For JoAnn
and our children and grandchildren

Detailed Contents

Foreword: Journalism Genes



Part I: A Foundation for Making Ethical Decisions

1 Why Ethics Matters in Journalism

Our society needs news professionals who do the right thing

• Two reasons, one moral and one practical, argue that journalists should be ethical.

• In a profession that cannot legally be regulated, responsible practitioners adhere voluntarily to high standards of conduct.

• The goal of this book and course is to teach how to make ethically sound decisions.

• Discussing case studies in class is crucial to learning the decision-making process.

• Traditional ethics standards of the profession apply to journalism on the Internet.

• Ethical journalism and vigorous journalism are compatible.

Point of View: A “Tribal Ferocity” Enforces the Code [John Carroll]

2 Ethics: The Bedrock of a Society

An introduction to terms and concepts in an applied-ethics course

• Ethics is about discerning the difference between right and wrong – and then doing what is right.

• Ancient societies developed systems of ethics that still influence human behavior.

• Ethics and law may be related, but they are not the same; law prescribes minimum standards of conduct, while ethics prescribes exemplary conduct.

• A member of a society absorbs its ethical precepts through a process of socialization.

• A person’s values shape the choices he or she makes.

• Ethical dilemmas represent a clash of ethical values.

• The ethical person learns how to make decisions when facing ethical dilemmas.

3 The News Media’s Role in Society

How the profession has matured and accepted social responsibility

• Ethical journalists have reached a consensus on journalism’s purpose and guiding principles.

• Journalism, like other professions and institutions, owes society a moral duty called social responsibility.

• In the 1940s, the Hutchins Commission defined social responsibility for journalism – providing reliable information for the community.

• An ethical awakening occurred in journalism during a decade beginning in the mid-1970s.

• During this period of reform, many news organizations codified their principles.

• Today’s technological and business environment presents new ethical challenges for journalism.

Point of View: A Manifesto for Change in Journalism [Geneva Overholser]

4 For Journalists, a Clash of Moral Duties

Responsibilities as professionals and as human beings can conflict

• In the abstract, journalists should avoid becoming involved with the events and the people they cover.

• However, certain situations require journalists to decide whether they should step out of their observer role and become participants.

• In those situations, guidelines can help journalists reach sound decisions.

Case Study No. 1: The Journalist as a Witness to Suffering

5 The Public and the Media: Love and Hate

The goal for the journalist should be respect, not popularity

• Even as the news media mature and accept their social responsibility, the public is increasingly hostile.

• Journalists need to be aware of this hostility and the possible reasons for it.

• You should treat the audience with respect and take complaints seriously.

• Stripping away the rancor, you can find useful lessons in the public’s criticism.

• The public’s hostility has to be put in perspective; it may not be as bad as it seems.

Point of View: Journalism, Seen From the Other Side [Jane Shoemaker]

Case Study No. 2: Roughed Up at Recess

6 Applying Four Classic Theories of Ethics

Ancient philosophy can help you make sound decisions

• Introducing four classic theories of ethics.

• Strengths and weaknesses of rule-based thinking.

• Strengths and weaknesses of ends-based thinking.

• Strengths and weaknesses of the Golden Rule.

• Strengths and weaknesses of Aristotle’s Golden Mean.

• The value of blending rule-based thinking and ends-based thinking in the practice of journalism.

7 Using a Code of Ethics as a Decision Tool

Professional standards are valuable in resolving dilemmas

• Ethics codes in journalism trace their origins to the early twentieth century.

• Codes adopted by professional associations are voluntary and advisory; codes adopted by news outlets for the direction of their staffs are enforceable.

• The profession continues to disagree about the value of codes.

• Codes can be useful as a part of the decision process, not as a substitute for that process.

• The Society of Professional Journalists’ 1996 code, a model for the profession, contains four guiding principles: seek truth and report it; minimize harm; act independently; and be accountable.

Point of View: Reporting a Fact, Causing Harm [ William F. Woo]

Point of View: Being Accountable Through a Digital Dialogue [Mark Bowden]

Case Study No. 3: The Death of a Boy

8 Making Moral Decisions You Can Defend

The key ingredients are critical thinking and a decision template

• You can polish your decision-making skills by drawing on the practical skills of journalism: gathering facts, analyzing them, and making judgments.

• Critical thinking, or thoughtful analysis, is an essential component of the decision process.

