TV They-Speak

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By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalist

ABC7 Chicago television, they are inventing a new way to speak or mangling the English language.

Listen to the announcers on WLS-TV, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company. They include the word “they” in the oddest places. A sports announcer says, “The White Sox, they have been going…….” On a coronavirus story, the reporter says, “Don’t know how many people, they have been sent home.” Even the weather man does it: “The winds, they’ll be strong.”

They. Are they trying to copy the style of foreign languages? Is this a way to turn sentences into barking headlines? Did management circulate a memo mandating they-speak? It interrupts the flow of speech. It’s discordant. And maybe that’s the idea. It grabs your attention, but in an annoying way.

In the past, broadcasters were considered paragons of speech, showing how it should be done. It was an exalted position. But they (defined as those ones or people in general, a personal pronoun) seem to be resorting to phonetic trickery.

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

Double Dipping?

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By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists

The caller asked the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists if it is ethical for a freelance reporter to report the local town news, covering the town council and government meetings, while at the same time being paid to write the mayor’s column.

Anything in the Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics that might discourage that? If you were the reporter’s editor, what would you say about the reporter working for the newspaper and for the mayor too?

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

Covid and Media

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By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists

At a time the Covid-19 death toll tops the fatalities in the 1918-19 influenza pandemic, the nation’s news media workforce is something like 40 percent diminished from a generation ago.

This is something for scholars and medical historians to chew on. How many covid deaths can be linked to a lack of trusted, reliable community news sources when they were urgently needed? A pandemic qualifies as a time when life-saving information is needed.

CNBC reported in September that Covid-19 is officially the most deadly outbreak in recent American history. On October 1, Johns Hopkins hospital reported 699,010 covid deaths in the U.S. The estimated U.S. fatalities in the 1918-19 influenza pandemic is 675,000 Americans.

This comes when the news media complex is probably 40 percent weaker than it was a generation ago, said Ed Wasserman, dean of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, at a 2020 discussion on the role of journalism in a global pandemic.”In many ways, it’s a make or break moment for the media,” he said. The intensity of interest in the story is massive.

The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists reported in 2020 that just about every generation worries about an existential threat, and lists some of them.

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

Indigenous Invisibility

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By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists.

Chicago has an American Indian population of 13,337.

Roughly half of them are female and half are male, and the median age of both sexes is 30.

Of 4,240 American Indian homes, 2,769 are led by families. The population of those living alone is 1,128. Some of the families are led by females with no husband present, and some by males with no wife present. Three or more generations live in 364 homes.

These U.S. Census Bureau statistics begin to tell untold stories, untold because they are part of a national pattern of overlooking American Indian communities.

This is a story told by Cynthia-Lou Coleman and Jackleen de La Carpe in a Poynter Institute report saying that coverage of indigenous communities “is sporadic, uneven and barely visible.” This invisibility, says their story, “has a disturbing consequence: it becomes a form of erasure.”

The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics urges journalists to “boldly tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience. Seek sources whose voices we seldom hear.”

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

Musician or Journalist?

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By Casey Bukro

The violinist for a major orchestra is arrested for having child porn in his house and on his computer.

A professional musician who also does radio reports on the arts beat wants to know if she is obligated to do a report on the porn arrest. “Am I really a journalist, rather than a musician who does a few arts spots?” she asked the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists.

What would you say to that question? Does she have a responsibility to report on the arrest? Or can she ignore the arrest?

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

Objectivity and Truth

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By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists

Whenever I made the mistake of starting to answer a question by saying, “I think,” the tough editor at the old City News Bureau of Chicago cut me off by saying: “Don’t tell me what you think, chum, tell me what you know.”

City News, once called the Devil’s Island of Journalism, is long gone, another victim of bean-counters and the bottom line. But it managed to train thousands of young journalists who went on to win Pulitzer Prizes and top jobs in journalism.

I thought about that tough editor when the Poynter Institute released a study of 167 journalists and their views about objectivity and truth-telling. It’s a small sample that included professional reporters and editors, student journalists and journalism professors.

“Two distinct mind-sets emerged,” said Poynter. “A traditionalist group that favors neutrality and a second group that shows more concern for the impact of journalism on their sources and desires more engagement in political discourse.” Some want more freedom on social media.

