Tip: Press the ESC key to instantly call up a feed containing all the newest SPJ news and updates to our social channels.
For more than 100 years the Society of Professional Journalists has been dedicated to encouraging a climate in which journalism can be practiced more freely and fully, stimulating high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism and perpetuating a free press.
We invite you to join us today!
Since its founding in 1961, the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation has promoted excellence and ethics in journalism. The SDX Foundation is a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization that supports the educational programs of the Society of Professional Journalists and serves the professional needs of journalists and students pursuing careers in journalism.
Excellence in Journalism is the national journalism conference of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association. Join us in September in Nashville for training, networking, workshops and more!
We invite you to join us today!
News and More
Click to Expand Instantly
Ethics Committee chair
Bio (click to expand) Andrew is a medical journalist for Reuters Health in New York. Before coming to Reuters Health, he was a Kaiser Media Fellow at Reuterss Washington, D.C. bureau, where he covered the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
In 2011, Andrew graduated from Columbia Universitys Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied investigative journalism as a Stabile Fellow and was named Student of the Year. Andrew also graduated with his B.A. from Wilkes University in 2011.
Hes won numerous awards throughout his short career, including being named a 2010 Tom Bigler Scholar for ethical standards in journalism, the 2009 Robert D.G. Lewis First Amendment Award, the 2009 and the Arthur H. Barlow National Student Journalist of the Year Award.
Monica Guzman, vice chair
Bio (click to expand) Monica is a Sunday columnist for The Seattle Times and a weekly columnist for GeekWire, covering issues in digital life. She was a juror for the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes, serves on the National Advisory Board for the Poynter Institute and contributed the closing chapter, Community As an End, to the 2013 Poynter book The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century. From 2007 to 2010, Monica launched and ran the innovative Big Blog at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and seattlepi.com, complementing news and culture coverage with weekly reader meetups. From 2010 to 2012 she developed user communities for Seattle startups like Intersect, Trover and Glympse before kicking off her Times column.
A member of the World Economic Forums Global Shapers community, Monica emcees the popular quarterly community speaker series Ignite Seattle and is assisting the American Press Institute with a newsroom innovation project. Monica served on the ethics code revision task force and is an active member of the Western Washington Pro chapter of SPJ. She is currently serving as chapter president.
SPJ Ethics Committee Position Papers
Using the SPJ Code
The Code of Ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists is an open document. The more its distributed and used the better. The code is not intended to be arcane or cryptic. It is not like a secret handshake intended for use only by the members of some mystic order. If it were, we would put something at the bottom similar to what is run in television ads for zippy cars: Professional Driver. Closed Course. Do Not Attempt.
There is nothing in the code that prevents non-journalists from accessing it and using it. Its readily available online. Members of the public are free to refer to the code when they want to call attention to what they perceive to be a news mediums questionable ethics.
But this should be made clear: The code is entirely voluntary. It is not a legal document; it has no enforcement provisions or penalties for violations, and SPJ strongly discourages anyone from attempting to use it that way. The codes only check on ethical misdeeds is expressed in the final of its four main principles: Be Accountable. There, journalists are told that they should expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media. We believe a free exchange of ideas not any sort of sanction is the best way of getting at the truth, at who is right and who is wrong.
The SPJ code is the gold standard of aspirational codes of ethics, and it has been used by many news outlets as the basis for more formal and detailed codes. Employers codes of ethics are much more specific, and there are penalties for violating them. Reporters have been fired for plagiarizing, for accepting gifts or for other ethical breaches. An employer can do that; an association of volunteers cannot. Many news media make their codes available to all, and they encourage the public to hold them accountable for the standards expressed in those codes. SPJ applauds that embrace of transparency.
At the end of the SPJ Code of Ethics, after the actual working principles, is this important explanatory caution: The code is intended not as a set of rules but as a resource for ethical decision-making. It is not nor can it be under the First Amendment legally enforceable.
The SPJ Code of Ethics, in other words, is available for anyone to see and to refer to. But when its quoted, it should be properly attributed and, we would hope, not taken out of context or misinterpreted. Such questionable uses of the code inevitably will be questioned thats the nature of free expression, and an extension of the principle of accountability.
Thousands of responsible, ethical journalists follow the SPJ Code of Ethics and adhere to it. The most important thing to remember is that its a set of principles that is open to interpretation and discussion, not a statute or a constitution or a set of regulations. There is nothing about it that can be or should be considered a legal or binding requirement.
This statement expresses the views of the SPJ Ethics Committee. It was written for the committee by its vice chairman, Fred Brown, who covered state and national politics and government for nearly 40 years for The Denver Post.