• A step-by-step template can guide you to a better decision.

• You must test your decision to see if it can be defended.

• In this course, approach the case studies as a laboratory for decision-making.

Point of View: Rationalizations in Decision-Making [Michael Josephson]

Case Study No. 4: Deciding Whether to Identify a CIA Agent

Part II: Exploring Themes of Ethics Issues in Journalism

9 Stolen Words, Invented Facts … Or Worse

Plagiarism, fabrication, and other mistakes that can kill a career

• Plagiarism and fabrication are morally wrong. Plagiarism is stealing the creative work of another. Fabrication is making things up and presenting them as fact.

• The offenses of plagiarism and fabrication destroy journalism’s credibility and cost offenders their jobs and their careers.

• Committing illegal acts is unacceptable in the pursuit of news.

• Following sound work practices can help you avoid any hint of impropriety.

• Newsroom leaders have a duty to establish clear rules about journalistic misconduct and to enforce them.

10 Conflicts of Interest: Divided Loyalties

Journalists owe their first allegiance to the audience

• Because it gives the audience reason to doubt the journalist’s loyalty, a conflict of interest undermines credibility.

• An appearance of a conflict of interest can damage credibility even if the journalist’s reporting is fair.

• By following reasonable guidelines, you can avoid most conflicts, real or apparent.

• This chapter discusses situations that commonly lead to conflicts.

Case Study No. 5: Covering Police, Wearing Their Uniform

Case Study No. 6: Carrying the Torch, Stirring Controversy

Case Study No. 7: On Lunch Break, Defending Reagan

Case Study No. 8: A Love Triangle on the Evening News

11 The Business of Producing Journalism

News outlets’ dual role: serving the public and earning money

• Technological and economic transition has caused tensions in today’s news media.

• These tensions arise from a media company’s dual role as a business and as a civic institution.

• Although advertisers finance journalism, they cannot be allowed to influence journalism.

• Media companies’ efforts to increase revenue have led to some ethically questionable practices.

• The business and news executives of media companies frequently have a strained relationship, mainly because their cultures are so different.

Point of View: Tangoing Without a Partner [Gene Roberts]

Case Study No. 9: Sharing Ad Profits, Creating a Crisis

12 Getting the Story Right and Being Fair

Newswriting skills of accuracy and fairness are ethical skills, too

• Accuracy and fairness are ethical values fundamental to journalism.

• You need to keep an open mind as reporting progresses; your duty is not to a certain hypothesis but to the search for truth.

• If you can’t prove the facts in your story, you can’t use them.

• This chapter discusses other reporting situations that could lead to inaccuracy, unfairness, or both.

Point of View: The Importance of a Second Look [William F. Woo]

Case Study No. 10: Duke Lacrosse: One Newspaper’s Journey

Case Study No. 11: On TV, a 4-Year-Old’s Visit to Death Row

13 Dealing With Sources of Information

The fine line between getting close but not too close

• Ethical issues arise in the reporter’s efforts to cultivate sources while maintaining an independence from those sources.

• The ethical challenges are acute in beat reporting, in which a journalist works with the same sources over a long period.

• If you agree to protect a source who provides information on condition of anonymity, honoring that agreement is a solemn ethical duty.

• This chapter examines recurring situations in which ethical issues arise in source relationships.

Point of View: Sometimes, Different Rules Apply [Jeffrey Fleishman]

Case Study No. 12: Newsweek and the Flushing of the Koran

Case Study No. 13: Swimming in a Newsmaker’s Backyard Pool

14 Making News Decisions About Privacy

The public may need to know what individuals want hidden

• Journalists often have to decide between the public’s legitimate need to have certain information and the desire for privacy by the individuals involved.

• Although there are certain legal restraints on publicizing private information, most decisions are made on the basis of ethics rather than law.

• A three-step template can help you make decisions in privacy cases.

• This chapter examines reporting situations in which privacy is central to decision-making.

Case Study No. 14: Revealing Arthur Ashe’s Secret

Case Study No. 15: Identifying a 13-Year-Old Rape Victim

15 Making News Decisions About Taste

The conflict between reflecting reality and respecting the audience

• Journalists often have to decide whether to publish, broadcast, or post content that could offend a significant element of the audience.

• Offensive content falls into three categories: perceived insensitivity, offensive words, and offensive images.

