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SPJ Approves New Code of Ethics

The Society of Professional Journalists approved a new Code of Ethics at the Excellence in Journalism 2014 convention in Nashville Saturday afternoon.

SPJ’s code of ethics attempts to speak to all media, and all who consider themselves to be journalists:

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that democracy, a just society and good government require an informed public. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.

The Society declares these four principles as the foundation of ethical journalism and encourages their use in its practice by all people in all media.

The newly approved code attempts to address using anonymous sources in stories:

Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.

Question sources’ motives before promising anonymity, reserving it for those who may face danger, retribution or other harm.

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Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014

If you must unpublish, here’s how to maintain credibility

Gawker

Gawker notes that BuzzFeed has unpublished more than 4,000 articles recently, disappearing posts on the 8-year-old company’s website. Editors at news websites usually take articles down with great reluctance, because doing so undermines public confidence in your newsroom’s work. Why would anyone trust what you say today if you routinely take down pages that you can no longer stand behind?

RELATED: Fairness and credibility guidelines for unpublishing online content

Still, there are rare occasions when taking down a post is the best option. Here are some best practices:

  • Keep a blank page up, rather than making the entire URL disappear or redirecting to a homepage without note.
  • Leave the tags and searchable information, so folks can find what’s left behind and know for certain the information is no longer valid.
  • On that blank page, insert a precisely worded explanation from editors describing why the material had to be removed.
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Friday, June 20, 2014

Julia Dahl explores the tabloid world in her first novel

Julia Dahl’s first novel, “Invisible City,” is about a tabloid reporter in New York City covering the murder of a Hasidic woman. The novel, which came out in May, is fiction, but Dahl, a reporter for CBSNews.com, had some similar experiences of her own to tap. She spoke with Poynter about the book, writing for tabloids and covering closed communities.

Julia Dahl, photo by Chasi Annexy

So just to start with, tell me about your book and what inspired you to write a novel?

I’ve worked in journalism since graduating from college but I’ve always written fiction, as well. I wrote a novel in my 20s, but it was pretty bad and never got published. I started writing “Invisible City” right after getting a job as a freelance reporter at the New York Post in 2007. I wanted to explore how fraught tabloid reporting can be, especially for a young, relatively untrained journalist. Read more

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Two students comfort each other during a candlelight vigil held to honor the victims of Friday night's mass shooting on Saturday, May 24, 2014, in Isla Vista, Calif. Sheriff's officials say Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara, stabbing three people to death at his apartment before shooting and killing three more in a crime spree through a nearby neighborhood. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The right way to publish a killer’s deranged manifesto

There’s a democratic value to publishing and referencing Elliot Rodger’s manifesto. The 22-year-old mass murderer left us a 141-page window into his deranged thinking.

But don’t just publish it, add context. Perhaps the most valuable thing journalists can do would be to get psychiatrists and psychologists to annotate the document. (Though perhaps you wouldn’t want to annotate it like this.)

Art Caplan, head of the bioethics division at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, advocates the same approach when considering the publication of medical research produced by Nazi doctors. By explaining the flaws behind information, we contribute to an improving body of knowledge while neutralizing the potential of perpetuating harm.

“Make it clear this is the raving of a devious and delusional mind,” Caplan said of Rodger’s manifesto. “Help us understand what compels someone to be so hateful and mysogonistic.”

Also, help the audience see what hate and misogyny really look like. Read more

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr. attends Marina Abramovic's "The Artist is Present" exhibition closing party hosted by Givenchy at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tuesday, June 1, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes

The New York Times owes the audience an explanation

Jill Abramson’s departure as the executive editor of The New York Times and Dean Baquet’s appointment as her replacement was abrupt.

Times Company Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. told senior editors at a 2 p.m. meeting and the rest of the staff and the world found out around 2:30 p.m.

Abramson had been in the position since 2011, a relatively short time. She won’t stick around for the transition. For now, Times leadership is not answering the question: What happened?

The Times’ own story was cryptic. Reporter Ravi Somaiya wrote, “The reasons for the switch were not immediately clear.” In a later version he wrote that Sulzberger declined to directly address the question he said was “’on all of your minds’ – the reason for the sudden switch. Citing newsroom management, he said it was not about the journalism, the direction of the newsroom or the relationship between the newsroom and business sides of the paper.”

