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Conference Shadid Award sports journalism

Videos of sessions, award presentations and the keynote from Conference 2015 are now posted


For those unable to attend or watch live online, we have now posted videos and social media summaries from Fair or Foul: Ethics and Sports Journalism, our seventh annual conference on journalism ethics.  Complete archives for the 2015 conference and all preceding conferences may be found at our Annual Ethics Conferences website.

The links below will take you to Individual session pages:

Conference Program (PDF)

If you have questions or would like to be added to our mailing list, please contact

Global Journalist Safety

Protecting freelancers: A Conversation with Joel Simon of the Committee to Protect Journalists


When I first heard that the Committee to Protect Journalists had introduced a new set of standards on the protection of freelancers, I was skeptical. Would any of the major news organizations publicly embrace these standards? Even more importantly, would they live by them?

It’s not that news editors don’t care about the journalists they hire. It’s just that taking care of freelancers costs a lot of money, money that news organizations are scrambling to save in the era of budget cuts, layoffs, and the closure of international news bureaus. When we’re talking about “big brand” news reporting, in other words, we’re talking about huge machines—machines that are bigger than any individual news executive. Still, individual freelancers are dying more and more frequently, pointing to the timeliness of this new set of standards.

Only two months after the CPJ’s announcement, it’s still too early to tell what impact the standards will have. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma’s website provides a list of the news organizations that endorsed this call for reform, and the list includes some venerable names: The Associated Press and the BBC, just to mention a few. But it’s difficult to say exactly how these standards—remarkable in their breadth and commendable in their goals—will be applied.

For media ethicists like me, the question of application is key. I specialize in global journalism ethics, and I want to think past the perpetual critique of what journalists should be doing for their public. While that question remains vital to the field of media ethics, it is also essential that we think about the ethical treatment of the journalists themselves. How are major news organizations grappling with the question of safety in the field, for example, and what do these organizations owe to the myriad news employees who do not possess that increasingly elusive title—that of the “staff correspondent?”

I recently spoke with CPJ executive director Joel Simon, and he made an important point: Even when we’re talking about the best practices for ensuring the safety of journalists, we should avoid abstract concepts. In order to do the question justice, we need to think more precisely about the historical, economic, and geopolitical context in which a given news organization is operating. Here’s an edited account of our conversation.

LP:       What could managing editors and news directors do to make war correspondents safer?

JS:       First of all, most of the violence committed against journalists is not committed against international journalists from newsrooms overseen by managing editors. Most of the journalists who are killed in conflict zones are local journalists, and they’re targeted because of their coverage. And a much smaller percentage of them are international correspondents, and most of those are actually crossfire incidents. So certainly when you’re talking about international correspondents and you have a historical perspective, I think safety training is very helpful. And there has been more of an acceptance and recognition of the importance of adequate security training and equipment. But if you look at the information ecosystem, then the role that managing editors can play is fairly limited because many of the folks who are in this ecosystem and providing information about conflicts are certainly not international or Western correspondents. And some of them don’t want to even necessarily self-identify as journalists.

LP:      So, in terms of this ecosystem, what would you say about how it’s been changing—the relationship between these big news brands and the outsourcing of labor to these less protected news employees?

JS:       Well, look. I spent my whole career as a freelance journalist in Latin America. So, this is not a new phenomenon. There’s always been a reliance on freelancers, particularly in these sorts of “second tier” conflicts, for the kind of things that may not have made the front pages every day, but you had to cover. But it’s become more pronounced for a variety of reasons. One is that the media industry is less financially stable because the revenue stream has been disrupted by technology, and so they have fewer resources to support fully staffed bureaus. And that’s been well documented, and everyone knows all about that. Then you’ve got the risk profile. In some parts of the world—this is not true everywhere, but certainly in some parts of the world—being a Westerner or being a Western journalist is so dangerous that you’re not able to move around in a way that would allow you to carry out the most basic kind of reporting. So you need to rely on local people who can blend in more easily. And the third thing is that the technology has made it possible for people who are in the right place at the right time to engage in journalism and feed this news cycle. There’s always been this kind of—now it would be called crowdsourcing—element to covering major global events. But now these people can participate directly. That changes the dynamic. And the last thing I would mention is that when you look at conflict zones and the role that journalists have played historically, what’s made journalists relatively safe in conflict zones is their utility to all parties. And that utility was a function of the collective information monopoly that journalists exercised. You wanted to communicate even if you were in a pretty rough neighborhood and you were kind of unsafe for yourself. You really didn’t have a choice other than to talk to the media. So the media was inherently useful, and that helped make journalists safe. And now that’s no longer the case. There are alternative ways of communicating, particularly if you’re communicating with likeminded people or supporters. And so journalists are less essential, and that’s also had a profound impact that sort of recalibrated the risk in many parts of the world.

LP:      What would you say is the responsibility for safety or care that should be taken, when it comes to these local news employees or freelancers?

JS:       We’ve developed guidelines, and they have been endorsed by a number of media organizations. And they try to lay out these responsibilities. They focus more on assignments, but they lay out pretty clearly what the obligations of editors and media companies are and what the obligations of journalists and the freelancers themselves are, in terms of training and professionalism. The issue is complex because you’re dealing with different communities. And you’re also dealing with different kinds of media organizations. Some are relatively large and have the resources to support training and pay at a level that allows freelancers to invest in the kind of equipment and training they need. And some are less well funded and have a different culture. And it’s hard to get them to take on this responsibility. There are some local media outlets that really have far fewer resources and don’t necessarily have the same kind of journalistic culture. Some of them are highly partisan or are compromised in some other way. And then you’re dealing with different communities. You’re dealing with staff correspondents, and you’re dealing with international freelancers, and you’re dealing with local fixers and stringers, and you’re dealing with local journalists who are working for local media. And then the international media is picking up information from those sources. I think the broadest answer is to say that if you are an international news organization, you need to have the broadest possible vision and understanding for this information ecosystem, and recognize that you have a responsibility not only for the individual that you employ or have contracted but for all the different pieces that allow that person to function.