• A two-step process will help you make decisions, weighing the news value against the offensiveness.

• Legal limits on offensive content pertain mainly to the broadcast media.

Case Study No. 16: Reporting on a Vulgar List in the News

Case Study No. 17: Covering a Public Official’s Public Suicide

16 Deception, a Controversial Reporting Tool

A collision in values: Lying while seeking the truth

• To decide whether to use a deceptive reporting practice, you first must acknowledge the deceit and not rationalize about it.

• Before engaging in undercover reporting – pretending to be someone else – you must meet exacting standards.

• This chapter discusses other situations, short of undercover, in which journalists could deceive or could be perceived as deceiving.

• Even if you think it may rarely be acceptable to deceive sources, you should never deceive the audience or your colleagues.

Case Study No. 18: Rumsfeld’s Q&A With the Troops

Case Study No. 19: Spying on the Mayor in a Chat Room

17 Covering a Diverse, Multicultural Society

An ethical duty to be sensitive in reporting on minority groups

• Covering society’s diversity is an ethical responsibility; news organizations have a duty to cover the entire community.

• Careful, sensitive reporting is required to analyze the complex issues of racial and ethnic conflicts.

• You should study techniques that can help you do a better job of covering cultures other than your own.

• Reporters who cover new immigrants can find that the assignment presents specific ethical issues.

• Sensitivity is needed in covering gays and lesbians in the news.

Point of View: Gaining Respect By Showing Respect [Joann Byrd]

Point of View: In Writing About Race, Be Precise [Keith Woods]

Case Study No. 20: When a Story Gets Its Subject Arrested

18 Ethics Issues Specific to Web Journalism

Online, there are huge opportunities – and pitfalls

• Traditional ethics standards apply to all platforms for reporting the news, including the Internet.

• Verification is vital even in a medium that emphasizes speed.

• Blogging by journalists can provide benefits, but it also can undermine their credibility as impartial observers.

• An Internet “conversation” with the audience is valuable, but unmonitored comments can cause problems.

• Journalists and citizen bloggers share the Internet, but their standards diverge.

Point of View: It’s the Ideas, Not the Names, That Count [Carole Tarrant]

Case Study No. 21: For a Reporter-Blogger, Two Personalities

19 Ethics Issues Specific to Visual Journalism

Seeking truth with the camera while minimizing harm

• The public must be able to trust the truthfulness of the news media’s photographs and video.

• Because an image can be distorted either by stage-managing the scene or by manipulating the image, responsible photojournalists have adopted standards to assure the integrity of their images.

• Recognizing that some images can offend, journalists weigh these images’ news values against the likely offense.

• The presence of photojournalists and their cameras can cause psychological harm, even if the images are not disseminated.

Case Study No. 22: Would You Run This Photograph?

Case Study No. 23: Just How Fast Do Ice Boats Go?

20 Ethics in the Changing Media Environment

A review of the challenges faced by contemporary journalists

• “Infotainment” – focusing on the sensational – remains a problem because it siphons news organizations’ resources from important stories that the public needs.

• The future of journalism may depend on devising a business plan that makes Internet sites profitable enough to support larger staffs of journalists.

• Although aspiring journalists should learn multimedia skills, the industry should realize that performance standards could be lowered if everyone is expected to report every story in all media.

• News websites, the dominant news platform of the future, face lingering ethics issues.

• The traditional definition of journalism takes on new importance in an environment in which the audience has access to many sources of information and needs to find a source it can trust.

• Journalists, though no longer the gatekeepers, still have the responsibility of helping their audience make sense of the news.

Point of View: Decision-Making in the Digital Age [James M. Naughton]

Point of View: A Difference in How Rumors Are Reported [Kelly McBride]

Case Study No. 24: NBC’s Controversial “To Catch a Predator”

Conclusion: Some Thoughts to Take With You

Capsules of advice for aspiring journalists

Case Study Sources



Journalism Genes

When Gene Roberts left The New York Times in 1972 to begin elevating one of America’s worst newspapers, The Philadelphia Inquirer, he quickly realized he needed help. “I was looking,” he recalls, “for someone who was everything I was not.” Roy Reed, then a national reporter for The Times, and others who knew Roberts well told him they had just the right person to be his managing editor: Gene Clemons Foreman. And so the two editors became Gene and Gene, or as the staff in Philadelphia dubbed them, The Chromosomes. They were indeed an odd couple – Roberts an unmade bed of an intuitive strategist and Foreman a conscientious pillar of reasoned exactitude – and they were a perfect match. Roberts always has been given, rightly, credit for the development of a literate Inquirer staff that may well have been, pound for pound, the most enterprising in American newspapering. In his 18 years in Philly, the staff was awarded 17 Pulitzer Prizes. Yet Roberts would be the first to say, and others of us who had the privilege of helping improve The Inquirer would echo, that it was Gene Foreman whose standards were at the center of the remarkable transformation.

