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April 24-29, 2023

Home > Ethics > SPJ Ethics Week > What is journalism ethics and why is it important?

Ethical journalism looks like this

Ethical journalism makes a difference in peoples’ lives. It uncovers the truth. It explains complex issues in a way that anyone can understand. It helps people make decisions about their lives, their values, their beliefs.

It is truthful and minimizes harm. It is free of conflicts of interest. It is accurate, clear, fair, thorough and transparent.

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information.

These traits of ethical journalism are so important, that SPJ and the SPJ Foundation recognize the best of the best journalism written, broadcast and produced each year. Recipients of a Sigma Delta Chi Award or Mark of Excellence Award are perfect examples of journalism that exposes the truth, adheres to the SPJ Code of Ethics and changes lives.

Not sure what ethical journalism looks like? Browse a gallery of stories that won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize, and visit SPJ's own 2021 Sigma Delta Chi Award Honorees gallery, where you can read, listen to and watch all of 2021's winning entries.

The following is just a sampling of the Sigma Delta Chi Award-winning journalism produced in 2021, the most recent contest results available. If it won an SDX Award, you know it is a great example of ethical journalism. Journalism from 2022 is being judged now and winners will be announced soon.

January 6th coverage

The staff of ABC News won the 2021 SDX award in Television Breaking News Coverage (Network/Syndication Service/Program Service) for its coverage of the Jan. 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol.

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How 'shadow' foster care is tearing families apart

The 2021 SDX award in Magazine Writing (National Circulation) was given to Lizzie Presser, ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine for reporting on America’s “shadow” foster care system.

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Conduct unbecoming

Ross Jones, Randy Lundquist, Ramon Rosario, Johnny Sartin of WXYZ-TV won the 2021 SDX award in Public Service in Television Journalism (Large-Market Station: 1-50 market) for their reporting on a Detroit police officer accused of harassing and threatening Black residents.

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The day the war on drugs came to Chimayó

The 2021 SDX award in Feature Reporting (Single-issue circ up to 100k) went to Alicia Inez Guzmán of Searchlight New Mexico for her reporting on 1999 heroin bust by federal agents.

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'Fertile soil for abuse': A reckoning at Covenant Fellowship Church

The 2021 SDX award winner in Radio Investigative Reporting (Market 1-100 or Network Syndication) was Esther Yoon-Ji Kang, Susie An and Alden Loury of WBEZ Chicago for sexual assault and abuse at a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign church.

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Hurricane Ida hits Louisiana

The staff of The Advocate in New Orleans won the 2021 SDX award in Deadline Reporting (Single-issue circ. up to 100k) for its coverage of Hurricane Ida.

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Ticket to an autopsy

Chris Ingalls, Ryan Coe and Julie Wolfe of KING 5 Television won the 2021 SDX award in Television Investigative Reporting (Large-Market Station: 1-50 market) for their reporting on tickets being sold to a live autopsy.

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American radical

The 2021 SDX award in Narrtive Podcast was given to Ayman Mohyeldin and Preeti Varathan of NBC News for reporting on a woman who died at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 and her families search to find answers.

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