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Home > Publications > Quill > Newsroom ethics discussions donít have to be uncomfortable



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Thursday, November 2, 2017
Newsroom ethics discussions donít have to be uncomfortable

Ethics Toolbox

By Andrew Seaman

No person likes to confront co-workers or managers about issues in the workplace. The conversations can be uncomfortable and lead to hurt feelings. However, those discussions are often necessary to create a good work environment.

In addition to topics such as salary issues and disputes with co-workers, journalists may sometimes need to confront managers and co-workers about another touchy subject: ethics. Like those other matters, discussions about ethics are necessary.

The Society of Professional Journalistsí Code of Ethics is clear that journalists should ďexpose unethical conduct in journalism, including within their organizations.Ē

The first part of that principle is relatively simple, especially in todayís digital world. A journalist who sees an issue at another news organization can draw attention to it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. The built-in immune system of the internet often intervenes to debunk misinformation and correct the record.

The second part of the principle is easier read than done, however. Journalists call the Societyís Ethics Hotline from time to time concerned about something in their newsrooms. Sometimes theyíre looking for confirmation that a practice is unethical. Other times, theyíre asking the Society to intervene.

Unfortunately for people who make the latter request, the Society often doesnít have the resources to get involved in newsroom arguments. Fortunately, many disagreements can be settled through honest and direct conversations.

Here are some steps that can make those discussions more comfortable.

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