It was Foreman who commissioned, edited and published newspapering’s most thorough and high-minded policy manual. It was Foreman who established and conducted standards and procedures training sessions for every staff member. It was Foreman who encountered Michael Josephson, a lawyer who was creating an ethics institute in Los Angeles, and tutored him in news issues so that Josephson could train journalists anywhere – including The Inquirer – in news ethics. It was Foreman who defined what the paper should look like and made sure it did. It was Foreman who built an exceptional core of copy editors, in part by creating a pre-employment editing test that became a model for the industry. It was Foreman who relentlessly examined each issue of the newspaper and delivered detailed guidance about where there was room for improvement.

My favorite Foreman tale involves his exacting standards and his focus on even the most minute aspects of accuracy, standards, and style. In September 1979, The Inquirer had a talented foreign correspondent named Richard Ben Cramer based in London. When the British Lord Mountbatten was killed by IRA terrorists in an explosion of his yacht, Cramer wrote and The Inquirer published this lede on the funeral:

LONDON – Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, born prince of the house of Battenberg, nephew of Czar Nicholas II, great-grandson of Queen Victoria, created Earl Mountbatten of Burma, Knight of the Garter, privy-councillor, holder of the Order of Merit, Knight Grand Cross of the Bath, Knight Grand Commander of the Star of India, Knight Grand Cross of Royal Victorian Order, Knight Grand Commander of the Indian Empire, Companion of the Distinguished Service Order and Baron Romsey of Southampton, got a funeral yesterday that became his lineage and life.

That lede provoked a debate in the newsroom. Some focused on its 87-word length, saying that if you read it aloud you’d run out of breath before reaching the period. There were those who said it caricatured a great man, making light of the British peerage. There were those, myself included, who thought it brilliantly captured the bygone British era of which Mountbatten was the last heroic figure. As the debate raged, Gene Foreman emerged from his office and strode to the bulletin board nearest the copy desk in the middle of the newsroom. On it he thumbtacked a typed note admonishing all of us that the word “yesterday” had been misplaced in the lede of the Mountbatten story.

Never has there been a newspaper editor more focused on fact, honesty, reality, ethics, truth, accuracy, style.

Without either of the Genes, the remaking of The Inquirer likely would have collapsed. With the two as a team, yin and yang, it prospered as we performed a little more enterprisingly and a little more carefully each day. Many of us came to regard working for the Genes as the golden era of our careers. Plus it was great fun. They fostered the kind of newsroom in which on one of Gene Foreman’s birthdays his fanatical devotion to the Philadelphia Phillies could be celebrated by creating a huge sheet cake on which there was a deliberate typo in the icing spelling Foreman’s name. Just as Gene was about to cut the “cake,” it popped open and up came Larry Bowa, the Phillies’ shortstop. I’ve often thought Foreman identified with Bowa because both did their utmost to perform at a high level without error. Gene certainly deserved a gold glove for editing. When Gene Foreman retired in 1998 after a quarter-century at The Inquirer, the staff threw a huge family picnic in his honor. One of the mementoes was a “baseball” card celebrating how much he loved both journalism and his baseball team.

As Gene’s editing career wound down, Penn State arranged for him to continue to advocate best practices by joining the journalism faculty. Every week, Foreman made the rigorous round-trip from his home outside Philadelphia to the main campus in State College. Four noteworthy things happened:


1 Students aspiring to careers in journalism came to revere him for his meticulous teaching and his energetic mentoring. Here’s how Leann Frola, class of ‘06 and now a copy editor at the Dallas Morning News, put it:

Professor Foreman was my most influential teacher at Penn State. Not only did he give me a solid foundation for copy editing and ethical journalism, he went above and beyond to help me with my career. Inside the classroom, he was impeccably organized and made each grading point count. He taught in a way that challenged us to intimately learn the material. And he was sure to explain why what we learned mattered. Professor Foreman was also a great resource outside the classroom. He made me aware of editing opportunities and encouraged me to work hard and apply for them. At his urging, I applied for a program that led me to the job I have today.

