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SPJ Ethics Committee releases first in series of position papers


For immediate release

Kevin Smith, SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman, 304-365-4864,
Abby Henkel, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 215,

INDIANAPOLIS – The Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists is producing a series of position papers on important topics in journalism ethics. These papers are intended to clarify SPJ’s position on specific ethical themes that frequently arise in journalism, and to provide better guidance for journalists, academics, students and the public when consulting the SPJ Code of Ethics.

Today, SPJ released the first two of these papers. One paper offers overall advice on how to use the SPJ Code of Ethics to address ethical situations. Read the paper here.

The second paper addresses political involvement of journalists. Both papers were written by longtime Ethics Committee member and current vice chairman Fred Brown. Brown is a retired political writer with the Denver Post and currently teaches communications ethics at the University of Denver. He is a past national president of SPJ.

While the SPJ Ethics Committee deals with numerous ethical issues, committee chairman Kevin Z. Smith has observed themes underlying many of the inquiries the committee receives, such as conflicts of interest, source relationships and paying for news content. In addition to direct inquiries to the committee, the Code is cited by those outside SPJ thousands of times each year, subjecting it to wide and varying interpretations.

Other papers will be released in the coming months. They will examine the Code's position on using anonymous sources, checkbook journalism, plagiarism, undercover reporting, dealing with victims of tragedy, handling diversity coverage, privacy and news media accountability. Each position paper will be available on the ethics page of SPJ's website at

"We believe these papers further support SPJ's responsibility to help journalists resolve ethical problems by providing greater insight into specific topics,” Smith said. “Although the Code is considered fairly self-explanatory, we feel our interpretation of certain segments of it will provide added benefit to those who use it."

The position papers come on the heels of SPJ’s latest journalism ethics book, "Journalism Ethics: A Casebook of Professional Conduct for News Media,” released in March 2011. Learn more about the book here.

About the Code:
The SPJ Code of Ethics dates back to 1923; the current edition comes from a 1996 revision. The Code has been translated into 16 languages and is used across the U.S. as the benchmark for journalism ethics. All or parts of the Code have been adapted for use in hundreds of newsrooms worldwide.

About SPJ:
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit


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