LP:      Is there anything in place to hold people accountable for this responsibility?

JS:       These guidelines are really directed at international news organizations hiring international freelancers. They don’t really address you if you’re a Mexican newspaper and you’re based in Mexico City and you’ve got a stringer. Or you’re a Pakistani newspaper and you have a stringer in the FATA. Then, these guidelines are going to seem very, very aspirational. I mean, theoretically they should apply, but the practical matter is that they would not. So these guidelines are really for international news organizations hiring international freelancers. So, I don’t think there is accountability. I mean, there’s accountability within news organizations. There’s accountability created by the fact that there is some attention being paid to these lapses, and there’s the sort of shame factor that could function sometimes. But there’s no mechanism across the industry to ensure accountability.

LP:      I’m also wondering about the information that the CPJ gathers on sexual assault in the field.

JS:       We did a big project looking at this issue. We don’t have good data on sexual violence. It’s very difficult to document because people are reluctant to speak about it in many circumstances. They don’t self-report. It’s not always covered. So we’ve made more of an effort to document sexual assault, but we don’t have comprehensive, comparative statistics.

LP:      And what was it that made you launch the project and start making more of an effort? When would you say that happened?

JS:       There was a lot of awareness around this following the attacks against journalists in Tahrir Square and the systematic harassment of female journalists covering those events. More journalists came forward and began talking about this. And of course, sexualized violence predominantly affects women, but it also affects men. We found both men and women speaking out about this and talking about their experience. That really created a period of awareness and reflection. That is when we made that commitment to do a better job of documenting these kinds of violations.

LP:      What would you say is the top ethical concern right now when it comes to war reporting? What is the most current ethical question you’re trying to answer?

JS:       I think whenever you ask these questions, it’s really important that you define the scope. What do you mean by war reporting? Are we talking about what is the ethical debate that’s happening in the Afghan media or are you talking about the BBC? Or are you talking about Mexican news organizations covering the drug war? Or are you talking about Syria and international news organizations and the way they cover that? Major international news organizations have a whole series of ethical obligations. I would say the greatest challenge that they’re facing now, when it comes to these kinds of issues, I think there are two challenges: One is the relationship with freelancers. And the second is the duty of care for staff who are facing—and this applies to freelancers—extraordinary risk, particularly the risk of kidnapping or the vulnerability to psychological injury, like post-traumatic stress. How do you care for the people you employ who are exposed to those kinds of risks? So it’s their relationship with freelancers and it’s the full range of duty of care for your people.

[Featured image credit: Mstyslav Chernov/Wikimedia Commons]


Kluwe brings player perspective to this year’s ethics conference

Coverage of the 2015 Ethics Conference can be found here, where you can find updated coverage of panel discussions, keynote addresses, and different breakout sessions hosted at the conference.

Chris Kluwe will bring an athlete’s perspective to Fair of Foul: Ethics and Sports Journalism, this year’s Center for Journalism Ethics conference.

A former NFL punter, Kluwe has continued to advocate for same sex marriage and gay rights. His stance on these beliefs is why he is on the panel discussion “Out of Bounds? Criticism and Vitriol in Sports.”

His nine-year NFL career spanned three teams, the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings, and Oakland Raiders, with seven of them as the punter for the Vikings.

Kluwe had an online blog for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, which he quit after the newspaper published an editorial for the ban of same-sex marriage. It was not that he disagreed with their stance; it was how they portrayed the editorial that pushed him over the line. He tweeted, “What concerns me is them presenting a completely biased piece (word choice, examples used, conclusions) as a neutral position. That’s not only irresponsible journalism, it’s massively hypocritical.”

On April 30, 2013, Kluwe wrote an article on Deadspin describing his thoughts on why he was released by the Vikings titled “I was an NFL Player Until I Was Fired By Two Cowards And A Bigot.”

As an NFL player with experience as an opinion writer, Kluwe understands how criticism in sports journalism and the ethics behind it. Journalism Professor James Baughman, ESPN Milwaukee sports writer Jason Wilde, and ESPN Chicago columnist Melissa Issacson will join Kluwe on the panel discussion.

Conference Shadid Award

2015 Shadid Ethics Award honors Chicago Tribune staff


Coverage of the 2015 Ethics Conference can be found here, where you can find updated coverage of panel discussions, keynote addresses, and different breakout sessions hosted at the conference.

Three Chicago Tribune reporters and a photographer are recipients of the 2015 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics. Their revelations about serious abuses in Illinois’ juvenile justice system brought about reforms and led to the resignation of the director of the state Department of Children and Family Services.

Reporters David Jackson, Gary Marx and Duaa Eldeib along with photographer Anthony Souffle conducted a one-year investigation to produce a five-part multimedia series revealing that hundreds of Illinois wards were assaulted and raped by their peers each year in understaffed and violent institutions.

The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison makes the award annually to recognize and promote high ethical standards among journalists. The honor carries a $1,000 prize and will be presented at the center’s annual ethics conference in Madison April 10.

“While their investigative work was outstanding, the judges were most impressed with the care taken by these journalists to protect the privacy and best interests of the victims whose stories they told,” said the head of the judging committee, Professor Emeritus Jack Mitchell.

Reporters assured all interview subjects that they could determine what, if any, of the stories they told would be published. In one example, a girl they interviewed on video had second thoughts about her compelling story just before publication, and the reporters honored her request to withhold it and thanked her for what she had taught them.

Ethics center director Robert Drechsel observed that ethical journalism entails seeking truth while minimizing harm and said this series did both.