2 Foreman’s peers on the faculty honored him for his skill as a teacher.

3 His car died on a long uphill climb in the Alleghenies.

4 Professor Foreman once more set about standardizing how journalism ought to be practiced.

In preparing to teach ethics, Gene concluded that there were people in the craft and the academy who advocated high-minded practices, but no single text that explained to his satisfaction why and how journalism should be done right. Over nearly a decade he kept pulling together material from everywhere he could find it – accounts of best practices, case studies of news coverage gone awry, quotations from exemplars of the craft, and breaking news about how news was being broken in print, on the air and online.

Now he has put all of it, and more, into this book. The Ethical Journalist: Making Responsible Decisions in the Pursuit of News is like GPS for sound decision-making. It will not tell you what path to take but rather where you are on the journey to an ethical decision. It is invaluable for anyone who practices or cares about the craft. It is up-to-the-minute in relevance. It will serve not merely to teach but to exemplify Gene Foreman’s conviction that while there are immutable principles to guide the honest and careful delivery of news, ethical values are not static but alive. Standards cannot merely be proclaimed, they must be experienced, for every day, every broadcast, every edition, every deadline brings some unforeseen wrinkle in the who, what, when, where, why and how of the world.

James M. Naughton

(James M. Naughton headed the Poynter Institute of Media Studies at St. Petersburg, Florida, from 1996 to 2003 and is its president emeritus. He joined The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1977 and was the paper’s executive editor when he left for Poynter. Before joining The Inquirer, he was The New York Times’ White House correspondent during the Nixon and Ford administrations.)


This book is intended to inform your professional life, and perhaps save your career from egregious behavior.

Technically, it is published as a textbook for college courses in journalism ethics and communications ethics, and as the ethics textbook in a course combining journalism ethics and law. I hope that practicing journalists – especially young journalists who did not take journalism courses in college – also will find it useful for its comprehensive discussion of the standards of the profession.

If you fit those categories of student journalist and practicing journalist, you will find yourself addressed directly in this book. I want to reach out to you in two ways: first, to help you learn to make ethically defensible decisions in the practice of journalism; and second, to give you the benefit of the thinking of generations of professionals and scholars that resulted in today’s consensus guidelines for ethical conduct.

With these goals in mind, I have divided the book into two parts. Part I examines ethics in a general way, shows the relevance of ethics to journalism, and outlines a decision-making strategy. Part II discusses specific subject areas in which journalists frequently confront ethical problems.

Throughout the book, the consensus guidelines are explained, not to dictate your decision-making but to offer a starting point for thinking through the issues. The idea is that you don’t have to start from a zero base; you can build on the best thinking of your predecessors. Where there is disagreement in the profession, I have noted that, too. All this is fodder for classroom discussion.

The book is largely the product of my half-century in journalism – more than 41 years in the newsroom and more than eight as a college professor. Although my approach is an entirely practical one of trying to improve decision-making in the profession, I have been influenced by ethics scholars as well as newsroom colleagues. One theme of the book is the value of ethical theory as a resource in the decision process. In my role as a longtime newspaper managing editor, I acknowledge that the newsroom has benefited from the scholars’ thoughtful analysis of issues whose nuances we sometimes overlooked as we focused on the next deadline.

To learn journalistic techniques like writing headlines for a website, I presume that you will take other courses and read other textbooks. In contrast, the purpose of this book is to encourage you to ponder the ethical ramifications of what journalists do, whether the consumer gets the news from a newspaper or a TV set or a computer screen or a hand-held device.

The case studies and other actual experiences of journalists recounted in this book illustrate the ethical choices you may have to make. Those experiences have occurred in all types of news media – print, broadcast, and, though it is a far newer platform, online. As the delivery of news increasingly migrates to the web, more and more of these challenges will be evident there. Knowing how journalists have dealt with them in any medium will be useful to you.

The timeless values of journalism apply to online journalists no less than they do to their counterparts in print and broadcast. These values are explained in the book’s first 17 chapters. And, because online journalism presents additional ethics issues that are specific to the medium, Chapter 18 of the book is devoted exclusively to discussing those issues. Similarly, the specific issues of visual journalism are covered in Chapter 19. Since journalists may be called on to deliver the news in multiple media, these chapters – along with Chapter 20, Ethics in the Changing Media Environment – are essential to gaining an understanding of the role that ethics should play in the new environment.