Capital New York reported it this way: “And that’s all I’m going to say about it,” said Sulzberger, according to two sources who were present. Read more

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Thursday, Mar. 13, 2014

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BuzzFeed reporter’s use of tweets stirs controversy

BuzzFeed’s Jessica Testa noticed a unique thread on her Twitter timeline Wednesday. Twitter user @steenfox asked her followers who were rape survivors to share what they were wearing when they were attacked. The results were rather spectacular. Some were in college when they were assaulted. Others were children. The precise details of their memories – pink pajamas, or peep-toe flats – provided a window into the insidious nature of rape.

Seeing an opportunity to tell an interesting story, Testa asked some of those same Twitter users for their permission to aggregate the tweets, then organized them by themes, drawing out the trends, adding her observations and sprinkling in some statistics about sexual assault. The result was this BuzzFeed news item that went up Wednesday evening.

It was an effective device to counter many of the myths about rape. Read more

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Wednesday, Mar. 05, 2014

Joe Paterno, Mike McQueary, Matt McGloin

ESPN reports Mike McQueary was sexually assaulted, but says little else

In this photo taken Sept. 24, 2011, then-Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, left, talks with quarterback Matt McGloin (11) as assistant coach Mike McQueary listens on the sidelines during an NCAA college football game against Eastern Michigan in State College, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Editor’s note: This column was revised and updated to include ESPN The Magazine Editor Chad Millman’s response to our emailed questions about the process behind the story.

ESPN The Magazine just published a long read about Mike McQueary, the man who witnessed Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulting a child in the Penn State locker room. The man who cost Joe Paterno his job and his legacy.

The story appears under the headline “The Whistleblower’s Last Stand” and describes widespread distrust of the former assistant coach and a life diminished since Sandusky’s indictment in the fall of 2011. But all anyone is talking about is this line near the top of the story:

“Finally, McQueary confided in his players something he hoped would make them understand how he’d reacted at the time. Read more

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Tuesday, Mar. 04, 2014

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Outed Duke student presents lesson in crowd behavior

There’s been a relatively slow burn on the story of a female Duke University freshman outed as a porn star by a frat boy during rush.

The rumor first circulated through Duke’s campus in late January, after a frat boy discovered one of his classmates in a porn video, promised to keep her secret and then outed her during a rush party. On Valentine’s Day, the student newspaper published a smart, in-depth story on the woman, including lengthy answers to an interviewer’s questions. The paper used a pseudonym, Lauren, to identify her.

In the ensuing two weeks, anonymous participants on sites like CollegiateACB  revealed the woman’s name, her hometown, her dad’s profession and his work telephone number. Read more

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Friday, Feb. 28, 2014

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Poynter at SXSW: Algorithms, Journalism and Democracy

Editor’s Note: Poynter will be at South by Southwest, the annual music, movie and interactive festival, March 7-16, in Austin, Texas. Look for our Poynter faculty members, Roy Peter Clark, Ellyn Angelotti and Kelly McBride, and digital media reporter Sam Kirkland. Here is the third in a series of posts on what we’ll be doing at SXSW.

Algorithms control the marketplace of ideas. They grant power to certain information as it flies through the digital space and take power away from other information. Algorithms control who sees what on social-media sites such as Facebook and YouTube, through search engines such as Google and Bing, and even in defined news spaces such as The New York Times, with its lists of most-shared and most-commented features, and Yahoo News.

Just ask some poor guy who’s tried to get his old DUI photo removed from a scurrilous mug-shot site. Having your old mug shot out there in the ether isn’t so bad, except when it turns up on the first page of a Google search for your name. Read more

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Friday, Feb. 14, 2014

Crime scene

Hyperbolic to sensitive, how news outlets treated dramatic car crash video

The 55-second cell-phone video of an SUV going the wrong way on the Interstate, smashing into a sedan and exploding into a fiery ball that killed five people quickly sky-rocketed to one of the most viewed videos ever on the Tampa Bay Times’ website. It’s also a case study to examine how different newsrooms treat difficult content.

The Tampa Bay Times, which Poynter owns, ran the whole video, unedited, along with the sound. The Tampa Tribune ran the video without the sound. WTSP and WFLA used small portions of the video in a package, but then stopped using it, as did Fox 13. ABC Action News used a tight clip of the video in two packages. Bay News 9 ran the video but truncated it before the crash. Read more

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