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Ethics
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Code Words: SPJ’s Ethics Committee Blog
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Journalists Should Tread Lightly When Projecting Election Results

Ethics Committee
This committee's purpose is to encourage the use of the Society's Code of Ethics, which promotes the highest professional standards for journalists of all disciplines. Public concerns are often answered by this committee. It also acts as a spotter for reporting trends in the nation, accumulating case studies of jobs well done under trying circumstances.

Ethics Committee chair

Andrew Seaman
Email
@andrewmseaman
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 Reuters’s Washington, D.C. bureau, where he covered the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

In 2011, Andrew graduated from Columbia University’s 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.

He’s 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.


Fred Brown, vice chair
E-mail
Bio (click to expand) picture Fred Brown is a former national president of SPJ (1997-98) and is very active on its ethics committee. He writes a column on ethics for Quill magazine and served on the committee that wrote the Society’s 1996 code of ethics.

Brown officially retired from The Denver Post in early 2002, but continues to write a Sunday editorial page column for the newspaper. He also does analysis for Denver’s NBC television station, teaches communication ethics at the University of Denver, and is a principal in Hartman & Brown, LLP, a media training and consulting firm. He has won several awards for writing and community service, including a Sigma Delta Chi Award for editorial writing in 1988. He is an Honor Alumnus of Colorado State University, a member of the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame, and serves on the boards of directors of Colorado Public Radio, the Colorado Freedom of Information Council and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.




SPJ Ethics
Committee Members


Lauren Bartlett
E-mail

David Cohn

Elizabeth Donald
E-mail

Mike Farrell
E-mail

Carole Feldman

Paul Fletcher
E-mail

Hagit Limor
E-mail

Dana Neuts
E-mail


Chris Roberts

Alex Veeneman
E-mail

Home > Ethics > SPJ Ethics Committee Position Papers > Plagiarism

SPJ Ethics Committee Position Papers
Plagiarism

Never plagiarize.

That is a simple, clear statement in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics that leaves no room for ambiguity.

The digital age we’re currently in offers both the most opportunities to verify the authenticity of original work and also misuse it without giving credit to the original reporting source.

With databases, Web searches and other online research, it has never been easier to research the source of a story or other original material. On college campuses, for example, students who choose to plagiarize and buy a term paper or have someone else write it for them (the same work also submitted by others), can be caught much more easily than 30 years ago.

News outlets are under constant pressure, 24/7, to create content. Most outlets now are multi-platform, so the traditional broadcast news outlet is looking for content for its website, and may take something from another news site without crediting the original source in haste for getting that content posted.

And reporters are working on a freelance basis more and more frequently, not subjected to or sometimes aware of news outlets’ ethical guidelines. Sometimes not having that regular touch point for reinforcement may lead to laziness. Whether inadvertent or deliberate, there is no excuse for plagiarism.

A clear way to avoid this is to attribute information in stories and actually know the subject matter well so you can explain it in your own words without relying on someone else.

Integrity and credibility, two of the most important values in journalism, demand that all media outlets be clear about the source of stories they did not produce. Failure to follow that guideline results in plagiarism, a former Ethics Committee chairman wrote several years ago in criticizing the Hartford Courant for using stories from other Connecticut newspapers without giving them credit.

The most prominent case of plagiarism in recent memory is Jayson Blair at The New York Times (a case study about this is in “Journalism Ethics: A Casebook of Professional Conduct for News Media,” 4th Edition, published in 2011 by SPJ and the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.) The case raises issues not only of Blair’s behavior, but a lack of oversight by his editors. In this ever increasing bottom-line newsroom culture where veterans are laid off or forced to retire and are replaced with less-experienced journalists at much lower salaries, the lessons of the Blair fiasco should remain at the forefront, not fade into some distant memory.

Journalists should be proud of their skills and their voice. They should let their own words speak for them, rather than those of others.

Some of the most simple, straightforward and fundamental principles are ones that unfortunately need repeating. SPJ admonishes all journalists to take special care so that proper attribution is given at all times.


This statement expresses the views of the SPJ Ethics Committee. It was written for the committee by member Lauren Bartlett, who also serves on the 2010-12 national SPJ board of directors.

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Ethics
Ethics Home
SPJ Code of Ethics
News/Articles
Case Studies
Committee Position Papers
Ethics Answers
Ethics Hotline
Resources
Ethics Committee

Code Words: SPJ’s Ethics Committee Blog
Words Matter: Alt Right Alternatives
TV Execs, Journos Fail Viewers With Off-the-record Meeting
Journalists Should Tread Lightly When Projecting Election Results

Ethics Committee
This committee's purpose is to encourage the use of the Society's Code of Ethics, which promotes the highest professional standards for journalists of all disciplines. Public concerns are often answered by this committee. It also acts as a spotter for reporting trends in the nation, accumulating case studies of jobs well done under trying circumstances.
 

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