On the book’s accompanying website, you will find a trove of additional resources: more readings in print and online, more case studies, and related videos and still photographs. The texts of reports and articles cited in the chapters can be accessed by clicking on the hyperlinks. You can expand the book’s content to an almost infinite degree by following the links – much in the way that online journalists offer their audience the ability to read the documents underpinning their reporting.

The journalists’ decisions in the book’s examples are open to debate, which is precisely why you should study them. If you decide that the journalist involved in a case study made a mistake, bear in mind that in nearly every instance those were mistakes of the head and not of the heart. In teaching the journalism ethics course 16 semesters, I frequently told my students of my own decisions that I regretted. In many ways, learning journalism ethics is about learning from our mistakes.

Gene Foreman
St. Davids, Pennsylvania, April 2009


As I conducted the research for this textbook, I shamelessly exploited the friend-ships I forged in my rewarding careers in the newsroom and the academy. In each career, I had the privilege of working alongside people who are among the best in their chosen line of work. The readers of The Ethical Journalist will benefit from the wisdom they shared with me.

My research was supported by a generous grant from the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communications, housed in the College of Communications at Pennsylvania State University. The Page Center grant made it possible for Shannon Miller Kahle, a doctoral student in media studies at Penn State, to assist me throughout calendar 2008. It’s hard for me to imagine completing this project without Shannon’s capable research. For the grant, I especially thank associate dean John Nichols and curriculum and research director Cinda Kostyak.

Doug Anderson, Dean of the College and himself the coauthor of a popular newswriting textbook, was an enthusiastic supporter of the project from the beginning. Debora Cheney, the Foster Librarian at Penn State, contributed valuable research and advice throughout.

The manuscript was immeasurably improved by the careful reading of my editors: former Philadelphia Inquirer colleagues Steve Seplow and Jim Naughton, and Wiley-Blackwell’s Elsa Peterson. Steve and Jim approached the task as seasoned practitioners of journalism and Elsa as an experienced editor of textbooks. Theirs was an indispensable combination. Not only did my editors gently repair mistakes and point out things I had overlooked, they also were sources of encouragement throughout the writing phase. Others who graciously read and commented on specific chapters or case studies were Fred Blevens, Bill Dedman, Rick Edmonds, Ron Farrar, Lucinda Hahn, Dennis Hetzel, Tom Kennedy, Devon Lash, Fred Mann, Arlene Notoro Morgan, Bob Richards, Ford Risley, Bob Steele, and Ted Vaden.

This text reflects the research and writing of many ethics scholars. Their work is cited in the chapter endnotes, but I would like to make special mention of three who are my longtime mentors: Louis W. Hodges, the inaugural Knight Professor of Ethics in Journalism at Washington and Lee University; Bob Steele, Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at the Poynter Institute and Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at DePauw University; and Michael Josephson, who switched in mid-career from law professor to ethicist, a role in which he champions character-building for children and advises people in many occupations, including journalism.

This text owes much to Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel’s The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect, which defines the principles that contemporary journalists stand for. Four other books were especially useful. Bob Haiman and Av Westin wrote wonderfully detailed “best practices” books – Haiman for newspapers and Westin for television – as part of The Freedom Forum’s Free Press/Fair Press Study directed by Bob Giles. The Authentic Voice by Arlene Notoro Morgan, Alice Irene Pifer, and Keith Woods is an essential guide for writing about a diverse, multicultural society. For a clear discussion of news values on the World Wide Web, I benefited from Online Journalism Ethics: Traditions and Transitions by Cecilia Friend and Jane B. Singer.

The Poynter Institute at St. Petersburg, Florida, provides an immense service to journalism with its training and research programs. Jim Naughton, who headed Poynter for a decade after leaving The Inquirer, was my resource on many topics in addition to serving as an editor of the manuscript. In addition to Naughton and Bob Steele, Poynter folks who assisted me in this project were Bob Haiman, who like Naughton is a president emeritus of Poynter; Roy Peter Clark, Rick Edmonds, Don Fry, Kenny Irby, Bill Mitchell, David Shedden, Al Tompkins, Butch Ward, and Keith Woods. The essays of others at Poynter are quoted in the text, and many of the vignettes and case studies originated in Jim Romenesko’s news-media blog on poynteronline.