The award is named for Anthony Shadid, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison who died in 2012 while on a reporting assignment for the New York Times. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for his courageous and insightful foreign correspondence. He had been a member of the ethics center’s advisory board and was a strong supporter of public interest journalism and the importance of discussion of journalism ethics.

The April 10 conference on the UW-Madison campus will address ethics and sports journalism. The event is open to the public. Registration is open through April 3 at

The Tribune entry prevailed over four other strong finalists for the award:

  • Fox 31 Television in Denver for the decisions it made about reporting on Medicaid “super utilizers;”
  • The Pittsburgh Tribune Review for pursuit of an apparent cover-up of the killing of civilians by an American in Iraq;
  • Pro Publica for placing raw Medicare data in context in its “Treatment Trackers” project; and
  • The Tulsa World for its aggressive, yet sensitive, coverage of a botched execution by the state of Oklahoma.
sports journalism

Sports marketing deal between USA Today and IndyCar raises ethical issues

The USA Today Sports Media Group and the IndyCar Series have entered into a deal that appears to combine news coverage and advertising that some observer find ethically disconcerting, according to a report in the Indianapolis Business Journal.

The agreement, initiated by USA Today, promises to bring more attention to open wheel racing, and will provide USA Today journalists with enhanced access to

Writing for IBJ, Anthony Schoettle reports that the agreement, initiated by USA Today, promises to bring more attention to open wheel racing, and will provide USA Today journalists with enhanced access.

As part of the deal announced Feb. 26, USA Today, owned by Indianapolis Star parent Virginia-based Gannett Co. Inc., has agreed to write pre- and post-race stories for every IndyCar race and produce special sections around the sport and its drivers. The news organization also agreed to expand its coverage of IndyCar on In return, IndyCar promised to give USA Today reporters preferred access to series officials, team owners and drivers, and track owners.

IndyCar also promised to give USA Today advertising sales representatives access to its series and team sponsors. USA Today, IndyCar officials said, will be invited to a number of “sponsor summits” and other networking events.

While marketers associated with IndyCar are excited about the potential boost in awareness and attention to the sport, Schoettle notes that the deal raises concerns among some media ethicists, including the risk of bias in coverage, a chilling effect on the coverage efforts by other news organizations, and the blurring of advertising and editorial content.

“When you make a deal that ties coverage to advertising and marketing in a way that can erode journalistic independence, you have a serious ethical issue,” [Bob] Steele said. “Readers must be confident that all news reporting is driven by journalistic principles and ethical standards and not by business values. This relationship certainly raises at the minimum a yellow flag and perhaps some serious red flags.” [Steele is the Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a think tank in St. Petersburg, Florida.]

Content agreements such as the one with IndyCar are not new for USA Today.  The organization has in place similar deals with both NASCAR and the PGA.

Marketing and media arrangements such at the USA Today/IndyCar deal are among the types of ethical issues in sports journalism that will be discussed at the UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics seventh annual conference, Fair or Foul: Ethics and Sports Journalism on April 10.  Additional details and recitation information for the conference, which is open to the public, can be found here

Read the entire article at


Feature articles

Beyond Self-Regulation: Creating a National Coalition


How does a society deal with what it considers to be unethical use of the freedom to publish?

Dictators imprison journalists. Democracies use a mix of legal and non-legal mechanisms, from libel laws to press councils.

In the United States, journalists have long countered calls for greater legal regulation by appealing to an ethical ideal — the “self-regulation” of the press.

The idea, on the face of it, is simple. Like other professions, journalists would follow and enforce their own norms of conduct, rather than place it in the hands of government agencies.

For those who hope that self-regulation is still a valid idea, I have bad news from the expanding frontiers of today’s digital journalism.

Self-regulation is no longer a clear and coherent ethical ideal. The problem is not the old objection that self-regulation struggles in practice. Yes, too many news outlets ignore ethical standards with little consequence.

The problem is deeper. The very idea of self-regulation by professional journalists no longer makes sense in an era of digital, global media. At best, self-regulation applies only to the diminishing domain of mainstream professional journalists.

As a free press supporter, I worry about this decline in the ideal.

It leaves room for demagogues to argue that, if self-regulation is a myth, the only alternative is greater legal and social regulation of the news media.

Therefore, I propose that we get to work to construct a new idea for supporting standards. We need a society-wide notion of media responsibility. Moreover, we need new public structures that allow society as a whole to discuss, monitor and criticize the ethics of journalism practice.

I call for the creation of what I call the National Coalition for Media Standards.

The coalition would be a new way of “doing” journalism ethics in the public sphere, adjusted to new media. It would include the public as an important part of the ethics process.

Let me explain, starting with why self-regulation is an idea collapsing from within.

Why self-regulation?

Journalism self-regulation and ethics were born together, as ethical twins, in the early 1900s, as journalists created professional associations with codes of ethics. For the first time, journalists espoused a collective responsibility for the practice and sought common standards.

Journalists made a group commitment to serve the public good. They articulated that responsibility in terms of the now familiar principles of truth-telling, objectivity, separation of news and opinion, and editorial independence.

They also talked about their professionalism and their codes of ethics as sufficient to regulate their conduct. Who watches the watchdog? The watchdog itself.

It is no accident that professional ethics and self-regulation were linked so closely.

Both developments were a response to a rising public worry about the power of the new mass commercial press. Like today, the public accused journalists of being sensational, inaccurate and biased, and advancing their own interests first.

This public decline in confidence, combined with wartime calls for censorship, prompted governments of the era to threaten legal restrictions on professional media practitioners, including film producers and advertisers.

Self-regulation was journalism’s rhetorical response to threats against its freedom and lagging public support. In practice, the idea proved to be imperfect. Many news outlets ignored codes of ethics or rejected group mechanisms such as press councils. Public confidence declined as media scandals mounted and the influence of power and business on media grew.

