20200
P
1
20100
R  E
2
2070
D   I   C
3
2050
T   I   O   N
4
2040
S   F   O   R   J
5
2030
O  U  R  N  A  L
6
2020
I  S  M  2  0  2  0
7

Our ethics codes get an overhaul

“How candid should journalists be with the people we quote, photograph, and record, knowing that a single picture or paraphrase can, thanks to Google, irrevocably change their lives?”

There are plenty of ethics codes out there for journalists. The best known in the U.S. is from the Society of Professional Journalists and is filled with useful and largely uncontroversial advice, ranging from “Seek truth and report it” to “Be accountable and transparent.” Many individual news organizations, from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader to The New York Times, have their own policies.

But 2020 ought to be the year that our ethics codes get an overhaul, as journalists face relentless business pressures, relinquish even more control over how our content is distributed and framed, and deal with the consequences of anonymity, doxing, and transparency. It’s more urgent than ever, as our country becomes increasingly polarized and as trust in the news media remains tepid.

So the next great ethics code ought to deal with the sort of situations that are arising (or becoming more urgent) in the digital age. They include:

  • How candid should journalists be with the people we quote, photograph, and record, knowing that a single picture or paraphrase can, thanks to Google, irrevocably change their lives?
  • What’s the responsibility of journalists to address the way others mischaracterize or mislabel their reporting, and how can that be done most effectively?
  • When aggregating or linking to others’ stories, what’s a journalist’s responsibility to fact-check those pieces, to examine their provenance, to evaluate the credibility of the author?
  • How much transparency do nonprofit news organizations owe their readers, revealing not just donors’ names and amounts but the nature of any discussions or promises (implicit or explicit) that preceded a gift?
  • How much anonymity do we owe our commenters, whose remarks shape the way our stories are evaluated? How do we choose which stories are open to comments and which are closed?
  • How much daylight should there be between reporters’ social media feeds and their professional profiles? Should journalists’ Twitter feeds ever reflect angles or opinions that they wouldn’t feel comfortable including in a news story?
  • What measures should we take as some journalists simultaneously produce both independent news stories and sponsored content (or other pieces that are driven largely by advertisers’ interests)?
  • As news organizations move to subscription-driven models, how much of an obligation do we retain to serve communities who can’t afford, or aren’t interested in, the journalism that we publish?

Constructing this code won’t be easy. It’ll require contributions from people who don’t usually feel empowered to take part in this discussion. It’ll need to be updated constantly, as media economics and technologies change.

And there’s a limit to the effectiveness of any ethics code. Journalism isn’t a typical profession, with a state bar or medical board that can investigate complaints and impose sanctions. A new code won’t affect some behavior any more than the old ones do, because many journalists will lack the interest or integrity to abide.

It’s possible that the most significant signal of an ethics code would be for some of our readers, viewers, and listeners. It could help guide their expectations about the journalism they consume. And it could empower them to demand more from the journalists who cover their communities.

Bill Grueskin is a professor of professional practice at Columbia Journalism School.

There are plenty of ethics codes out there for journalists. The best known in the U.S. is from the Society of Professional Journalists and is filled with useful and largely uncontroversial advice, ranging from “Seek truth and report it” to “Be accountable and transparent.” Many individual news organizations, from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader to The New York Times, have their own policies.

But 2020 ought to be the year that our ethics codes get an overhaul, as journalists face relentless business pressures, relinquish even more control over how our content is distributed and framed, and deal with the consequences of anonymity, doxing, and transparency. It’s more urgent than ever, as our country becomes increasingly polarized and as trust in the news media remains tepid.

So the next great ethics code ought to deal with the sort of situations that are arising (or becoming more urgent) in the digital age. They include:

  • How candid should journalists be with the people we quote, photograph, and record, knowing that a single picture or paraphrase can, thanks to Google, irrevocably change their lives?
  • What’s the responsibility of journalists to address the way others mischaracterize or mislabel their reporting, and how can that be done most effectively?
  • When aggregating or linking to others’ stories, what’s a journalist’s responsibility to fact-check those pieces, to examine their provenance, to evaluate the credibility of the author?
  • How much transparency do nonprofit news organizations owe their readers, revealing not just donors’ names and amounts but the nature of any discussions or promises (implicit or explicit) that preceded a gift?
  • How much anonymity do we owe our commenters, whose remarks shape the way our stories are evaluated? How do we choose which stories are open to comments and which are closed?
  • How much daylight should there be between reporters’ social media feeds and their professional profiles? Should journalists’ Twitter feeds ever reflect angles or opinions that they wouldn’t feel comfortable including in a news story?
  • What measures should we take as some journalists simultaneously produce both independent news stories and sponsored content (or other pieces that are driven largely by advertisers’ interests)?
  • As news organizations move to subscription-driven models, how much of an obligation do we retain to serve communities who can’t afford, or aren’t interested in, the journalism that we publish?

