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Ethics Week programs to focus on responsible journalistic practices


This month, SPJ celebrates the third annual Ethics in Journalism Week. Local chapters around the country will be having discussions about responsible reporting during the week, scheduled for April 25-30.

As part of the celebration, the ethics committee of SPJ has awarded 14 grants for local programming. The grants were funded by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Upcoming Ethics Week events:
* The Atlanta Pro Chapter plans “Ethics and Cyberspace,” a hands-on demonstration of good and bad uses of Internet-based resources and database reporting.

* The Colorado Pro Chapter will host a luncheon and discussion with Daniel Okrent, the first public editor of The New York Times. The topic will be openly addressing the media’s actions and mistakes with readers and viewers.

* The Emerson College Chapter will host “Revealing Sources: Contempt of Court or Contempt of Confidentiality?” The chapter also plans an essay contest for students focusing on whether journalists should ever reveal their sources.

* At the Indiana Pro Chapter, the group will attempt to answer some tricky questions. Should a journalist accept awards from non-journalism organizations? Should journalists who serve on boards in journalistic organizations such as SPJ sign their names to letters advocating first amendment issues? Can a publisher serve in a governor’s administration and still preside over a balanced news operation?

* The Minnesota Pro Chapter will join the Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota for a program with David Kidwell, The Miami Herald, and Gerald Boyd, former managing editor of The New York Times. The two will discuss the use and protection of anonymous sources. Kidwell spent time in jail when he refused to testify about a jailhouse interview.

* The Montana Pro Chapter and the University of Montana will prepare a day of ethics programming at the university, in local print and broadcast newsrooms, and a public presentation on objectivity in the media.

* The Quinnipiac University Chapter will host a program on how television news management teams decide what makes the news at their stations.

* The Southwest Missouri Pro Chapter will highlight “ethical heroes.” Debra J. Saunders. Ron Bast. Steve Martin. Virginia Gerst. Jon Leiberman. These men and women practiced journalism ethics at their best, making huge sacrifices to maintain the highest standards. Journalists should be inspired to practice even more ethically after hearing the stories of these individuals.

* The St. Cloud University Chapter’s “Hate Speech in a Free Speech Society,” is part of a day-long forum focused on discussions about diversity, tolerance and fair and balanced reporting of such issues.

* The Texas State University Chapter will host a discussion about the perceptions of media consumers toward media practitioners and recent events involving unethical practices that have worsened the perennial distrust of the media.

* The University of Mississippi Chapter will host a discussion about balancing the media’s responsibility to “seek truth and report it” with its responsibility to “minimize harm.” To facilitate that discussion, the chapter has invited Pete Mattiace, former Associated Press bureau chief in Denver. Mattiace was challenged to manage reporting assignments during the Columbine school shootings tragedy.

* The Valley of the Sun Pro Chapter will take a hard look at the opinion page with “Igniting the Opinion Bomb: Are Some Views Too Incendiary to be Published?” This public forum will address the ethical considerations of publishing overly strong or insightful commentary.

* The Washington, D.C. Pro Chapter will ask journalists to share their opinions about how they would handle a series of hypothetical case studies on current ethical issues. A group of panelists will then address the journalists’ responses.

* The Washington State University Chapter will host “Weblog Ethics: Traditional Journalism and the Blogosphere.” They will examine the blogging phenomenon and the effects of weblogs on traditional journalistic practice.

For more information about Ethics in Journalism Week, visit

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