SPJ Ethics Week, 4/22-28, Code of Ethics

I joined the Society of Professional Journalists almost exactly three years ago, although I began to subscribe to their local, regional and national newsletters (whatever was available) before then. It was through a local, regularly emailed communication that I met Wendy Hoke, who has been an unparalleled resource for expanding my knowledge of the journalism profession.

SPJ’s Ethics Week
begins on Monday, April 22. The sidebar of the week’s front webpage provides links to many different resources that flesh out how ethics affect the provision of information to the public. You can read SPJ’s Code of Ethics here. Here’s SPJ’s explanation for the creation of Ethics Week: “We have established Ethics in Journalism Week as a means of placing a spotlight on our ethical responsibilities and reaching out to the communities we serve with information on what citizens have a right to expect from journalists.”

Ironically, it was through prepping for the Capitol Square show that I discovered that this coming week was designated as Ethics Week by SPJ. And so I had two reasons to review the Code of Ethics and think about how much, as a blogger and as a freelance writer, I follow the Code (it’s voluntary for members; here’s the organization’s answer for why the code isn’t enforced; not surprisingly the answer revolves around the same reasons bloggers often cite for why they don’t believe in having a blogger code of ethics).

Here’s good guidance about applying the code:

Our hope is that the public and other journalism professionals will have in our code the tools necessary to evaluate journalism behavior and hold journalists ethically accountable for their actions. Indeed, the code specifically calls on journalists to clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct, to encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media and to expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.

Tomorrow, you’ll be able to hear and see for yourself my comments about how I’ve kept this code of ethics in mind – as well as others that have been adapted specifically for the bloggers and Internet journalism – as I blog, if for no other reason than because I started the blog (more than a year after I joined SPJ) as an extention of my writing.

Given that this is SPJ’s Ethics Week, I guess it’s as good a time as any to evaluate what I’ve done well and what I could do better.

5 thoughts on “SPJ Ethics Week, 4/22-28, Code of Ethics

  1. Sorry to jump into the Jeff & Jill show, but some of what was in today’s (rare for Mondays) letters in the P-D touched on issues of substance. I think the lack of substance is an ethical question myself. It is very ironic to me that SPJ’s “week” coincides with the TV-Turnoff Week! If you have interest, here’s the link to today’s letters:http://tinyurl.com/2x9ak3

  2. Ok – but my conscience dictates that in print, in my blog, I restrain myself. Again, I don’t view all restraint as impermissible. We restrain ourselves all the time and in performing the task of providing news or information or opinion, we do the same. Your issue, as I read it, is more about who controls how you restrain yourself – you, your employer or some third party entity’s code. Because in practice, again, we all restrain ourselves in one way or another, yes?As for the bar mitzvah being a public event where I need to watch myself, did I tell you that we’re having a lot of liquor?

  3. Shalom Jill,But if codes aren’t impermissible restraints, they are meaningless.Journalists in particular should never be subject to such codes. An editor or publisher, of course, has every right to dictate employees actions in the performance of their duties, but beyond that, journalists must be free to act as their conscience dictates. Full stop.B’shalom,Jeffp.s. and screaming/not screaming at the ignoranus on the TV doesn’t really count because the rule is that what you might say or do privately (at home with your husband) is different from what you might say publically (at your son’s bar mitzvah/in print.

  4. That’s a very fair question, Jeff. Thanks.Yes – as a non-journalist, I shout at the television or radio “you stupid effing idiot” just as much as the next frustrated American, and maybe, probably more so. But my visceral reactions aren’t necessarily part of the story, unless I’m universalizing something personal to help illuminate a point.But what you’re implying, I think, is pretty much true – where I’m concerned, or at least where I try – emphasis on try: my personal ethics coincide pretty well with others’ codes we might look to. But you know, me? I like having them there to refer to – and they deciding on a case by case basis how they apply.Maybe because the instances when I would disregard something a code encourges are far and few between, the codes just don’t bother me. Plus, remember – I’ve had to study and adhere to the legal codes and the social worker codes. So I’ve had that kind of thing govern or be in the background of my work for a really long time. I don’t see codes as impermissible restraints – and if I came across one that I did see that way, it’s likely that I’d eschew it or not practice that profession. I get that choice, right?

  5. Shalom Jill,I have to wonder, in what way does the SPJ code inform or expand upon your personal code of ethics?Are there things that you, as non-journalist might do, that you would not do as a journalist?B’shalom,Jeff

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