Constructing this code won’t be easy. It’ll require contributions from people who don’t usually feel empowered to take part in this discussion. It’ll need to be updated constantly, as media economics and technologies change.

And there’s a limit to the effectiveness of any ethics code. Journalism isn’t a typical profession, with a state bar or medical board that can investigate complaints and impose sanctions. A new code won’t affect some behavior any more than the old ones do, because many journalists will lack the interest or integrity to abide.

It’s possible that the most significant signal of an ethics code would be for some of our readers, viewers, and listeners. It could help guide their expectations about the journalism they consume. And it could empower them to demand more from the journalists who cover their communities.

Bill Grueskin is a professor of professional practice at Columbia Journalism School.

Colleen Shalby   Journalists become media literacy teachers

Joanne McNeil   A return to blogs (finally? sort of?)

Annie Rudd   The expanded ambiguity of the news photograph

Don Day   Respect the non-paying audience

Kathleen Searles   Pay more attention to attention

Mary Walter-Brown and Tristan Loper   Power to the people (on your audience team)

John Garrett   It’s the best time in a century to start a local news organization

Laura E. Davis   Know the context your journalism is operating within

Cory Haik   We’re already consuming the future of news — now we have to produce it

Matthew Pressman   News consumers divide into haves and have-nots

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   A changing industry amps up podcasters’ ambitions

Carl Bialik   Journalists will try running the whole shop

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   The business we want, not the business we had

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting gets listener relationship management

Heidi Tworek   The year of positive pushback

Meg Marco   Everything happens somewhere

Jasmine McNealy   A call for context

Beena Raghavendran   The year of the local engagement reporter

Bill Adair   A Nobel Prize, a Brad Pitt film, and a Taylor Swift song

Jeff Kofman   Speed through technology

Knight Foundation   Five generations of journalists, learning from each other

Francesco Zaffarano   TikTok without generational prejudice

Tonya Mosley   The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

Margarita Noriega   The platforms try to figure out what to do with single-subject newsrooms

Sarah Alvarez   I’m ready for post-news

Kevin Douglas Grant   The free press stands against authoritarians’ attacks on truth

Rachel Davis Mersey   The business of local TV news will enter its downward slide

M. Scott Havens   First-party data becomes media’s most important currency

Monique Judge   The year to organize, unionize, and fight

Dan Shanoff   Sports media enters the Bronny era

Rachel Schallom   The value of push alerts goes beyond open rates

Doris Truong   The year of radical salary transparency

james Wahutu   Western journalists, learn from your African peers

Bill Grueskin   Our ethics codes get an overhaul

Simon Galperin   Journalism becomes more democratic

Logan Jaffe   You don’t need fancy tools to listen

Adam Thomas   The silver bullet

Sarah Schmalbach   Journalist, quantify thyself

L. Gordon Crovitz   Fighting misinformation requires journalism, not secret algorithms

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting finally creates another mega-hit show

Brian Moritz   The end of “stick to sports”

Mario García   Think small (screen)

Talia Stroud   The work of reconnecting starts November 4

Steve Henn   The dawning audio web

Michael W. Wagner   Increasingly fractured, but little bit deliberative

Moreno Cruz Osório   In Brazil, collaboration in a time of state attacks

Sara K. Baranowski   A big year for little newspapers

Brenda P. Salinas   Treating MP3 files like text

Jakob Moll   A slow-moving tech backlash among young people

Fiona Spruill   The climate crisis gets the coverage it deserves

Ståle Grut   OSINT journalism goes mainstream

Cristina Kim   Public media stops trying to serve “everybody”

Heather Bryant   Some kinds of journalism aren’t worth saving

Logan Molyneux and Shannon McGregor   Think twice before turning to Twitter

Millie Tran   Wicked

Linda Solomon Wood   Everyone in your organization, moving toward a common goal

Carrie Brown-Smith   Engaged journalism: It’s finally happening

Julia B. Chan   We 👏 take 👏 breaks 👏

Irving Washington   Leadership isn’t something you learn on the job

Lauren Duca   The rise of the journalistic influencer

Kourtney Bitterly   Transparency isn’t just a desire, it’s an expectation

Nushin Rashidian   Are platforms a bridge or a lifeline?