You can read the Poynter study here. It appears that those who want “more engagement in political discourse” want to tell you what they think. That would have offended that City News editor, especially if you are just starting out in journalism. He might have said you have to learn to gather facts accurately before you get to pontificate. He would have said personal views do not belong in news reports. Editorials or think-pieces do that. And some magazines , radio stations or television channels are dedicated to a political or social point of view.

Objectivity will be a stretch for those who believe it is not worth the effort to try.

Diversity might play a role in this. Young journalists of various races, ethnic groups or genders are recruited specifically because they bring their own sets of values and experiences to the job, and look like the people they are covering. All good. Does that mean they should be campaigners for causes? There should be a place for that. Have we figured out how best journalists should do that? How best to present what diversity has to offer?

The Poynter report touched on a significant point by quoting a New York Times media columnist who pointed out that most of the 3,400 Americans polled agreed that journalists should keep their political opinions private. In other words: Give us the facts and we’ll arrive at our own opinions. That’s a journalist’s top job, serving the public interest.

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

A Campus Rape

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By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists

A student is interviewed for a California student newspaper, some of it off-record and some of it on the record, about a rape on campus.

Later, the student who was interviewed calls the student journalists and asks them not to publish the interview with him, saying his parents believe the article would do more harm than good. The student journalists believe the article would be helpful to the student who was interviewed and to others accused in the case. The newspaper’s managing editor believes the source would not be harmed if he were identified, and that the story would be a public service by providing unknown facts about the case involving eight young men accused of rape after a birthday party.

The student journalists called the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists, asking if it would be ethical to publish an article with the interview, or without the source’s name.

What do you think? Publish the interview or not? What would be the greatest benefit?

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

Sensitive Journalism

 

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By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists

Allowing for time to grieve, journalists in Plymouth, England, are taking a break from interviewing relatives of six people, including a three-year-old girl, killed in a mass shooting in the port city in southwest England..

Instead, the local Plymouth Live website and newspapers are focusing their coverage on the five victims who lived in the city of 262,100 population. England, with some of the world’s strictest gun control laws, has not seen a mass shooting since 2010.

“This is more than a news story for us,” digital editor Edd Moore told the Press Gazette. “We’re local people who live in and around the city and I’ve never known an incident that has had quite such a profound devastating impact on the city and quite frankly it’s just one of those where the residents deserve the space to grieve….”

As a result, local reporters have decided to forego the usual practice of knocking on the doors of the bereaved for interviews.

“We all know people who are affected by this,” said Moore. “So as far as decision-making goes, it didn’t even feel like a decision to us — it’s just doing the right thing.”

Plymouth Live also declined temporarily to use a photo of the 22-year-old shooter, who killed himself. And though social media was flooded with footage from the shooting scene and unverified information, Plymouth Live decided against using any of it until reliable information is available.

Moore added: “Our readers appreciate the fact that we’ve been as sensitive as we possibly can be in our reporting of this. It’s just reinforced to me how important it is to listen to your readers and…consider what you would want to read if you were affected yourself.”

Americans too, are touched indirectly by this tragedy. In 1620, the Pilgrim Fathers departed Plymouth, England, for the New World and established Plymouth Colony, the second English settlement in what is now the United States of America.

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

 

 

 

 

 

Crash Photos Debate

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By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists

A small Illinois daily newspaper routinely publishes photos of vehicle crashes that meet its standards: No blood, no bodies or other graphic imagery and no license plates shown.

The editor contacted the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists saying some readers complain that such photos should be omitted because crash vehicles can be identified by relatives of the driver. Other readers say that such photos have news value.

What do you think? Omit crash photos, publish them or display traffic accidents in a different way? What would be the most ethical thing to do, especially since this controversy is happening in a small community where many people know each other? Consider community values.

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.

Cosby Case Update

Bill Cosby
Comedian Bill Cosby responds to charges against him in September 2015. (A&E)

By Casey Bukro

Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists

Comedian Bill Cosby was released from prison in June after serving almost three years for drugging and assaulting a woman athlete.

In 2014, the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists examined the Cosby case as the media were changing the ways they covered rape and the sexual conduct of celebrities and famous men, issues that continue to challenge media ethics and standards. Did media watchdogs do their jobs?

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The Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists was founded in 2001 by the Chicago Headline Club (Chicago professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists) and Loyola University Chicago Center for Ethics and Social Justice. It partnered with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2013. It is a free service.

Professional journalists are invited to contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists for guidance on ethics. Call 866-DILEMMA or ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org.