Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Media Ethics Survey is Online

Join in a discussion about journalism ethics and take the 2006 "You Are the Editor" survey online at http://extension.missouri.edu/swregion/news.

The Southwest Missouri Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists hosted an "Ethics in Journalism" event this Spring at the public library in Republic, Mo.

I moderated the forum. This year’s event revolved around discussion of scenarios dealing with real-life journalism ethics. Discussion at the meeting focused on what the SPJ Code of Ethics had to say about the facts surrounding each scenario.

What most Americans (and apparently many experts) don't realize is that the Society of Professional Journalists already has a comprehensive "Code of Ethics." If every journalist followed this code of ethics, the profession and the democracy would be better served.

The SPJ Code of Ethics has four major components.

First, journalists are to seek truth and report it. "Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information," reads the Code of Ethics. This covers the need for accuracy, as well as different aspects of reporting and the need to not impose personal values and biases on readers.

Second, journalists are to "minimize harm." In other words, "ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect." Showing compassion, not being arrogant, respecting people's privacy and showing good taste can do this.

Third, journalists should "act independently." The SPJ Code of Ethics says, "Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know."

And finally, journalists should "be accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other." The SPJ Code of Ethics says this can best be done by "inviting dialogue with the public over journalist conduct, encouraging the public to voice grievances against the news media, admitting mistakes and correcting them promptly, exposing unethical practices of journalists and the news media and abiding by the same high standards to which they hold others."

The future of America demands that we have responsible and ethical media outlets and reporters. One way that can be achieved is through an improved understanding of media ethics by reporters, editors, media owners and Americans.

More information about the SPJ Ethics code, as well as the new 2006 “You Are the Editor!” media ethics survey can be found online at http://extension.missouri.edu/swregion/news.


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