September 24, 2015
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The Online News Association presented a new crowdsourced tool to help journalists navigate ethics in digital journalism. The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation gave $40,000 toward the project, according to the press release. The platform “addresses the intense interest and concern in the digital journalism community around the growing ethical issues unique to social media, technology and the viral nature and speed of breaking news.”

Using the tool, journalists can review and easily select statements from a menu addressing more than 40 ethical issues, including user-generated content, verification, data journalism, social networks, suicide, graphic visuals, hostage situations, privacy, gender and ethnicity and hate speech. They then can tailor a code and export it for publication and internal use.

The site takes users through a series of 43 sections, including questions about the nature of independence at your organization, use of confidential sources, corrections, diversity, clickbait and metrics.

Journalists involved with the project include Louisiana State University’s Steve Buttry, Geekwire/Seattle Times’ Monica Guzman and my colleague at The Poynter Institute, Kelly McBride. The site also offers readers a chance to see other ethics codes.

“What I love about their approach is they are rooting it in a process, rather than simply writing a bunch of rules,” McBride said. “That makes people so much sharper, because you can’t possibly write a rule for everything, especially as technology and the audiences change.”

While the platform offers news organizations plenty of room for nuance, it begins noting that some things are fundamentals. Those include four topics: telling the truth, conflicts of interest, community and professional conduct. From the project’s about page:

We started with the recognition that the journalism profession encompasses ever more people, philosophies and technologies. There are many definitions these days of a “journalist,” making it more important than ever for journalists to be clear about who they are and what they stand for.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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