Self-regulation’s fatal blow

The idea of self-regulation entails the following three conditions: (1) an ability to clearly recognize who is a journalist, i.e., who is a member of the profession; (2) a willingness among group members to self-regulate; (3) and substantial agreement on principles for critiquing conduct.

By the turn of this century, the technology-driven media revolution, with its democratization of media, began to undermine all three conditions.

First, the revolution created many forms of nonprofessional, nonmainstream journalism, muddying the water as to who is a journalist. Self-regulation was meant to apply only to mainstream professional journalists. But does self-regulation apply to nonprofessionals? To whom does the ideal apply?

Second, presume that we can find a way to define “journalist” to include most professional and nonprofessional practitioners. Would sufficient numbers of this amorphous group be willing to come together to practice self-regulation? Is the idea of “collective responsibility” viable in today’s chaotic media universe?

Third, we lack widespread agreement on the norms that would guide self-regulation across multiple media platforms. What code should be adopted? Almost every principle of professional self-regulation, from objectivity to impartiality, is in question.

Meanwhile, glaring failures of self-regulation, such as the phone hacking scandal in Britain, undermine the legitimacy of self-regulation. People who contend that the media can self-regulate are laughed out of the court of public opinion.

So we face two large questions for self-regulation: The self-regulation of whom ­– which journalists? And the self-regulation of what – what norms?

Society-wide responsibility

I suggest we start by formulating a new idea to replace self-regulation.

First, we eliminate the term “regulation.” The term is misleading because it suggests that we have legal mechanisms in mind. Second, we eliminate the “self” in “self-regulation” which refers to professional journalists and replace it with a process that includes citizens.

Self-regulation in journalism has been a closed, inward-looking approach to ethics. It presumes that ethics belongs to journalists. They create the codes; they enforce them.

But the responsibility for good journalism is a collective responsibility of all of society. Citizens, social groups and citizen journalists should be an intrinsic part of the nationwide process for supporting media standards.

Journalism ethics starts with asking what sorts of media our democracy needs. When it comes to this question, we all have a deep interest.

A national coalition

So the question becomes: How do we create an open process? What public institutions might realize this ideal?

I propose that movers and shakers in the media world form a National Coalition for Media Standards. The coalition would unite journalists and nonjournalists in analyzing and supporting standards across all forms of journalism.

I see the coalition as the hub of a wheel where the spokes link to media agencies, societies and individuals that care about democratic media. It would not replace existing agencies. It would be a “meta” organization that coordinates activity and partners with groups.

The coalition would have an office at a center for ethics, say at a university. It would be funded by major foundations, partners, journalism associations and philanthropic individuals.

The coalition would be led by a director and a large board. Forty percent of the board would be journalists from all forms of media; 15 percent would be people who study and teach journalism and its ethics; 20 percent would come from groups that are substantially affected by media coverage, e.g. minority groups; 10 percent would be people with experience in press regulation, e.g., ombudsmen, standards editors; and 15 percent would be citizens from various walks of life.

What would be the main activities of the coalition?

First, study the health of the media system at large and trends in media ethics, culminating in annual high-profile reports on the state of media ethics.

Second, investigate and publicly comment on individual cases of bad practice. Support standards by widespread public discussion and criticism. Praise and support good journalism.

Third, assist in reconstructing ethics for digital news media. Among the first projects would be addressing the questions raised above – who is a journalist and what common standards might unite journalists across platforms?

Fourth, take on a public education mission. Convene workshops and conferences, publish guidelines and teaching modules, and engage the public in addressing issues.

All of us can think of obstacles to the creation of this coalition, or a similar agency. I am acutely aware of these lurking complexities. Yet we have to start fundamental reform of journalism ethics from somewhere.

What is important is that people who care about responsible journalism imagine – and then create – a new way to deal with the difficult and new ethical issues of communication in a media-lined world.

Self-regulation within a profession is dead. Long live society-wide engagement.

Stephen J. A. Ward is an internationally recognized media ethicist, author and educator. He is Distinguished Lecturer of Ethics at the University of British Columbia, Courtesy Professor at the University of Oregon, and founding director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin.

[Image credit: Cartoon by William Barritt, first published in “Vim”, v. 1, no. 2, 29 June 1898. Via Library of Congress website; public domain]

Shadid Award

Finalists for the 2015 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics announced

Anthony Shadid talks with journalism students in 2010. (Photo by Bryce Richter)

The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has named five finalists for the 2015 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics.

  • Fox 31 Denver for the decisions it made about including specific cases in reporting on Medicaid “super utilizers.”
  • The Chicago Tribune for its sensitivity toward sources while reporting on the harsh treatment of juveniles held in detention.
  • The Pittsburgh Tribune Review for pursuit of an apparent cover-up of the killing of civilians by an American in Iraq.
  • Pro Publica for placing raw Medicare data in context in its “Treatment Trackers” project.
  • The Tulsa World for its aggressive, yet sensitive, coverage of a botched execution by the state of Oklahoma.

“While the world often focuses on journalistic sins, we were impressed with the thought and care these organizations gave to serving the public interest responsibly,” says Jack Mitchell, chair of the Shadid Award selection committee and professor emeritus at the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The award honors journalists whose reporting on a specific story or series best exemplifies four key criteria: accountability, independence, commitment to finding truth and minimizing harm. The winner will receive a $1,000 prize and a trip to Madison, where the award will be bestowed at the Center for Journalism Ethics annual conference.

The award is the namesake of journalist Anthony Shadid, a graduate of the UW-Madison, who died in 2012 while crossing the Syrian border on a reporting assignment for the New York Times. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for his courageous and insightful foreign correspondence. Shadid sat on the ethics center’s advisory board and strongly supported its efforts to promote public interest journalism and stimulate discussion about journalism ethics.

