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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
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.

Monica Guzman, co-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, 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 Forum’s 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.

Fred Brown, co-vice chair
2862 S. Oakland Ct.
Aurora, Colo., 80014
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.

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Home > Ethics > Reading Room > The call before the call

SPJ Reading Room


The call before the call
What journalists should know before recording phone interviews

By Kelly Yamanouchi
Denver Post

In 2005, a Miami Herald columnist was fired for recording a phone interview without first gaining proper consent. The incident prompted Kelly Yamanouchi, a business reporter for The Denver Post to ask, “What should journalists consider before recording phone interviews — particularly if those interviews involve sources in states with laws that require the consent of all parties?”

Yamanouchi did some homework, and here’s what she found.

Most states require only one-party consent to recording. However, 12 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico require the consent of two or more parties. Those states are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington.

For a more thorough explanation of recording law in every state, see the online guides compiled by the Radio-Television News Directors Association and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Kelly Yamanouchi is an SPJ member and a business reporter at the Denver Post. She has also worked as a business reporter in Honolulu, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
It’s not enough to know a state’s statute. It’s also important for journalists to take great care when securing permission to record. Should journalists seek permission from a party before even turning on a recorder? Should journalists make sure to record people’s consent to being recorded? It appears the answer to both questions is, “Yes.”

Washington state, for example, specifies that consent is obtained when one party announces to all other parties in “any reasonably effective manner” that the communication is about to be recorded or transmitted. That announcement must be part of the recording, according to that state’s law.

And what if a reporter calls, or is called by, a source in a different state with different laws? Is the reporter subject to both states’ laws? Many media lawyers say the most prudent course of action is for journalists to presume they are accountable to the laws of other states. And that means they should not record such interstate calls without obtaining consent — and that they should record that consent to be safe.
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