Spring for journalists marks the end of contest entry season and the beginning of conferences and workshops. Heavy thinking threatens the daffodils.
Ethics committees of two groups, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Online News Association, are marking this climate change with proposals. SPJ’s is revising its Code of Ethics, last dolled up in 1996, and ONA’s panel wants a new approach it calls “Build Your Own Ethics Code.”
A key difference: SPJ will engrave its code in stone and ONA plans continual updating. One similarity is prominent: How ethics (singular noun) effects Internet news.
Or commentary, for that matter. (My gang, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, has a Code of Conduct, set in 2009. Valid in any medium.)
A point by point breakdown can’t be done until ONA completes its list. Until then, here’s their links:
Even their postings’ titles (which I’ve edited for form) indicate a significant issue. Ethics has a reputation as the Law’s wayward brother — while the Law graduated with high honors and is out making a name for itself, ethics still is in school, partying with the attitude, “Whatever, Dude.”
If you can go to jail or lose a lawsuit, it’s the Law. Ethics runs into its brother and bounces off: It is the agreement we journalists have with our audience; it’s how news providers are trusted to be as complete and fair as possible in the moment and not too offensive. While the Law has exceptions, Ethics functions by its elasticity.