“The award reflects the standards Anthony espoused and made central to his work,” says Robert Drechsel, James E. Burgess chair in journalism ethics and the center’s director. “The contest offers an opportunity to model and honor the best in journalistic practice at a time when journalists often find themselves under withering criticism.”

Last year’s award winner was the Associated Press and staffers Adam Goldman, Matt Apuzzo and Ted Bridis for their handling of the story of the disappearance of an American businessman/CIA employee in Iran.

The Center for Journalism Ethics conference this year will address ethics and sports journalism. The keynoter will be Robert Lipsyte, veteran sports journalist, author and recent ombudsman for ESPN. The program will include panels on money and sports journalism, privacy, investigating sports, the representation of minorities in sports journalism, and the bounds of civil discourse. The conference takes place in Madison on April 10. Registration information can be found at

Feature articles Global

A ‘Right to Offend’ Should be Balanced by a ‘Duty to Mend’


In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, I and other journalists in Western democracies deplored the violence and defended freedom of expression against terrorism.

A common defense of the satirical magazine’s barbed cartoons was “the right to offend.” Some commentators made the principle absolute, and then concluded the following: If news media did not republish offending material, their editors were moral cowards.

Legally, this response has its heart in the right place. But, ethically, it comes up short in three places:

First, the issue is inadequately framed as mainly a legal question of the right to offend, and the main complaint is that the cartoons offend a religious group.

For example, reports of a “Nous Sommes Tous Charlie” symposium at the Missouri School of Journalism focused on the legal aspect of free speech, and what constitutes hate speech.

Such discussions are important, but the Hebdo case is much more than that. It is a question of ethics, journalistic duties, tensions within plural societies and the role of media.

Second, the right to publish is not absolute. Such a view trivializes legitimate questions about using media to offend deeply held beliefs and to create hostile environments. We can defend offensive speech without absolutes or trivialization.

Photo by Valentina Calà, and reused here with Creative Commons.

Photo by Valentina Calà, and reused here with Creative Commons license.

We need to reframe the debate to avoid absolutes and to discuss the social duties of journalists — not just their rights. Overall, the Hebdo debate failed to discuss sufficiently the role of news media in amplifying or reducing the tensions between immigrants, Muslims and other groups in France and the rest of Europe.

We need to reframe the debate to avoid absolutes and to discuss the social duties of journalists — not just their rights. Overall, the Hebdo debate failed to discuss sufficiently the role of news media in amplifying or reducing the tensions between immigrants, Muslims and other groups in France and the rest of Europe.

These tensions, enhanced by global media, form the background for the issue of offensive journalism today. We should ask: What sorts of journalism are needed in such an era? Is the satire of Charlie Hebdo helpful or harmful?

Third, there is (or was) no duty to republish all or some of the cartoons. There was a range of ethically permissible options. Calling people cowards is just name calling.

My ethical position is summed up by two slogans:

  • Journalism is restrained not by causing offense, but by causing harm to interests.
  • Journalism is restrained not by causing offense, but by causing harm to interests.

A right to offend is balanced by a duty to mend.

Stout defenders of the right to offend get a couple of things right. First, there is (or should be) a legal right to publish — even if it offends — as long as the material respects reasonable restrictions on free speech, such as libel or inciting violence against a group. The stout defenders also are right to reject “being offended” as a fundamental, stand-alone reason to restrict journalism in a democracy.


Because “being offended” is too restrictive, too trivial or too “wide” a concept. It is too restrictive because it would make robust debate all but impossible. It is too trivial because people can be offended by relatively unimportant things. Does the smell of a person on a bus offend you? Does an overweight person disgust you? It is too wide because it applies to many areas that involve the rights of others, such as the public display of affection (e.g., kissing) among gays.

People can feel offended about almost anything.

Image by Brian Turner and used here with Creative Commons license

Image by Brian Turner and used here with Creative Commons license.

However, it could be objected that we are only considering the easy cases. What about

actions and publications that deeply (not trivially) offend? I hold a neo-Nazis march through a Jewish community. Or, perhaps I claim the following: Pornography reinforces harmful social attitudes towards women, publishing hate speech against gays in a red-neck town creates fear and supports discrimination, university students participating in a Facebook page that ridicules black students as inferior creates a harmful environment on campus.

Doesn’t “being offended” mean something in such cases?

The answer is that the main reason to object is not that they offend — which they do — but that they cause, or are likely to cause, serious harm to individuals or groups. And not just any old harm. Such actions create social environments that are hostile and harmful to individuals and groups. What such environments do, through speech and communication, is thwart, endanger or set back the interests of people.

Words can hurt since humans form beliefs and attitudes through language and communication.

Consider this example: I am director of a journalism school. In the corridors, I express to students my strong and intolerant views about women and black students. Have I the right to offend, absolutely, in this situation? Of course, not. But why not?

Because, apart from being offended, female and black students have a good reason to worry that my attitudes might affect their progress in the school, given my power as director. Further, I am creating a negative environment where certain members of the school do not feel safe and wonder whether they will be able to pursue school opportunities on an equal footing with other students.

Therefore, my offensive communications is wrong and can be restrained, mainly because they cause harm to interests.

For controversial media and speech, looking at possible harms to interests in social contexts is superior to a citizen complaining that they have been offended or a journalist claiming an absolute right to offend. This absolute approach easily becomes a tool of discrimination, by ignoring how speech must be evaluated in terms of social role, institutional setting, and power. If we appeal to an absolute freedom to publish we cannot even discuss such issues. Debate is brought to a halt.

My suggestion, applied to media, is that we evaluate any complaint about a report (or form of journalism) being offensive not in terms of hurt feelings but actual or potential harms to people’s interests, communication environments and the aim of a plural and just society. Of course, we need to evaluate each case on its merits and not presume in advance that a complaint means an actual, serious harm has been done. But what is important is to switch our criteria of evaluation from causing offense to causing harm.

