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DIY Codes of Ethics

by on October 15, 2014

Reading the SPJ Code of Ethics a few weeks ago and the Storify of the revision process got me thinking about what goes into a code of ethics. Ethics will almost certainly be a questionable area; it’s unlikely that there will ever be a day when every journalist abides by the exact same principles every day. There are certain principles that journalists have historically always abided by, such as telling the truth and refraining from plagiarism. But there are others that no one can seem to agree on: should you report strictly the facts, or can you share your position as Jay Rosen would like journalists to do? There’s no right answer to these questions.

I read a PBS Mediashift article about integrating codes of media ethics with “DIY ethics” and the idea that you can use the codes of established publication to create your own code. The DIY Ethics project is headed by the Online News Association, which in March posted that it was beginning to create a toolkit which they would then look to crowdsource and tweak with feedback. The project is based on the idea that there are only a handful of solid journalistic principles, and other principles are open to interpretation and things even “honest journalists” might disagree on. The goal is to create an interactive toolkit users can use to build a personal code of ethics, that they then could share on their own sites. The project was discussed in a session at the ONA Conference in September, but they posted the audio and a Storify of the session, with the interesting ethical dilemma situations like we have discussed in class. It looks like the organization is still working on finalizing the toolkit.

What do you think of this idea? Do you think that it’s possible for there to be a Universal Code of Ethics or are you in favor of everyone creating their own based on their experiences and beliefs? Or do you fall somewhere in the middle, preferring to follow an established code of ethics and deviating as you see fit?

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One Comment
  1. I think that an established code of ethics that are universal and everyone would follow would be ideal for our profession. It would even the playing field in a sense that everyone would be working off of the same moral compass, however I really have a difficult time believing that this would work. As we talked about in class, there are two schools of thought regarding ethics, deontology and teleology. The first is based on the principles the individual holds, and the second is based on favorable outcomes for the most people possible. Given the nature and variability of humans, I think the best we can hope to do is appease the majority and leave the fewest people unhappy. I don’t think that it is possible for everyone to agree on one anything, let alone a code of ethics.

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