New Draft of SPJ’s Ethics Code Now Available

SPJDid you know that the Society of Professional Journalists is in the process of revising its Code of Ethics for the first time since 1996? I didn’t, but I learned it from The News Tribune‘s Karen Peterson, based in Tacoma, WA, over the weekend.

The code was discussed most recently by The Ethics Committee for the Society of Professional Journalists, and a final draft will be presented at the Excellence in Journalism event in early September.

Peterson is a member of the SPJ and noted that much of the journalism we see produced today dances on the ethics line — largely because of the technology we have at our disposal, that, of course, was way too far into the future to foresee in 1996.

She noted the following recommended addition to the code:

“Weigh the consequences of publishing personal information, including that from social media.”

This may be one of the most important and currently relevant revisions to the ethical document. During breaking news events, some news organizations pull information from public sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram without asking permission or crediting the user who generated that content. While this is not illegal, it’s important to “weigh the consequences,” as the SPJ suggests. That is only one potential change to the code, though.

Any alterations to the Code of Ethics have involved and will continue to implement lots of interactive feedback, says the SPJ website. A working document anchored on the site will feature supporting materials for code changes and allow the public to provide feedback as technology continues to affect how we do journalism.

Another notable change is a suggestion to remember that the story isn’t over when the last word is written or even when it is published. The best journalists will update and correct throughout the life of the story.

You can read more about changes to the Code of Ethics here, and see other important materials associated with the Ethics Code Revision Project.