October 2015 Ethics Update

‘Silent majority’ or ‘forever swamped’: which condition explains ethics dilemma?

When I assumed the ethics committee chair position four years ago, I had one reservation: would I be able to respond to a flood of inquiries from editors besieged with imposing integrity concerns.  Not to worry, I soon learned. Reason? For the most part, most members fell into either the “silent majority” or “forever swamped” category . . . or both.

Silent majority, of course, has been a popular political issue. It refers to the thousands of citizens besieged with multiple problems who elect to keep mum rather than speaking out because nothing will come of it. “Forever swamped” is a category I devised to explain the mood of many B2B editors. The groups often have two things in common:

  1. Those who would love to speak out, but are in fear of repercussions from above.
  2. Those who would love to speak out, but are so swamped by their day jobs that there is never time to take advantage of opportunities to improve their lot . . . ethical or otherwise.

Over the past few years, those folks willing to discuss concerns insisted that their names never be connected to any articles appearing in Ethics News Updates. I thank them for their trust in agreeing to share experiences.

As for the swamped folks, time is obviously at a premium. So whenever I post a LinkedIn group discussion addressing an ethical concern, it’s no surprise that responding traffic is very light. But the very next day, if somebody posts an inquiry, say, about whether or not every word in a headline should be upper case, this lofty subject draws dozens of responses.

No matter which group you are in, know that ethics committee members constantly consider ways to provide programs with high take-away value. Thus . . . we launched this newsletter in 2013. Soon after, we introduced B2B virtual roundtable conferences as well as a Town Hall program at our National Conference. And this year, we started work on a Facts Management Guide. A first step in that direction was posting a list of excellent URL resources, like the group you’ll find in this issue.

In the coming year, what else can we do to help you, and in the process, convert members of the silent or swamped majority into at least more of a vocal minority?

Let me know what you think!!

Do sponsored content concerns deserve ethics code attention?
The answer is no, according to the Canadian Association of Journalists Ethics Advisory Committee. As detailed in a new position paper, CAJ maintains that native advertising and other forms of sponsored content deserve no attention because they are not journalism.

Editorial ethics standards deserve top management support
Canadian B2Ber W.I Media is among the very few that underscores importance of endorsing ethics codes on its Web site home page. In this exclusive interview, publisher Kerry Knudsen warns that if you have standards, you must be willing to back them up, “even if it costs money.”

Marketers need content guidance from savvy editors
“Editorial quality is in danger of slipping because true editors aren’t empowered as they should be in shaping marketing strategy,” says consultant Geoff Giordano. Experienced editors, he says, “provide necessary counterbalance to ill-conceived material from those not trained or experienced in the 24/7/365 execution of superior content.”

New ONA ethics code offers interviewing and social media tips
In the just-released version of its ethics code, the Online News Association ethics committee is inviting industry comment via a direct link to its site.  Advisories on interviewing and social media are covered in this excerpt.

Try starter list of 18 URLs when launching fact-checking guide
This collection of resources was assembled for the Ethics Town Hall Session held during ASBPE’s recent National Conference. It is the prelude to a “Facts Management Guide” currently being researched by the group’s Ethics Committee.

Getting it right: Why fact-checking is more important now
POWER Magazine’s expectation is “that the author of any article will confirm and present the facts as they relate to any story being written,” says associate editor Aaron Larson. “For web-based stories, we require that all content gets reviewed and checked by another member of the staff before posting,” reported Larson during an ASBPE national conference session.

Can you detect the 10 most common plagiarism practices?
“Clone,” “remix,” “hybrid” and “mashup” are among the formats now in play, says plagiarism detection software provider Turnitin. Also recently paying attention to plagiarism concerns was a module appearing in the Online News Association’s just released ethics code.

Need to correct factual inaccuracies lives on forever
This gem in the Buttry Diary – noted ethicist Steve Buttry’s always authoritative blog – recounts a fascinating case where alleged flawed facts appearing in a 2007 New York Times article have yet to be corrected.

Journalists offer tips on enduring Twitter rage storms
For those of you who worry about ways to deal with angry responses to comments you posted, this Poynter article offers plenty of useful advice. “Staying on Twitter,” warns author Benjamin Mullin, “can come at the expense of enduring unremitting abuse, some of which is accompanied

15 ways to ensure your fact-checking is ‘airtight’
Methods for making stories airtight was a topic on the agenda at a recent Investigative Reporters and Editors Conference in Philadelphia. Included advice: double-check facts after writing, don’t let deadlines force publication of a “half-baked,” story, keep asking, “What am I missing?,” check every number or analysis going into the story.

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