“Rules of the Road”: A conversation starter on digital journalism ethics

Here’s another great post from @The_Copyeditor’s Twitter feed. I love how it opens up the concept of “rules” to a more fluid, ongoing conversation about the way digital journalism is evolving, and what this means for digital journalists.

“Rules of the Road”: A conversation starter on digital journalism ethics

An excerpt of a post by Steve Buttry, Director of Community Engagement & Social Media, Journal Register Co. Read the full post by clicking on the link above.

I’ve already noted on this blog and in Quill how outdated the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics has become. While I maintain hope that SPJ will update the code, I am most interested in thoughtful conversations among journalists about how to apply ethics in the new situations of journalism. So I applaud J-Lab and Rosenberg for this contribution to the conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, framed the need for this new guidance well in the foreword:

 

These “Rules of the Road” are very much a work in progress, shaped by a news landscape in which:

  • The threshold for news is lower. Misdemeanors, not just felonies, constitute news.
  • Stories unravel in real time. Editors post updates as they come in rather than wait for a fully baked story.
  • “Google juice” makes micro news have a macro afterlife.
  • Ethical decisions are as open to community feedback as the stories themselves.
  • Attachment to the community is valued more than dispassionate detachment.

I disagree with some points that journalists from local news sites make in “Rules” (for instance, some of the people interviewed are too ready to withhold names from police reports, in my view). But I enjoy the discussion, I can see why that journalist decides the way he does, and the discussion challenges my own positions and helps me consider multiple views of an issue.

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