Ethics 2012: Becoming Ethical Journalists


Starting on Monday, we will begin a series of learning opportunities about ethics. Each lesson will consist of a case study. These are provided by the Society of Professional Journalists

Each case study will go live on this blog the day we discuss it in class. Your assignment for each case study will be to write a 200-word response that answers the question(s) posed, giving adequate reasoning for your decision.  

You will submit this response in the comments of the blog posting containing that case study.  

Do not regurgitate the information another student shares. Each post needs to be your own thoughts and work. There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer. Just make the best decision you can as you answer all of the questions posed in the case study. 

The following day, we will discuss your responses in class before beginning the next case study. 

You can follow these case studies easily on this blog. At the bottom of each post are the labels for the type of post it is. All of the case studies for this unit will be tagged with the Ethics 2012 label. If you get lost and can’t find the posts, simply search for this label to find the latest one. 

So, before we get started, we need to address what ethics are. Here is what Wikipedia says ethics are:

“[…] a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior.”

In journalism, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics are what most news organizations adhere to. Click the following link to see what it says: 

Basically, the SPJ Code of Ethics hits on four over-riding principles. They are as follows:

  • Seek Truth and Report It
  • Minimize Harm
  • Act Independently
  • Be Accountable 
If you click on the aforementioned link, you will see that each principle has a lot that goes into it, so I again suggest you read it to gain a fuller understanding.
The goal of this unit will be to provide you the students with an understanding of what ethics are and to teach you the students how to make ethical decisions.
This is one of the more fascinating components of journalism. Being able to deftly navigate the gray world of ethics is an invaluable skill, and understanding how to make ethical decisions is something that will serve you well regardless of the career you pursue later in life.

— Mr. T.