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

  • Ethics

    Article

    'Lone wolf' or 'terrorist'? How bias can shape news coverage

    Editor’s note: We revised a conclusion in this column to reflect the complete, multi-part definition of domestic terrorism under the U.S. Code. We don’t know the Las Vegas shooter’s motives so we can’t call him a terrorist.  

    Many news reports have dubbed the horrific massacre in Las Vegas “the deadliest shooting in American history.” The only problem with the dramatic superlative? It isn’t true.

  • Ethics

    Article

    Twitter dustups are a reminder: Journalists, you are what you tweet

    The surprise departure from Twitter on Monday of New York Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush, who tweeted that the medium is “too much of a distraction,” is the latest illustration of the double-edged sword that journalists’ favorite social platform has become for the news industry.

  • Ethics

    Article

    Was an Indian journalist's undercover sting justified? After a suicide, ethical questions remain

    An Indian journalist faces criminal charges after a soldier she interviewed without his knowledge committed suicide earlier this year. The journalist, Poonam Agarwal, did not tell the soldier that she was a reporter or that a hidden camera was rolling while she was speaking with him. Although his image in the published video of their conversation was blurred, Indian Army officials claim her actions led directly to his death.

  • Ethics

    Article

    Dirty, big secrets: Why won’t CNN and Fox account for their mistakes?

    In a nondescript training room above the newsroom in the old New York Times building, five reporters, two researchers and two editors labored around the clock for a week in May 2003 to get to the bottom of one of the most egregious cases of malpractice in American journalism: Jayson Blair’s short and spectacular career of fraud and plagiarism in the pages of the Times.

  • Ethics

    Article

    Lessons from the Nat Geo eclipse photo dustup

    Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Ken Geiger is catching plenty of praise — and heat — for a stunning image of the recent solar eclipse he posted on Instagram. Geiger, a freelance photographer and former deputy director of photography at National Geographic, drew more than 15,000 "likes" for a black-and-white version of the image on his Instagram page; the Nat Geo Instagram page raked in more than 2 million.

  • Ethics

    Article

    Introducing Poynter's new ethics policy

    We spent much of this summer at Poynter refining our ethics policies. It was time-consuming, tedious work — and a reminder of why so many news organizations struggle to create and maintain relevant ethics guidelines.

    It started by consolidating numerous policies into one place so they could be updated. But when we got them all together, it was clear that they needed a complete re-write to unify the voice and spirit of the document.

  • Ethics

    Article

    News or opinion? Online, it's hard to tell

    News organizations aren’t doing enough to help readers understand the difference between news, analysis and opinion. We at the Duke Reporters' Lab reached that conclusion after conducting a new study that found only 40 percent of large news organizations provide labels about article types — and nearly all of those only label opinion columns.

  • Ethics

    Article

    How journalists should handle racist words, images and violence in Charlottesville

    Journalists covering the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia face challenges as they choose words, images and sounds. This is not a time to sanitize the cost of hate, and it is not a time to glorify hate groups by giving them the notoriety they seek.

    We have both covered hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations. While we watch the unfolding story of violence in Charlottesville and the hard-working journalists on the ground covering it, we humbly offer this advice from the safe remove of St. Petersburg, Florida:

    Language

  • Ethics

    Article

    Public editors are disappearing in U.S. newsrooms. But abroad, they're more important than ever

    When The New York Times nixed its public editor position earlier this summer, the move was met with a mix of derision and approval.

    Despite criticism from journalists — especially on Twitter — Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger stood by the move, saying in an internal memo that substituting an online reader center for an official ombudsman was justified by the increase of reader interactions on social media.

 
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