Redefining the issue allows us to more coherently evaluate Charlie Hebdo, hate speech, and insulting material in terms of potential or actual harm to interests.


Photo by Josh Janssen via Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo by Josh Janssen via Flickr Creative Commons.

My second slogan, the duty to mend, is an extension of the first slogan.

If we restrain journalism by harms to interests, including the impact on social climates, then we imply that journalists have “positive” duties to do socially helpful reporting.

When we talk about environments and the interactions of groups, we expand our ethical vision to the social role of journalism. Journalism ethics becomes more than just a list of negative rules about what not to do in specific situations, such as do not distort the facts. It becomes a form of social action with a set of aims to promote and values to honor.
In my view, journalism’s social duties include promoting the values and goals of democratic society, as defined by the era in question.

Today, the positive duties revolve around constructing a society where people of different conceptions of life can feel safe and equally able to pursue their goods in supportive environments. Journalists should act as bridges of understanding and respectful communication among conflicting groups and traditions. This journalism of dialogue across traditions and borders is crucial for an ethics of global media.

In my view, this role of cultural “translation” is more important than satirical cartoons that deliberately ridicule religions and pay little attention to the need to mend differences.

The key questions in Hebdo-like cases, now and in the future, will be ethical questions of whether certain types of journalism contribute to healthy, peaceful, social environments. What forms of journalism create unhealthy climates of resentment, inequality, and alienation?

These are the issues that need attention.

I propose my “duty to mend” as a principle to balance the enthusiastic support that already exists among journalists for a free press and its right to offend.

It might help to frame the ethical discussion in a wider and more thoughtful manner.

Originally on  PBS MediaShift on February 25, 2015; reposted with permission.

Stephen J. A. Ward is an internationally recognized media ethicist, author and educator. He is Distinguished Lecturer of Ethics at the University of British Columbia, Courtesy Professor at the University of Oregon, and founding director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin.

[Featured image by Claude Truong-Ngoc / Wikimedia Commons]

Feature articles Virtual Reality

Virtual Journalism: Immersive Approaches Pose New Questions


t’s 1955. On CBS, a deep-voiced announcer backs a jittery reel of black-and-white stills.

“October 8, 1871,” he intones with high drama. “The Chicago Fire.”

And then the hook: “You. Are. There.”

Screenshot courtesy of Chicago Film Archives, captured January 17, 2015.

Screenshot courtesy of Chicago Film Archives, captured January 17, 2015.

The CBS News production then cuts to Walter Cronkite at the anchor desk, aside a microphone, script in hand. “Walter Cronkite reporting. October 8th, 1871. In this year and month, we are suffering in Chicago…”

“You Are There” was a CBS reenactment series through which anchor Cronkite would transport viewers to a historical event and treat it as though he were reporting it live. Breathless on-scene reporters, actors serving as famous sources and fake footage were all intended to put the audience in the scene of events like the Hindenburg disaster, the Revolutionary War or the Great Chicago Fire. Though easy to criticize today as staged and hokey docudrama, “You Are There” was nonetheless a novel effort during the heady experimental days of early television news.

We are in those heady days again, still seeking to carry our audiences to scenes to help them experience – and feel – the news of the day. But today, the experimentation comes in the form of a headset, a virtual reality approach that puts its wearer “in” the environment. And with that transport, come key ethical questions about representation, privacy, intellectual property and media effects.

The Technology

Virtual reality is not new. Beginning mainly in the 1960s with flight simulation, VR – also known as “augmented reality” or “immersive multimedia” – picked up speed with an MIT project mapping Aspen, Colorado, through video. The concept is simple: use a headset device to simulate a physical environment through sensory experiences, most commonly sight and sound.

Development in virtual reality today is driven largely by the gaming sector and consumers’ apparently insatiable appetite for those experiences. Industry leader Oculus, known primarily for its emerging Oculus Rift device, envisions a world of consumer-grade headsets that put a gamer into the experience of “Call of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto.” That vision took a major step forward in 2014 with the arrival of the Samsung Gear VR, a virtual reality headset powered by smartphone, rather than the expensive desktop computers previously needed for processor-heavy simulations.

These headsets provide two kinds of virtual experience: animation or video. Both attempt to recreate reality and allow the user to walk virtually through scenes. With an Oculus Rift strapped on, a user can go into the animated environment of a Tuscan estate. The scene tracks with body movements, as users turn their heads or use keystrokes to ascend a staircase or peer over a stone wall. Through the Gear VR, they can go into a performance of Cirque du Soleil created through 360-degree video, watching various performers as if sitting on the stage itself.

But VR potential extends far beyond gaming and entertainment. In January, the United Nations debuted an emotional immersive experience following a Syrian refugee girl, “Clouds Over Sidra.” The piece is viewable on the Gear VR via its Milk VR delivery system, a.k.a., “the YouTube for Virtual Reality.” To appreciate the differences inherent in an immersive experience, watch a reporter explore a refugee camp through the Gear VR.

With that view, the potential for journalism is almost immediately apparent. Though its commercial prospects pale in comparison with gaming, immersive journalism is already in production. And in fact, one of the leaders in this space, documentary filmmaker Nonny de la Peña, has earned acclaim with Syria as her immersive focus, as well. Recently called “The Godmother of Virtual Reality,” she is working on all aspects of VR in journalism, including hardware development, reporting and virtual rendering.

As de la Peña explained to the BBC, immersive approaches advance journalism by putting the audience into a place and giving them a sensory connection with it.

“It creates a duality of presence. You know you’re ‘here,’ but you feel like you’re ‘there’ too. And the experience is much more visceral. It’s really a kind of a whole-body experience and is very unique – different than radio, than television, than any other kind of format for experiencing a story,” de la Peña says.

