By Casey Bukro
The Society of Professional Journalists is thinking about amending or replacing its code of ethics, the current version of which was adopted in 1996.
One before that was adopted in 1973 and amended a couple of times with some word changes.
Some documents stand the test of time, others do not. SPJ is trying to decide in which category its present code belongs.
The society is surveying its members, asking what they think: Keep the code, replace it or change it?
Some members argue that in the 17 years since the code was adopted, journalism in the United States has changed a lot, including the technology journalists use, such as cell phones and social media.
Others say ethical standards, like honesty, fairness and accuracy are not governed by changes in technology. They are constants even in changing times.
We’ll see how that plays out.
Meanwhile, the Joplin Globe points out in a piece on “guiding words” that Walter Williams, the first dean of the Missouri School of Journalism, wrote what now is known as the “Journalist’s Creed” in 1914.
The Globe printed the “Journalist’s Creed” in full “to remind our readers and ourselves why these ethics are as timely today as they were almost 100 years ago.” And just as important.
The words are a bit flowery, reflecting a writing style that was fitting 100 years ago. The creed makes no mention of horses, buggies, pens or ink.
It begins, “I believe in the profession of journalism.” Such implacable resolve in the importance of journalism in a Democracy is as vital today as it was 100 years ago.