded SPJ as a college fraternity, Sigma Delta Chi, one of their goals was “to advance the standards of the press by fostering a higher ethical code.”
An SPJ member asked: “A local entertainment publication provides a weekly print edition with information on weekly entertainment happenings in the area. They also feature various articles on people and events. Sometimes the cover is sold for the featured event. Does this require a disclosure?
My tenure as the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee chairperson began in September 2014. A Minneapolis news station would broadcast a story now known as #Pointergate in early November. Rolling Stone would publish its now-infamous story on sexual assault a couple of weeks later.
April 24th, 2018 • Featured
Journalism’s complicated relationship with transparency
Despite first being added to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics in 2014, “transparency” has always been an elemental part of journalism. As SPJ embarks on its 15th annual Ethics Week and the organization calls for more transparency throughout journalism, it’s important to look back at the complicated relationship between the concept and the profession.
April 9th, 2018 • Featured
Sinclair’s ‘teachable moment’ raises even more questions
Sinclair Broadcast Group executives reportedly called the recent backlash to its company-wide promotional videos “teachable moment” in a call Wednesday with representatives from the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. That same day, the National Press Photographers Association issued a statement calling on all media companies to “improve and celebrate ethical journalism in effective, meaningful and respectful ways.”
April 3rd, 2018 • Featured
Sinclair’s mandates threaten independent, local journalism
Journalists at Sinclair Broadcast Group stations across the country have been appearing in carbon-copy promotional videos claiming that some media outlets are publishing “fake stories” and that some members of the media “push their own personal bias and agenda.” How America’s largest local TV owner turned its news anchors into soldiers in Trump’s war on the media: https://t.co/iLVtKRQycL
March 19th, 2018 • From the President
To regain trust, journalists should tell our own story
How can the media rebuild public trust? That’s a question journalists have grappled with for decades. But now it’s more important than ever to examine the causes of and possible solutions to this vexing problem. The good news is that most people value accurate, well-told news stories.
March 12th, 2018 • Featured
Can transparency save journalism from outside attacks?
Just over one month before a special election in Alabama for the U.S. Senate, The Washington Post published a story about Republican candidate Roy Moore that revealed inappropriate contact he made with teenage girls. The understated importance of this story was it included bits and pieces of how the story was reported to begin with; right within in the story, the reporters showed how they learned of the allegations.
It was fewer than 10 days before Donald Trump’s inauguration when he berated CNN and its reporter, Jim Acosta, during a news conference at Trump Tower. “Quiet,” Trump told Acosta as the reporter tried to answer a question. “Don’t be rude, don’t be rude.”
Journalists must know when to move discussions off air. Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide, granted many interviews to journalists Monday that produced several accusations and conflicting statements.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?,” President Donald Trump reportedly asked Thursday at a White House meeting discussing immigration policies and protections for people from Haiti, El Salvador and the African continent.
Filed a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, but ran into a few bumps? The Society of Professional Journalists wants to help.
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.
November 2nd, 2017 • Quill Archives
Newsroom ethics discussions don’t have to be uncomfortable
No person likes to confront co-workers or managers about issues in the workplace. The conversations can be uncomfortable and lead to hurt feelings. However, those discussions are often necessary to create a good work environment. In addition to topics such as salary issues and disputes with co-workers, journalists may sometimes need to confront managers and co-workers about another touchy subject: ethics.
Ricky John Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Micah David-Cole Fletcher were stabbed May 26 when they attempted to stop a man from harassing two teens with racist and anti-Muslim rants on a train in Portland, Oregon. Best and Namkai-Meche died. A lot of the attention on social media following the attack centered on the news media’s use or avoidance of the word “terrorism” in discussing the events.
February 21st, 2017 • Quill Archives
Online Harassment Is An Ethics Issue For Journalists
The internet inarguably shook up the profession of journalism more than any other technology throughout its history. People spend a lot of time discussing the internet’s impact on storytelling and the business of journalism, but they typically ignore the harassment it unleashed on journalists.
The SPJ Ethics Committee handles a lot of issues that, as expected, involve news outlets representing all kinds of media. What may surprise some people is that we also deal with a lot of issues involving non-fiction books. These issues often involve works that could be classified as creative non-fiction.
Opinion writing or broadcasting is a challenging endeavor. Crafting persuasive prose requires a lot of brain power, and sometimes it’s difficult to know what ethical boundaries exist when arguing a specific position. The Weekender, an alternative weekly publication in Northeast Pennsylvania, recently published a column from a regular contributor about him and his friend pretending to be veterans of the U.S.
At the 2015 Excellence in Journalism conference in September, SPJ Ethics Committee chairman Andrew Seaman wasn’t in one place for long. Between leading training sessions and attending committee meetings, he was still able to find time to socialize with other journalists throughout the conference.
As everyone knows, the business of news changed dramatically over the past two decades. Major newspapers, websites, television and radio stations now crave clicks and screen time. In that quest, news organizations ceded a lot of editorial power to social media companies.
Nearly 1,000 shootings involving four or more people have occurred in the U.S. since 26 people – including 20 children – were killed in Newtown, Conn., by a gunman in December 2012, according to the crowdsourced Mass Shooting Tracker. While estimates suggest gun violence is less common today than decades ago, there are an increasing number of questions submitted to SPJ’s Ethics Hotline with every new mass shooting that gains widespread attention.
One of the reasons I enjoy being a health reporter is that there are few topics that apply to everyone on such a personal level. Health is important for many reasons, including that it will likely dictate how long a person lives.
As vice chair of the SPJ Ethics Committee, I get a lot of questions from journalism students who want feedback for their assignments. “How would you define ’ethical journalism’?” “Have you ever been in an ethical situation?” I recently got this one: “How can journalists avoid running into ethical problems?”
As a car show was getting underway in Northeastern Pennsylvania in 2009, one of the cars turning into the parking lot burst into flames after it was hit from behind by another vehicle. Trapped inside, the car’s only occupant — a 64-year-old man — died.
He is one of the people in modern history most quoted by journalists. He knows everything, but goes by many names. Some call him an official. Some call him a source close to the matter. Others just call him anonymous. After years of work, many say he should be forced into retirement.
My peers in middle school often sent letters asking for autographs to famous athletes. I, on the other hand, wrote letters to Walter Cronkite. My father spent many hours during my childhood explaining to me the role the “most trusted man in American” played in the latter half of the 20th Century.
With an overwhelming chorus of “ayes” in September, delegates of the Society of Professional Journalists ushered in a new era of journalism ethics. After a year of work and debate, approved revisions to the SPJ Code of Ethics for the first time in 18 years.
NOTE: A version of this critique from Steve Buttry first appeared on his blog. The rewrite of the SPJ Code of Ethics is moving in the right direction, just not far enough. In three monstrously long posts in 2010 and earlier this year, I called for an update of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics and criticized the first draft of an update by the Ethics Committee.
It’s finally here. After over a year of listening, gathering input, releasing drafts, doing re-writes and addressing concerns, the newly revised Code of Ethics is ready for prime time. But the show isn’t over yet. Just like in show business, it’s not over until the proverbial fat lady sings.