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.

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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

  • 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.”

  • Business

    Article

    Editorial standards put BBC reporters in tough spot over pay equity issue

    Carrie Gracie’s resignation sent shock waves through Britain. Gracie, the former China editor for BBC News, resigned from her post Sunday after learning that her male colleagues were paid more than 50 percent more than she was for equivalent work.

    Gracie says she is not necessarily asking for a raise, nor for her male colleagues to earn less. She insists she is merely asking for pay equity in the workplace.

  • Ethics

    Article

    Trying to decide if you should publish that dirty word? Here's a step-by-step guide

    When I first studied ethics in the early 1980s, I came across a model for thinking and acting — we might now call it an algorithm — called The Potter Box. Named after Ralph B. Potter of Harvard Divinity School, the box contained four quadrants.
    Starting in the top left quadrant, and moving counterclockwise, The Potter Box gave us:

  • Ethics

    Article

    Half of America thinks we’re making it up

    Distrust of the news media didn’t start with Donald Trump, but he has amplified and stoked those doubts like no American president before him. Trump is also not the first politician to discredit any negative reporting on him, but his effort to undermine a shared understanding of facts conveyed in fair, vetted reporting takes a page from the playbooks of authoritarians in China, Cuba, Russia and Venezuela.

  • Ethics

    Article

    The media needs to do more to elevate a national conversation about ethics

    Presidents, Olympians, congressional leaders, judges, university professors, religious leaders, media stars, military leaders, police, professional and amateur sports celebrities, business titans and a host of others now occupy the burgeoning ranks of debunked heroes. I now expect to open a newspaper or website or turn on my TV and find a daily moral disappointment staring back at me with his lawyer in the background, apology in hand.

  • Ethics

    Article

    Marty Baron: Fair and honest reporting 'will be validated over the long run'

    As journalists, we tend to assume the public understands our jobs and how we do them — that we labor to hold officials and powerbrokers accountable, we pursue stories in the public interest, we operate independently of political parties or interest groups, we don’t pay for or fabricate information, we check facts and correct mistakes. The evidence is overwhelming, however, that our motivations and methods are deeply misunderstood.

 
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