American Journalism Review, Columbia Journalism Review, and Nieman Reports are powerful forces in journalism ethics, and they too influenced this text. Rem Rieder, editor of AJR, was particularly helpful in arranging for my manuscript to include condensations of articles from his magazine.

For help at various points in the research, I tapped the journalism organizations: Scott Bosley and Craig Branson of the American Society of News Editors; Mark Mittelstadt of the Associated Press Managing Editors; Barbara Cochran, Kathleen Graham, and Carol Knopes of the Radio-Television News Directors Foundation; and Kinsey Wilson and Ken Sands of the Online News Association.

I pestered other old and new friends for their thoughts about ethics in the profession we love. I thank them all: Vin Alabiso, Mike Arrieta-Walden, Tony Barbieri, Don Barlett, John Beale, Jim Bettinger, Mark Bowden, Joann Byrd, Barney Calame, John Carroll, Kathleen Carroll, Andrew Cassel, Jerry Ceppos, Curt Chandler, Alex Cruden, John Curley, Bill Dedman, Jere Downs, Ernie Dumas, Deni Elliott, Russ Eshleman, David Folkenflik, Russell Frank, Tommy Gibbons, Bob Giles, Amy Goldstein, Howard Goodman, Joe Grimm, Kevin Hagopian, Marie Hardin, Aim é e Harris, Katherine Hatton, Gary Haynes, Eric Hegedus, Clark Hoyt, Anne Hull, Tony Insolia, Gerald Jordan, Max King, Hank Klibanoff, Tom Kunkel, Ann Kuskowski, Paul Martin Lester, Norman Lewis, Emilie Lounsberry, Dianne Lynch, Reid MacCluggage, Fred Mann, Bill Marimow, John McMeel, Eric Mencher, Gwenn Miller, Bob Mong, Malcolm Moran, Arlene Notoro Morgan, Ron Ostrow, Geneva Overholser, Patrick Parsons, Chris Peck, Deborah Potter, Jeff Price, Mike Pride, Roy Reed, Bob Richards, Rem Rieder, Chris Ritchie, Gene Roberts, Sandra Rowe, Nila Saliba, John Sanchez, Mark Schaver, Jeff Schogol, Jane Shoemaker, Steve Stecklow, Jim Steele, David Sullivan, Lil Swanson, Mike Vitez, Thor Wasbotten, Sherman Williams, David Zeeck, Wendy Zomparelli, and David Zucchino. I also thank the journalists who gave permission for their writing to be repackaged as Point of View essays in the book or on the accompanying website, and the former Penn State students who allowed me to incorporate their research into several of the case studies. All are credited where their work appears. I thank Martha Shirk for allowing me to reprint the writing of her late husband, William F. Woo.

Two former Inquirer colleagues spent hours helping me with the book’s illustrations: Bill Marsh produced the graphics, and Clem Murray collected and processed the photographs. Gary Haynes, Hal Buell, and Simon Li also helped in locating photographs. Tony Auth created an editorial cartoon especially for this book; it is in Chapter 18.

Finally, I thank my new friends at Wiley-Blackwell for guiding my work into print. Elizabeth Swayze, who made the decision to publish The Ethical Journalist, will always have my gratitude for the confidence she showed in this rookie author. Mervyn Thomas meticulously reviewed the manuscript and the research notes, spotting typos and suggesting deft improvements in phrasing. Margot Morse, Desir é e Zicko, and Jana Pollack were unfailingly helpful and cheerful as we journeyed through the process of creating a book.

Gene Foreman
St. Davids, Pennsylvania, April 2009

Part I

A Foundation for Making Ethical Decisions

This part of the book will prepare you to make ethical decisions in journalism.

Chapter 1 explains why journalists should understand ethics and apply ethical principles in their decision-making.

Chapter 2 explores the history of ethics and the way that members of society develop their ethical values.

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 discuss journalism’s role in society, the shared values of the profession, and the often tenuous relationship of journalism and the public.

Chapters 6, 7, and 8 lay the foundation for moral decision-making in journalism, which is the goal of this course in applied ethics. Chapter 6 discusses classic ethical theories; Chapter 7, codes of ethics; and Chapter 8, the decision process.