Updates on ethical decision-making in newsrooms big and small, written by Poynter’s Kelly McBride, Bob Steele and colleagues.

Statues of Socrates and Apollo in Athens, Greece

Ray Rice video sparks ethics questions

After a series of famous journalism scandals in the early 1980s, I was asked to kick-start an ethics program at the Poynter Institute. I felt fully prepared to be a writing teacher, but not an ethics one. So what would I do?

I read what I could; studied professional codes; consulted ethics scholars; became pals with the influential bio-medical scholar Arthur Caplan; and took part in countless conversations and debates about duty, truth, privacy, plagiarism, conflict of interest, and much more.

Perhaps my one contribution to the field was in the distinction between Red Light and Green Light ethics. In journalism, and in other fields, I expressed a preference for the articulation of what we should do (Green Light) over what we should avoid (Red Light).… Read more

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Monday, June 30, 2014

negative

Time clarifies: Ruined images in D-Day video were photo illustration

After two stories questioning the authenticity of what looked like ruined images in a video for Time, “Robert Capa’s Iconic D-Day Photo of a Soldier in the Surf,” Time has added photo illustration credits, Daniel Kile, vice president of communications for Time Inc., told Poynter in an email.

“TIME’s video and story have been updated to include a photo illustration credit. The film now includes a prominent label on the negatives and on the end credits (see attached for screen grabs). Our story has been updated to include an editor’s note about the change.”

A.D. Coleman wrote about the images on June 26 on his blog Photocritic International, with a guest post by Rob McElroy, entitled “The ‘Magnificent Nine’ Faked by TIME.”

As a professional photographer for the past 34 years, with a wealth of experience developing film, I could not explain why the “ruined” negatives shown in the video looked the way they did.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

costoflife

Egg donation, first conceived as personal essay, becomes investigative report

When Sarasota Herald Tribune business reporter Justine Griffin set out to donate her eggs, her editors asked her to consider doing a personal essay. What she discovered during the year-long journey is that fertility industry has some serious conflicts of interest and that nobody advocates for the health of egg donors. As her approach morphed from a personal essay to an investigative package, Griffin had to deal with her own conflict of interest. She was part of the story.… Read more

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Monday, June 16, 2014

cnn-screen-small

Advice on publishing graphic photos from Iraq

It’s just a matter of time.

That’s what I told a Kalish Visual Editing workshop on the campus of Ball State University just last week. I told the group that it was a matter of time before they were forced to make a decision on a graphic photograph and they needed to be prepared to defend their decision.… Read more

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

9 best practices for publishing provocative opinions in a polarized world

Clashes between professional provocateurs and the masses, like the recent criticism that rained down on Washington Post columnist George F. Will over  #survivorprivilege, are on the rise.

See #checkyourprivilege. Remember the reaction to the equally appalling Richard Cohen column that suggested a gag reflex is a normal reaction to learning the white mayor of New York is married to a black woman and they have biracial children.

As more voices crowd the opinion space, some writers might become more shrill and provocative to garner attention. Certainly Will deserved the outrage he received for his recent column where he argues that the increase reported sexual assaults on college campuses is a ploy by women seeking to gain a status of privilege.

The ire over Will’s opinions on rape likely intensified the howling over PostEverything’s guest column two days later suggesting with an incredibly flip headline that marriage is the best way to protect women from violence.… Read more

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Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

Correspondent Lara Logan of "60 Minutes" is on a leave of absence following an internal review by CBS News of her story on the Benghazi embassy attack. (AP Photo/Robert Spencer)

CBS memos suggest Logan had bias, but don’t say why no one addressed it

The CBS memos from Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News, and Al Ortiz, executive director of standards and practices, suggest that correspondent Lara Logan had a preconceived bias that prevented her from fully vetting her source before airing his story about the attack on the Benghazi embassy compound that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

But the leaked memos don’t explain why Logan’s superiors allowed her to pursue the story in the first place and why others at CBS didn’t compensate for her potential blind spots.

CBS announced the unspecified leave of absence for Logan and her producer Max McClellan. The Huffington Post ran memos from both Fager and Ortiz. Ortiz offered a summary of CBS’ findings that included these points:

  • It was possible to know that Dylan Davies’ account to the FBI was inconsistent with what he told CBS.
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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Beth Serrano

How journalists can provide fair coverage when reporting on rape charge in Cleveland case

Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus are household names. The three women, freed from a house in Cleveland after they were separately kidnapped as teenagers about a decade ago, are the central characters in a story that has dominated the news this week and will likely pop up sporadically for years.

All three are survivors of a stolen life and a failed police investigation. Police charges filed Wednesday confirmed that investigators believe all three are sexual assault survivors as well. Unlike most sexual assault victims, all three will be the opposite of anonymous in the media.

Their names are central to their story, and that cannot be avoided.

As details of their ordeal come out — through formal charges, investigative documents, personal interviews and leaks — journalists and others will have to decide what, if any, privacy can be attained for these survivors.… Read more

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Thursday, Mar. 07, 2013

moneypuzzle

Most everyone gets asked to write for free, only some people say yes

The debate over how much professional writers should be paid — sparked by Atlantic’s request to publish Nathan Thayer’s work without paying him — is a window into how dramatically the Internet has changed the system of creating and distributing news and opinion.

What’s a writer’s work worth? After reading dozens of posts, hundreds of tweets, lurking in an online chat, and talking to two of my favorite freelancers, I can tell you this: It’s complicated. Really, really complicated.

The Internet, it seems, has totally messed up a simple pay scale. Back in the day, freelancers got paid roughly by the word. Sometimes it was as low as 10 cents a word. Everyone was shooting for $1 a word, and some people got more than that.… Read more

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Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013

knightlehrer

It’ll take a village to redeem Jonah Lehrer, not just repentance

Jonah Lehrer played to his strengths Tuesday when he lectured and apologized at a Knight Foundation lunch. But in his extended examination of conscience, he lost sight of his own flaws and missed his opportunity to really explain and remedy what happened in his spectacular downfall.

Lehrer concluded that he needs rules, and he will in the future impose rigid rules of fact-checking on himself to avoid the mistakes he made. “Standard operating procedures will one day restore the trust I have lost,” he said.

I don’t think the rules are enough. Lehrer needs a community. He needs a group of peers, of equals, to challenge his ego and inspire his creativity.

His speech Tuesday was at times like reading a good Lehrer article.… Read more

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Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013

The short shelf life of today’s heroes, in sports and in journalism

Michael Wilbon was on ESPN radio discussing Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o when he posed this rhetorical question: “What is the shelf life of a hero today?”

An excellent question: What is the shelf life of heroes in a world overflowing with instant communications, the need for instant gratification, and instant (and too often bitter, obscene and mean-spirited) rebuttals?

The talk show conversation and Wilbon’s question registered a stronger reaction than it may have on other days; it came at a time when I was thinking about one of my personal heroes, Gene Patterson, at a time when the news of his death was still raw.

There was a time when the answer seemed so simple, in the long ago years when we cheered for Johnny Lujack, the All America quarterback and the Fighting Irish on Saturday afternoon; when we listened on the radio to Joe Louis’ latest victory or President Roosevelt’s fireside chats, or in theaters watched Sugar Ray Robinson, who may have had some flaws outside the ring but was unflawed inside the ropes.… Read more

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