Media Ethics
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Media Ethics

A Guide For Professional Conduct

Cindy Kelley, Tony Peterson, Fred Brown

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eBook - ePub

Media Ethics

A Guide For Professional Conduct

Cindy Kelley, Tony Peterson, Fred Brown

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About This Book

Closely organized around the Society of Professional Journalists' code of ethics — the news industry's widely accepted "gold standard" of journalism principles — this updated edition uses real-life case studies to demonstrate how journalism students and professionals can identify and reason through ethical dilemmas. Stressing the cross-platform viability of basic ethical principles, this study features a wide selection of case studies penned by professional journalists-including several new additions-that offer examples of thoughtful, powerful, and principled reporting. Cases where regrettable decisions have taught important lessons are also included, providing a new template for analyzing moral predicaments.

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Copyright © 2020 by Society of Professional Journalists Foundation and Society of Professional Journalists
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electric or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the copyright owners.
Printed in the United States of America
ISBN: 978-0-578-63170-7
eISBN: 978-0-578-63354-1
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020900083
Media Ethics: A Guide for Professional Conduct / Revised by Fred Brown, editor, and members of the SPJ Ethics Committee — 5th edition
Revised edition of: Journalism Ethics: A Casebook of Professional Conduct for News Media / Revised by Fred Brown, editor, and the SPJ Ethics Committee — 4th edition
ISBN: 978-1-933338-80-4
Cover: Billy O’Keefe
Design: Cindy Kelley
Published by Society of Professional Journalists
3909 N. Meridian St, Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000
spj.org
Dedicated to the memory of
John Ensslin and Mike Farrell
In August 2019, as the final touches were being put on this edition, the Society of Professional Journalists lost two of its most revered members.
John Ensslin, 65, was SPJs national president from 2011 to 2012, and was a tireless innovator and contributor to the organization.
Mike Farrell, 70, served on SPJs s FOI and Ethics committees, adding expertise and wisdom to the drafting of the 2014 Code of Ethics.
Both were gentlemen and gentlemen who combined a fierce passion for accurate, assertive and responsible journalism with a civil demeanor and a lively sense of humor.
They were taken from us too soon, and are sorely missed.
Introduction
This ethics handbook and collection of ethics cases appears for the first time in online form as well as in print. It comes at a time of rapid change and challenges in the world of journalism and communications. It is still organized as if it were only a printed book, but in its online format, it’s intended to be more accessible (and less expensive). The Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics casebook went through three print editions with the title Doing Ethics. The fourth edition, printed in 2011, was called Journalism Ethics: A Casebook of Professional Conduct for News Media. The first three editions were primarily the work of three faculty members associated with the Poynter Institute, a journalism training and research center in St. Petersburg, Florida. Much of the material, and the wisdom, contributed by Jay Black, Robert Steele and Ralph Barney remains a part of this fifth edition. This edition and the one before it have been group efforts by the members of the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists, edited by Fred Brown, a former chairman of the committee and former national president of SPJ.
There’s another difference in this fifth edition. It’s broader in scope, intended to deal not only with all the various fields of journalism, and the growing number of technologies available for delivering information, but also to cover other forms of communication. As traditional journalism shrinks, journalists may find themselves drawn to, or compelled to pursue, other options. Whether they do or not, it’s worth knowing how other fields in the information game express their own ethics. All of them place very high value on integrity, accuracy and accountability. But professions with clients, including public relations, also place a very high value on loyalty and advocacy. Since these other professions and journalists are constantly interacting with each other — and since a number of institutions of higher education are requiring all their communications students to have a grounding in media ethics — this casebook also attempts to offer a roadmap for ethical, responsible relationships among those who advocate and those who observe and report.
The book’s principal focus, though, remains journalism in its broadest sense: the gathering, organizing and interpreting of information for delivery to a wider audience. Traditional journalism has been challenged as never before by rapidly evolving technologies and regrettably relaxed standards. Technology has brought us 24/7 news on cable television, smart phones with cameras and video capability and a staggering number of individual websites where seekers of information — or affirmation — can find everything from kittens playing pianos to people being stoned to death.
With so many media outlets competing for attention, there’s a temptation to emphasize quantity over quality, speed over accuracy, to not be quite so strict about what meets long-established standards for broadcast or publication. Reporters are expected to post, to tweet, to react instantly, to be ready at all times to produce factoids and snippets that will distract and attract, even if only briefly, the attention of the darting fish swimming in a sea of available information.
Managers at news outlets promise they will no longer “lecture” to their audiences; now it’s time to have a “conversation.” But journalists may be trying too hard to be accommodating, and this will inevitably diminish the traditional media’s voice of authority. This is not a good outcome. Mainstream media will survive only if they insist on providing accurate, reliable and fair information. Let others give readers what they want to see. The ethical journalist’s information is to give them information they need to make sound decisions — information that may challenge assumptions rather than simply affirm preconceptions. That sense of responsibility is what separates an ethical journalist from a slapdash polemicist.
This handbook will help journalists reinforce that sense of responsibility, and students to develop that sense. The case studies are both recent and classic, providing contemporary and timeless examples of the dilemmas facing those who communicate information.
The book includes a template for analyzing ethics dilemmas. Some of the examples are outlined in that format. Others are left for students and their instructors to organize and analyze as they choose. In addition to cases that can be analyzed from a strategic communications perspective, the book also includes a chapter explaining how ethical obligations may differ from legal requirements.
The book is organized around the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, an industry standard...

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