Dan Pacheco, professor and Horvitz Chair in Journalism Innovation at the S.I. Newhouse journalism school at Syracuse University, is experimenting with these technologies with students. He says that while the world is excited about what VR will do for gamers, he’s thrilled by the potential for transforming citizens’ knowledge of the world around them.

“We no longer have to be limited to telling stories. We can take you into an experience,” Pacheco says. “No matter how many times you tell a story, people don’t feel it. Once you start to show it, it’s a little better but still far, far away. Once you can move someone into an experience, that’s really the key.”

He has first-hand experience, having served as a consultant on Gannett’s first foray into virtual reality – a tour of an Iowa farm as part of its “Harvest of Change” series. The VR approach puts viewers into the farm environment, enabling them to navigate around barns and approach giant tractors. Visual cues open doors to more information on elements of the farm. The experience is best using the Oculus Rift headset, but others can get a sense of the experience using the Unity player on a web browser.

The place-based feeling of VR is particularly important for stories depending on a sense of space and perspective. The Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) at the University of Missouri experimented with an animated VR approach to cover eyewitness statements in the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. A walk through their output, helmed by graphic journalist and RJI fellow Dan Archer, shows some of the possibilities of VR for journalism.

Each witness’ perspective is virtually apparent as the user experiences his or her statements. This gives the reporting an angle that’s not quite possible with text. Video would capture the sense of space, but cannot give the user the same control over movement. The package is rudimentary, as the technology is nascent, but provides a window into what will be possible in the future.

“It comes down to a much-abused term that’s being bandied about these days: empathy,” Archer says. “I first got into graphic journalism as a way of placing the reader at the heart of a news story by using art to visualize the accounts of my interviewees from their first-person perspective. That was several years ago, and the technology … has at last almost caught up to speed.”

Explore the Ferguson virtual reality project (requires download of Unity player).

Explore the Ferguson virtual reality project (requires download of Unity player).

Implications for Journalism Ethics

As with all emerging media platforms, VR presents opportunities, but also demands serious ethical consideration. In some cases, traditional ethics contested over decades help inform our judgments. But in others, the very immersion itself prompts questions we have not yet tackled in journalism.

How real is the virtual?

Ethical questions begin with the basics. When constructing an animated virtual reality, what steps can be taken to make it as real as possible? What are the dimensions of surrounding buildings? What are the colors and shapes of people in the scene? What’s the relative perspective between the user and the trees around her?

In the case the Ferguson package, the VR rendering shows a blue sky with puffy white clouds. But video from the scene shows a more gray, dreary day. Does this matter for the story? Would it change the audience’s understanding? All of these questions must factor into animated recreations. But they’re also issues in 360-degree video. One would imagine it to be less fraught with potential for distortion, yet video that’s captured in 360 degrees still has to be edited in two dimensions. This can interfere with rendering reality as it was caught on the original video.

It’s important to recognize, however, that virtual reality does not introduce these concerns in significantly new ways. De la Peña faced criticism early in her work from those who claimed VR journalism was too subjective and thus could not be ethical. Yet when operating in text, still, video, audio or interactivity, we’re continually making judgment calls about what to cover, what to render and how to do it. VR certainly poses issues of subjectivity, but they are extensions of critical questions we need to be asking ourselves in all platforms.

Archer, in fact, notes that VR as a form holds promise for helping users recognize subjectivity because the choices are so apparent in a graphically rendered environment.

“All we can do is be open and honest with readers, and highlight what we chose to include and exclude.” Archer says. “My hope is that using this process we can lean more heavily on readers to explore what the notion of ‘truth’ is using this new virtual frame of reference.”

Whose reality is it?

Just as we must with any text, video, audio or interactive story, we must wrestle with the sourcing in virtual reality packages. The Ferguson piece lays this bare. Source perspective, motivations and biases all play roles in the creation of the virtual environment. Certainly the number of feet between a window and a road can be measured, scaled and recreated in VR. But where a person says she stood and what she says she saw are less certain. Yet when they are rendered in a virtual environment, they are necessarily made more real for the audience.

Who owns a reality?

The “Harvest of Change” series, the virtual tour of the Iowa farm, quickly raised questions of intellectual property and trademark. Does recreating an exact animation of a trademarked tractor design infringe on that design? Does it do so with iconic public buildings? With emerging technologies, we often find law lagging behind what’s possible. Ethics must fill the breach, as we weigh others’ rights to their creations and the implications of our own recreations.

How much does this cost?

The ethics of economics matter in an age of news media disruption. The “Harvest of Change” package – while fascinating and exciting – came at time when Gannett laid off dozens of employees at its flagship paper. Although Pacheco says the cost of the VR package was not exorbitant (he’s barred from disclosing exact figures), expenditures on experimentation always come at the expense of other elements of news gathering. This context, however, demonstrates that funding experimental platforms and approaches may be one of the most justifiable expenditures of strained resources – within reason, of course. Virtual reality is expected to capture an audience through gaming that has been particularly elusive for news media: teens and young adults. These virtual platforms may be an ideal way to stimulate their interaction with news, serving them as citizens. But this requires a focused, thoughtful strategy, rather than merely chasing the latest toy. It also requires that we consider for whom we are developing these technology uses and whether we are leaving important audience segments out. Early speculation was that the cost of an Oculus Rift would make it a rich kid’s toy, at best. Yet the Gear VR is surprisingly affordable and because it runs off a mobile phone, its potential is open to a more diverse set of users who would otherwise lack consistent access to a desktop machine.

Whose expectations matter?

Privacy is clearly one of the largest ethical considerations for journalists with immersives, especially 360-degree video. As with drones capable of low-cost capture of video, still images and sound from the air above both public and private property, use of video and even animations for virtual reality poses the risk of invading privacy. Law is sorely behind technological development in this arena, so ethics are more crucial than ever.

