List of Illustrations

Potter's box. (Page 32)

Polly Klass' murderer. The San Jose Mercury News took the unusual precaution of including a front-page letter explaining its decision to publish this photograph of Richard Allen Davis' obscene gesture. (Photo courtesy of the San Jose Mercury News.) (Page 84)

Pay the source? A businessman walks from the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terrorist attack. A year later, he wanted $911 to be interviewed and photographed. (Photo by Stan Honda, Agence France-Presse.) (Page 135)

Military color guards carrying the coffins. This photo was released by the Bush administration responding to an FOIA request and a lawsuit for pictures of American military dead returning from Iraq. The Pentagon said it obscured the faces out of concern for the privacy of the honor guard units. (Page 147)

A family's anguish. As the weeping father kneels over the body of his young son, a rescue worker (left) tries to console the drowning victim's brother and other family members. The editor who ran this picture said he wished he hadn't. (Photo courtesy of The Californian, Bakersfield, Calif.) (Page 265)

Dangling by the seatbelt. Before taking the photo, the photographer ensured that the woman was not badly hurt and that paramedics were called. (Photo courtesy of The Lima [Ohio] News.) (Page 269)


Chances are, if you’re reading this book you’re planning a career in TV or newspaper journalism. If you’re like many of us, you chose your career because you like to write and think you’re pretty good at it. Or maybe you want the excitement and prestige of being an anchor on TV. Or perhaps you want the challenge of meeting lots of people, ranging from the powerful and the famous to the powerless and forgotten.

You understand why you are required to take courses in news writing and editing. Your employers are going to expect you to perform these tasks. And you probably won’t balk at taking a mass-media law course. You know you don’t want to lose a million-dollar libel suit.

However, why must you read books like this one? Why must you study journalism ethics? I’m going to offer four reasons. You and your instructor are welcome to add to this list.

As you read this book, challenge yourself. Put yourself in each story that opens a chapter. If you were in that situation, how would you handle the problem? What responsibilities do the journalists have to their sources, their readers and viewers, and their employers? Are there other ways to handle the problem? But also ask yourself how you would react to the reporter’s conduct if you were a source. And ask yourself what impact the story would have on you as a reader or viewer. Chapter 2 offers some insights on how philosophers have approached ethical problems and provide some additional factors to consider.

Many people helped me as I continued the work of Professor Eugene Goodwin, whose first edition of Groping for Ethics in Journalism won the Frank Luther Mott-Kappa Tau Alpha Research award in 1983. Foremost is Rene Stutzman, a reporter in the Orlando Sentinel’s Sanford bureau. As a first-rate journalist, she provided valuable insight as we discussed many of the cases covered in this book. And as my wife, she tolerated my secluding myself in my office working on the book.

About a dozen other newspaper and TV reporters, editors, and anchors read parts of the book. Their contributions were vital in ensuring the accuracy and completeness of the material. Also, I thank the reporters and editors at The Tampa Tribune for helping me to a better understanding of convergence, and those at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel for letting me sit in on some of their meetings.

My students have also shaped this work. Many have done so directly. Michelle Martinez and Maureen Tisdale made key contributions to sections on diversity. Other students have also helped track down references and anecdotes. As anyone who has taught can attest, my students, through class discussion and written work, have broadened my understanding of the issues. They have also been candid in their critiques of early drafts of the manuscript, helping me to avoid dry passages and reduce some of the long-windedness that marked earlier editions.

Blackwell Publishing assigned a great staff to this endeavor. Production editor Lisa Eaton kept the project moving forward gracefully. As a former copy editor myself, I was most impressed with the work of Sally Landsdell. Her detailed editing of the manuscript saved me from some embarrassing mistakes.

Despite the quality of the people who read portions of the manuscript, the observations of my students, and the care taken by Blackwell Publishing staff, I am sure you will find an occasional mistake. We’ll try to get it right next time. If you have comments or questions about the book, feel free to e-mail me at .

Ron F. Smith
University of Central Florida

To Rene

Part 1

Principles and Guidelines