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Hunt news ethics session

  1. 1. AN HOUR’S WORTH OF JOURNALISM ETHICS • Bill Mitchell • 28 Jan 2019 | Huntington News • bmitch (at) • 727-641-9407 (your personal ethics hotline)
  2. 2. WHAT ARE ETHICS? • A branch of philosophy involving systematizing, defending & recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct; sometimes known as moral philosophy (Wikipedia) • Journalism ethics: An approach to decision-making that: • identifies ethical tensions • clarifies stakeholders • assesses likely benefit and harm • Surfaces multiple options • Facilitates a defensible decision on deadline
  3. 3. SOURCES FOR THIS PRESENTATION • Journalism ethics work by Poynter’s Bob Steele, Kelly McBride, Al Tompkins, Roy Peter Clark and others. • See and • The Ethical Journalist, by Gene Foreman • The New Ethics of Journalism, by Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel
  4. 4. FOUR THEORIES OF ETHICS • Rule-based (Immanuel Kant, 18th century German) • Deontology (deon=duty) • Ends-based (Benthem, Mill, 17th, 18th century British) • Teleology (teleo=ends) • Golden Rule (various world religions) • Do unto others… • Golden Mean (Aristotle, 384-322, BCE) • Golden Rule applied to multiple stakeholders
  5. 5. WHERE I’M COMING FROM • Ethics is NOT just about common sense • Journalism ethics is all about Green Light Ethics as opposed to Red Light Ethics • Finding a “third option” is often critical to a good ethical decision • Don’t kid yourself: As a journalist you WILL do some harm.
  6. 6. WHY CARE ABOUT ETHICS? • It’s the right thing to do • Ethical clarity enhances the value of the product you’re creating • Working with an ethical framework in journalism reduces stress, increases efficiency and lets you sleep better
  7. 7. CATEGORIES OF ETHICAL CONCERNS • Getting the truth out • Holding powerful accountable • Giving voice to the voiceless • Getting people the news & information they need to govern themselves in a democracy
  8. 8. CATEGORIES OF ETHICAL CONCERNS, CONT. • Minimizing harm of various sorts • Potential loss of job, status, even life • Emotional damage caused by insensitive language • Harm that might occur as a result of NOT publishing a story
  9. 9. CATEGORIES OF ETHICAL CONCERNS, CONT. • Fake news, slanted news, hidden agendas • Ideological argument masquerading as independent news • Anonymous sourcing limiting audience ability to evaluate worth of information provided • Withholding relevant info from audience
  10. 10. POSSIBLE GUIDING PRINCIPLES • Seeking and telling as much of the truth as possible • Acting as independently as possible • Minimizing as much harm as possible • Reporting with as much transparency as possible, with a goal of holding yourselves accountable to audiences
  11. 11. AN ETHICS PROCESS ON ANY GIVEN STORY 1. Agree on guiding principles 2. Get clear about your journalistic purpose of this story 3. Get clear about identity of stakeholders 4. Start with your gut but don’t stop there 5. Next consider rules, laws, codes 6. Then reflect on which of your principles are in tension 7. Come up with at least three alternatives 8. Explain your selection of one alternative, in writing, to your colleagues and your audiences
  12. 12. POSSIBLE NEXT STEPS 1. Make the Huntington News constitution available online – prominently! 2. Review constitution to see if you need more specific ethics guidelines & process. Is your policy re unnamed sources clear enough? 3. Add Corrections to your menu & run in regular print spot
  13. 13. RESOURCES 1. These slides: 2. Syllabus for Fall 2016 course: 3. Website & slides for that course: 4. Ethics help: bmitch (at) | 727-641-9407 5. Legal help: Rob Bertsche, Prince Lobel law firm: rbertsche (at) Rob’s work number: Contact Bill for this Rob’s mobile & Rob’s home: Contact Bill for these

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Session with staff of Huntington News, student newspaper at Northeastern University, o Jan. 28, 2019


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