Journalists provide a public service that can sometimes be complicated by ethical dilemmas.
At a session addressing “Journalism Ethics,” former SPJ national presidents Fred Brown and Lynn Walsh told attendees there are resources to help navigate the field while tackling a few specific issues along the way.
One, Walsh said, “Trusting News,” an organization dedicated to earning news consumers’ trust, by offering more transparency and engagement and advocating for more diversity within newsrooms.
“Ethics and trust go hand-in-hand,” Walsh added. Walsh and Brown both stressed the importance of ethical practices and provided various resources to the attendees.
SPJ’s Professional Standards and Ethics Committee is dedicated to promoting the use of the Society’s Code of Ethics, which was first implemented to guide journalists. Additionally, the SPJ Ethics Hotline is available to answer ethical questions for anyone in the public.
During a Q&A session one of the first issues brought up was the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in newsrooms.
“It may be prevalent, it may not be,” Brown said. “
“But my guess is that it will prove to be a powerful tool that will be commonplace in 20 years.”
Walsh agreed with Brown, and said there is also the Partnership on AI coalition, composed of academics, industry professionals, and media representatives. The coalition is working together to create a comprehensive, multidisciplinary code of ethics.
One attendee asked how to handle stories that resonate with the journalist on a personal level. While their personal experience inspired them to write on the subject, they are worried the public may view them as biased due to it.
Brown said that disclosing a reporter’s passions, motives and inspirations for writing can increase transparency with the public and prevent consumers from thinking a reporter is “trying to cover it up.”
Another side of transparency that was discussed was self-identification while working. An attendee asked whether it was important or not to tell an interviewee that they were a reporter, which Brown and Walsh both agreed is important. “The public deserves to know when we are there as a journalist and speaking as a journalist,” Walsh said.
The session ended with a call-to-action to strive for better journalism. Ethical practice is of paramount importance and should be the guiding factor for all newsrooms.