Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists is provided as a public service at no charge by the Chicago Headline Club chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in partnership with Medill Northwestern.
We take questions from professional journalists in the working press.
HAVE A QUESTION? PHONE 866-DILEMMA (866-345-3662) OR CONTACT US ONLINE
“Ethics, unfortunately, can be an afterthought in a 24-7/digital-first/anyone-can-publish-content environment. In an area that sometimes has no right or wrong answer, the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists helps media pros navigate murky waters. They are doing a public service and helping shape the way forward for our industry, and that deserves recognition.” — Judges’ remarks, 2014 Sigma Delta Chi award, online column writing (independent)
One of the more than 1,000 calls to the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists reflected rampant concerns these days in journalism over finances and their impact on ethics.
The caller, a Long Island broadcaster, said station management was directing the news staff to give favorable “news’’ coverage to local advertisers. The journalist wanted to know what to do about it.
The broadcaster suspected that management was being unethical and was considering the hazards of whistle-blowing or quitting the job.
An AdviceLine ethicist took the call and pointed out that the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics clearly states that journalists should “deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.”
The ethicist encouraged the caller to contact the SPJ professional chapter in New York City for help in getting the station’s management to reconsider its unethical practice, and to direct management’s attention to the SPJ Code of Ethics.
Started in 2001, AdviceLine is a project of the Chicago Headline Club in partnership with the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Journalists seeking guidance can submit questions online or call the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists at 866-DILEMMA, toll-free. Callers can request to speak personally by phone in consultation with the call-takers, who are trained in ethics and who teach ethics at the university level.
Ethics conflicts can damage or end journalism careers. When in doubt, contact the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists. Get answers on ethical practices in journalism. Get it right the first time.
Below is a list of our call-takers who will respond to questions posed by phone, form or via email.
David A. Craig is a professor and associate dean for academic affairs in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Oklahoma. He teaches journalism ethics and graduate research courses and previously taught news editing. He is the author of two books about journalism ethics and best practices: Excellence in Online Journalism: Exploring Current Practices in an Evolving Environment (Sage, 2011) and The Ethics of the Story: Using Narrative Techniques Responsibly in Journalism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2006). Craig worked for nine years as a news copy editor at the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader. He earned a B.S. in journalism from Northwestern University, an M.A. in communication from Wheaton College and a Ph.D. in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He taught editing courses at Northwestern and Missouri. Craig has been a professor at Oklahoma since 1996. He tweets about journalism issues at @dcraigok.
Casey Bukro was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 2008 for outstanding contributions to Chicago journalism, after a 45-year career with the Chicago Tribune. Bukro retired from the Tribune in 2007 as overnight editor. He had pioneered in environmental reporting and in 1970 became the first full-time environment specialist at a major metropolitan newspaper in the United States and covered major developments on that beat for 30 years. He won the newspaper’s highest editorial award in 1967 for a series on Great Lakes pollution. The Society of Professional Journalists awarded Bukro its highest honor, the Wells Key, in 1983 for writing that organization’s first code of ethics. He is a past president of SPJ’s national ethics committee and a past president of the Chicago Headline Club. Bukro graduated with bachelor and master degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In 1998, he received the Northwestern University Alumni Association’s alumni service award for 17 years of volunteer service to the university. He has lectured in environmental journalism and journalism ethics at Northwestern, the University of Chicago, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, Columbia College, Columbia University and others. Before joining the Tribune staff, Bukro worked at the former City News Bureau of Chicago and the Janesville Gazette, Janesville, Wis.
David T. Ozar
David Ozar is Professor of Social and Professional Ethics, Department of Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago. He has taught in Loyola’s schools of medicine, nursing, business, law, education, social work and dentistry. He served as director of Loyola’s Center for Ethics 1993-2006. Since its founding in 2001, Ozar has served as co-director of the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists. During that time he has lectured and written a number of professional articles on professional issues in journalism ethics and other professionals, as well as about AdviceLine.
Hugh Miller is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Loyola University Chicago, where he has taught since 1989. He took a BA in philosophy and physics at Yale University and his MA and PhD degrees at the University of Toronto, where he held a University of Toronto Open Fellowship and a Mary H. Beattie Fellowship. A specialist in contemporary European approaches to ethics, philosophy of religion, and aesthetics, he is at present completing a book-length manuscript on the ethical theory of the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. He has published several articles on ethics, taught ethics seminars at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and been a regular call-taker with the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists since its inception in 2001.
Chicago content strategy consultant Stephen Rynkiewicz is content marketing director for the Purpose Brand public relations agency. He has worked in online, print and broadcast news, as a reporter, editor and developer. As a Chicago Tribune digital editor he led business and consumer projects and taught at Columbia College Chicago. While a section editor at the Chicago Sun-Times he was a Society of Professional Journalists officer and served on its national and local ethics committees. He blogs at escapednotice.blogspot.com.