Tag Archives: Journalism

Rules of the Code

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.

Copy Cat Journalists

By Casey Bukro

Here’s an interesting idea:

Journalists should stop mimicking what’s happening on the internet.

Poynter said the idea sprang from the ninth annual Kent State Ethics Workshop in September, which focused on the world of entertainment and how journalists cover it.

You get a pretty good idea that it can be an ethics imbroglio just by some of the topics: Privacy vs. adoration, stalking and paparazzi.

A workshop organizer, Jan Leach of Kent State’s School of Journalism, said they picked entertainment ethics “because there’s so much entertainment and celebrity journalism available in all media…..”

The news, she adds, “is often part truth and part rumor, ” but consumers might not be able to tell the difference. “There’s so much spin from publicity departments.”

And, it might be fair to say, journalists fall for it or go along with it.

It’s easy to cover and does not take much imagination. But how much wall-to-wall coverage does the public need about Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus?

Even while reporting the latest escapades of such human train-wrecks, TV announcers can be heard to say: “Why are we doing this again?” They admit to giving more publicity to people acting odd, because they want the publicity.

The Society of Professional Journalists code of ethics encourages journalists to act independently and “avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.”

Though it’s called entertainment, there doesn’t seem to be much entertaining about it. It’s more like voyeurism.

Here’s an idea for what could be an entertaining story: The funny behavior of men and women in business, commerce and industry.

When’s the last time you saw a funny story about business? It’s all so serious, and people who cover it take it so seriously. There must be some humor in it somewhere, even though economics is called the dismal science.

Corporate publicity departments work overtime to make their CEOs look almost god-like.

Another example of copy cat journalism.