Temple University issues code of ethics for student journos

October 25, 2013
Category: Uncategorized

Temple University

Temple University’s Department of Journalism issued students a pocket-sized ethics code at the start of the semester, according to a report published on the school’s website.

“While many programs throughout the country refer their students to codes used by professionals, Andrew Mendelson, associate professor and department chair, said the journalism faculty felt they should create a code that is focused on the student journalist experience and reflects today’s media environment.”

Many schools refer students to the Society of Professional Journalists’ code, and several have their own, including New York University, which is 24 pages long.

But Temple kept things simple.

The intro to the small red guide explains why they’ve boiled things down.
“In simple terms, a code of ethics is a fancy way of saying, ‘do this, not that.'”
Kelly McBride, Poynter senior faculty member who teaches media ethics, said she likes the school’s guide. It’s well-designed, she says, and because it can go into a pocket or a purse, it’s tangible.

“I actually think it’s a really smart idea because it gets students used to the idea of an organization having a very specific articulation of what their expectations are when it comes to ethics,” she said.

The guide doesn’t include when to tweet or post on Facebook in its dos and don’ts, and McBride thinks that’s smart, too. Such rules date the code quickly, she said, and “it also stops people from thinking about a variety of situations.”
Instead, social media should be included in regular conversations at journalism schools and as an exercise in the practice of daily journalism, she says.

McBride did wonder if the guide would be made available in forms other than paper, like an app that students could have with them at all times on their phone.

Andrew Mendelson, department chair, speaking with Poynter on the phone, is not sure if the guide will become an app, but said the school likes the hard copy version of the code right now. Next semester, a group of undergrads will work on the ethics code, speaking with professional journalists to see what needs updating.

Like ethical practices themselves, the school’s code will adjust as needed.

“It’s certainly not a static thing that’s never going to change,” he said.