Nathalie Malinarich   Betting on loyalty

Kristen Muller   The year we operationalize community engagement

Sarah Stonbely   More people start caring about news inequality

Dannagal G. Young   Let’s disrupt the logic that’s driving Americans apart

Errin Haines   Race and gender aren’t a 2020 story — they’re the story

Seth C. Lewis   20 questions for 2020

Christa Scharfenberg   It’s time to make journalism a field that supports and respects women

Victor Pickard   We reclaim a public good

Matt DeRienzo   Local broadcasters begin to fill the gaps left by newspapers

John Keefe   Journalism gets hacked

Anthony Nadler   Clash of Clans: Election Edition

Cindy Royal   Prepare media students for skills, not job titles

Alexandra Borchardt   Get out of the office and talk to people

Pablo Boczkowski   The day after November 4

Emily Withrow   The year we kill the news article

An Xiao Mina   The Forum we wanted, the forum we got

Tanya Cordrey   Saying no to more good ideas

Mira Lowe   The year of student-powered journalism

Tamar Charney   From broadcast to bespoke

Kerri Hoffman   Opening closed systems

Monica Drake   A renewed focus on misinformation

Ben Werdmuller   Use the tools of journalism to save it

Mariana Moura Santos   The future of journalism is collaborative

Madelyn Sanfilippo and Yafit Lev-Aretz   News coverage gets geo-fragmented

Sonali Prasad   Climate change storytelling gets multidimensional

Hossein Derakhshan   AI can’t conjure up an Errol Morris

Josh Schwartz   Publishers move beyond the metered paywall

Candis Callison   Taking a cue from Indigenous journalists on climate change

Geneva Overholser   Death to bothsidesism

Jeremy Olshan   All journalism should be service journalism

Nicholas Jackson   What’s left of local gets comfortable with reader support

Mike Caulfield   Native verification tools for the blue checkmark crowd

Ernie Smith   The death of the industry fad

Jeremy Gilbert and Jarrod Dicker   A call for collaboration between storytelling and tech

Alice Antheaume   Trade “politics” for “power”

Joe Amditis   Collaborative journalism takes its rightful place at the table

Nico Gendron   Make better products if you want to reach Gen Z

Joni Deutsch   Podcasting unsilences the silent

Catalina Albeanu   Rebuilding journalism, together

Imaeyen Ibanga   Let’s take it slow

Jonas Kaiser   Russian bots are just today’s slacktivists

Peter Bale   Lies get further normalized

Craig Newmark   Formalizing newsrooms’ battle against disinformation

Sue Robinson   Campaign coverage as test bed for engagement experiments

Barbara Gray   Join local libraries on the frontlines of civic engagement

Stefanie Murray   Charitable giving goes collaborative

Nikki Usher   All systems down

Alana Levinson   Brand-backed media gets another look

Raney Aronson-Rath   News deserts will proliferate — but so will new solutions

Alfred Hermida and Mary Lynn Young   The promise of nonprofit journalism

Jennifer Brandel   A love letter from the year 2073

A.J. Bauer   A fork in the road for conservative media

Tom Glaisyer   Journalism can emerge newly vibrant and powerful

S. Mitra Kalita   The race to 2021

Helen Havlak   Platforms shine a light on original reporting

Marie Gilot   This is fine

Elizabeth Hansen and Jesse Holcomb   Local news initiatives run into a capital shortage

Meredith Artley   Stronger solidarity among news organizations

Zizi Papacharissi   A president leads, the press follows, reality fades

Rick Berke   Incoming fire from both left and right

Joshua Darr   All that campaign cash will make the media’s problems worse

Felix Salmon   Spotify launches a news channel

Whitney Phillips   A time to question core beliefs

Lucas Graves   A smarter conversation about how (and why) fact-checking matters

Masuma Ahuja   Slower, quieter, more measured and thoughtful

Rachel Glickhouse   Journalists get left behind in the industry’s decline

Sarah Marshall   The year to learn about news moments

Jim Brady   We’ll complain about other people living in bubbles while ignoring our own

Richard J. Tofel   A constraint of the reader-revenue model emerges

Greg Emerson   News apps fall further behind

Elizabeth Dunbar   Frank talk, and then action