Ethics

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For 40 years, Poynter has guided professional newsrooms in developing ethical principles to support journalism's role in a healthy democracy. In 1981, when a Pulitzer Prize-winning story in The Washington Post about a child heroin addict turned out to be a hoax, Poynter convened industry leaders to identify and implement tighter ethical standards, as we did in 2003 following the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times.

Guiding Principles Image

Poynter trains journalists to avoid ethical failings including conflicts of interest, bias and inaccuracy, and to uphold best practices, such as transparency and accountability. With digital and audiovisual technology innovating at warp seed, news-gathering, storytelling and editing are changing and Poynter faculty help newsrooms keep ethics at the forefront. 

At a time when public trust in media is low and the president has sought to discredit the press as "fake news," it's more essential than ever that journalists be accurate and accountable, shining a light on truth to sustain our democracy.

Poynter makes it easy to develop your ethical decision-making, so you're ready for difficult situations: 

Poynter Results

  • Storytelling

    Article

    Journalism has a catch-22 problem with visuals

    Cathaleen Curtiss, the photography director at the Buffalo News, chats about the history of photojournalism, the proper time to use stock photos and how to give visuals their proper due online.

  • Commentary

    Article

    Guest column: The diversity gap in education reporting must close

    The Education Writers Association’s State of the Beat report found disturbing news for the coverage of education: just 22 percent of full-time journalists on the education beat are journalists of color. Clearly, the demographics of the professionals reporting on our schools and colleges do not reflect the diversity of the nation, where half of public school students are nonwhite, as is nearly 40 percent of the adult population.

  • Ethics

    Article

    Best practices for reporting through social media during a mass shooting

    With each new mass shooting or terrorist attack, the norms of reporting and publishing information about them seem to shift in dramatic ways.

    We know the reason: smartphones and social media. The combination means information is coming from all sides, fast and furious — and too often wrong or misleading.

  • Ethics

    Article

    Sinclair says asking news directors for PAC contributions isn't a conflict of interest

    Sinclair Broadcast Group, which runs 72 news operations at 193 television stations covering 89 markets in 35 states asked "top level" management, including news directors, to consider contributing to a Political Action Committee that the group funds. The memo arrived even while the Justice Department is considering whether to allow Sinclair to expand how many stations it owns.

  • Commentary

    Article

    A photo editor's plea: Let’s be solution-based instead of an echo chamber

    We’ve got a problem. It’s 2018, but it feels like 1975 in the land of visuals. What’s old is new again: a nearly nonexistence of visual judgment in newsrooms. Who would have thought that the phenomenal benefits of technology would negate the common sense of picture selection? The role of the photo editor has nearly disintegrated in most newsrooms, including that of Poynter. It’s time to stop and take inventory.

  • Ethics

    Article

    We wrote about free photo sites. Many journalists were outraged. Now what?

    On Thursday, Poynter reporters Ren LaForme and Kristen Hare published an article about how journalists can use a variety of websites to add visuals to their work for free.

    The article was part of an informal series of published conversations that introduce helpful tools and sites for journalists. We generally frame the conversation around a problem to be solved and then discuss ways in which a tool or two might help.

  • Commentary

    Article

    To tell the stories of sexual assault victims, it's time for a new look at anonymity policies

    The Daily podcast did this very clever thing with the audio from the women and girls who testified during the sentencing of Dr. Larry Nassar last week. You hear the voices singularly at first, speaking in clear, declarative sentences. Then you hear snippets from one gymnast, then another, in a staccato sequence. Then you hear the voices as a chorus, saying different words to the same effect, a cacophony of young women, telling their stories.

  • Culture

    Article

    “Abomination:” Pittsburgh publisher’s editorial inflames newsroom, readers

    Newspapers aren’t democracies, much as we might like them to be, nor do their pages reflect the views of everyone they employ.

    At the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this week, one man’s decision to publish a poorly reasoned, ill-timed and offensive-to-many editorial on race on Martin Luther King Jr. Day has sparked an uproar inside and outside the paper and within the family that owns it. Newsroom employees, city grandees and politicians have publicly assailed the editorial as an “abomination,” “humiliation” and “whitewashing.”

 
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