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Ethics code endorsement sets stage for vote

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The board of directors of the Society of Professional Journalists has endorsed a new Code of Ethics to be presented to delegates at SPJ's national convention this fall in Washington, D.C.

The code is characterized by a set of four guiding principles: seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently, and be accountable. Each principle is followed by a set of practices further defining the standards expected of journalists.

"This isn't an ethics code I could have written on my own. It isn't what the 20 members of the Ethics Committee could have prepared alone either," said G. Kelly Hawes, president of the Society. "It is the ethics code that all of us wrote together. This code represents the voices of the hundreds of SPJ members who are concerned about ethical issues facing our profession."

The code revision process began more than two years ago when the Ethics Committee began looking at updating the Society's current Code of Ethics. At the 1995 convention in St. Paul, delegates took the Ethics Committee's proposals back to their local chapters for examination. For the next six months, the ethics code was discussed in local and regional meetings. These ideas and opinions were compiled and presented to the Ethics Committee on May 31 at a weekend meeting in Philadelphia. During 20 hours of discussion, the committee prepared the document that will be presented to convention delegates this fall. It was endorsed June 20 by the Society's Executive Committee and now by the full board of directors.

"The two years that have led us to this point have been filled with spirited debate and a lot of soul searching," said Kevin Smith, chair of the Ethics Committee. "In particular, the past year has been successful because it has allowed ethics committee members to work closely with chapters and their members in developing ideas for the code. The process, while long and tedious, has been as much a success for the Society as the code itself."

Convention delegates will have the opportunity to vote on the code Saturday, Sept. 21, at 2:15 p.m. during the Society's main convention business session at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va.

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