What’s your most challenging ethical dilemma when it comes to news section management?

What’s your most challenging ethical dilemma when it comes to news section management? Here are seven conflicts that top my list. When time allows, please add some of your own experiences.

“Today it’s much harder for newsroom managers to coach staffs on proper ethical decision-making,” says Poynter vice president Kelly McBride. A recognized ethics media guru, McBride presided at a July 22 “New Ethics for News Managers” webinar. The session offered lots of good advice. Hopefully, many of you attended.

McBride described a management process that’s covered in an article being written by ASBPE past president Roy Harris for the next issue of our Ethics News Updates newsletter. Roy and editorial consultant Robin Sherman, both highly-valued members of my ethics committee, attended the event.

As good as the session was, I felt there were seven news challenges confronting B2B editors worth itemizing. In each case, you should have an ethics advisory in place designed to head off a possible snafu. I invite you to add equally instructive examples to the list.

  1. INADEQUATE FACT-CHECKING. Before online news made the scene, this practice already was a bad habit. A typical scenario found editors running controversial material published elsewhere without a preliminary accuracy check.
  2. FABRICATION. Typical abuse assumes the form of posting conjured quotes from anonymous sources. One reason this may happen is that the offender has been unsuccessful in building a list of reliable contacts.
  3. BAD NEWS BAN. This policy may originate with a publisher concerned about offending advertisers or prospects, even if the story in question should be told.
  4. NON-ADVERTISER BLACKLIST. When round-up articles are scheduled requiring vendor interviews, a publisher may create a priority list of contacts an editor is expected to use. This list may exclude industry sources having leadership positions in the product area being addressed.
  5. BURYING COMPLAINTS. This happens when an editor is challenged by a source who alleges his/her comments were reported inaccurately. Instead of making good on the complaint, the author take no action, hoping the incident will die a quick death.
  6. MINIMIZING HARM: Sometimes a valued source delivers a dynamite speech about a controversial issue. The story may be compelling, but the source may have damaged his/her future career by being forthright. Do you squash the story or let it run no matter what?
  7. PLAGIARISM EXPLOSION: While this snafu is well-known, leading publishing industry plagiarism authority Jonathan Baily predicts the practice will intensify. In a July column written for his Plagiarism Today newsletter, Baily cites training shortfall and exploding workloads as key hurdles. His entire column, which should be required reading, will appear in the next issue of Ethics News Updates.

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