“We’re not that far from drones flying all over the place and capturing everything,” Pacheco says. “Pandora’s Box opened back in the ‘70s and we’re not going to be able to close that. It’s going to be interesting to see how people use that for good and how they use it in morally and ethically questionable ways.”

Privacy, especially in law, is largely premised on the protection of personal space, and we punish intrusions into that space. We ask where a person has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” and generally conclude that such expectations are far stronger in personal spaces than in public ones. A woman has a reasonable expectation of privacy in her kitchen, but not in, say, a Starbucks in downtown Chicago.

But privacy is not merely a question of law. As media ethicist Cliff Christians notes, privacy is also a fundamental moral good. While privacy is essential for individual flourishing, protecting such human development is ultimately a common good.

“A private domain gives people their own identity and unique self-consciousness within the human species … Privacy as a moral good is nonnegotiable because controlling our life’s core is essential to our personhood,” Christians writes.

In an age when technology enables a transformation from simple observation to sophisticated surveillance, journalism must wrestle with the implications of this possibility. Virtual reality that relies on video capture, for instance, poses the problem of incidental capture. Imagine an immersive experience designed to transport users to a Liberian hospital treating patients with Ebola. Although currently limited in scope, technology will quickly be able to transmit live 360-degree video from such a hospital. Even if the clinicians or patients in focus consent to their story being used, the camera will pick up the full scope of the scene and enable users to move themselves in for closer looks. We must consider the privacy of the people within that scene.

And while VR would commonly be assumed to be more easily justified in a public setting – say, a street – the sophistication of the capture will also include spaces normally deemed private – say, a person’s living room windows. As we have struggled to conceptualize and deal with the privacy implications of emerging technologies like Google Street View, we will have to contend with the invasiveness of virtual reality. But the stakes increase with its use in journalism, specifically because news is so often about capturing people’s most difficult moments.

When is the virtual too real?

While some evidence is emerging that virtual reality may be useful as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, Pacheco and others worry about the effects of putting people in stressful situations through VR. The concern is that renderings that are sufficiently real may trigger memory as though the user actually experienced a place or event. No one could mistake Walter Cronkite’s staged Chicago Fire coverage as real. But consider a virtual reality headset with video images of fire, plus the sound of crackling and gusting, plus the thick smell of smoke, plus the sense of growing warmth. These sensations have far more potential to induce trauma.

VR coverage of war, torture, rape and other violence will prompt searing questions about lasting consequences of consuming journalism that eclipse our current research on media effects. All of these considerations must factor into uses of virtual reality for journalism, keeping subjects and audiences more firmly in mind than the mere possibilities the technology affords, Pacheco says.

“The most important thing that we need to keep in mind with immersive and experiential media is that because people feel like they’re somewhere else, you always need to keep the experience of the user as the most important ethical consideration.”

Kathleen Bartzen Culver is an assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication and associate director of the Center for Journalism Ethics. This essay was originally posted on February 4, 2015 at digital, the website of the Center for Digital Ethics at Loyola University Chicago.

Feature articles Ward’s Words Column

2014: The Year of Personalized Journalism Ethics


2014 brought us the year of My Journalism Ethics. It was the year that “personalizing” journalism ethics went mainstream. Big time.

Major journalism associations, from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) to the Online News Association (ONA) grappled with the problem of writing ethical guidelines for an increasingly personalized, opinionated, and politically biased media sphere.

Some journalists embraced personalization – the idea that it is up to each journalist or each outlet to create and “customize” their own guidelines. Others rejected it. In either case, personalized ethics – “Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Ethics” – was topical and contested.

More importantly, it has set the course for journalism ethics in 2015 and beyond.

For this review, I could have focused on other developments, from the beheadings of foreign reporters and free press struggles in China and Egypt to a proposed Bill of Rights to control news media in Britain. I could have focused on bad behavior by journalists.

Instead, I focus on the personalized ethics movement because it speaks to the very future of journalism ethics in a digital age: What, if any, journalism ethics is possible?

What is personalized journalism ethics?

Start with a few general principles – a minimum of “content” – and then give journalists the tools (e.g., forms of reasoning) to construct rules adapted to their practice and audiences.

This is micro ethics: the ethics of specific platforms. It is not the traditional macro approach of journalism ethics which provides general norms for all journalists.

Personalization asks us not to think of a code as a content-based document with many principles. Instead, think of a code as a process for those who wish to write their own codes. The code is a tool kit. It adopts only a few common principles, such as truth-telling and accuracy. Then the code provides advice, such as questions to consider for writing guidelines.

Rather than a rich body of common principles for all journalists, there is a common process for code writing for types of journalists.


Photo by Jessica Spengler on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

Photo by Jessica Spengler on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

DIY ethics did not emerge fully grown in 2014. The trend is the third and latest response to the current crisis in journalism ethics: the collapse of a craft-wide consensus on its ethics – on its aims, principles, and best practices.

Everything is up for grabs.

The first response occurred roughly between the late 1900s and 2006, from the rise of online journalism and the birth of Twitter. An ethics “civil war” erupted between professional journalists and citizen journalists as to who were the real journalists and whether principles of gate-keeping journalism, e.g., objectivity and pre-publication verification – were still valid. Some new media journalists said fuddy-duddy ethics did not apply to the free online world.

The second response occurred between 2006 and 2011. The trend was mainstream accommodation. News outlets, from the BBC to the AP, wrote up guidelines on how their journalists should use social media and opine on their personal blogs. Perhaps the mainstream could civilize the online horde and re-establish order in the media universe.

The third phase, from 2011 to today, is the growing popularity of personalization as a way to re-establish journalism ethics across many forms of journalism, not just legacy media.

Personalization signaled that many journalists were skeptical of the possibility of a new consensus on ethics. In the end, journalism ethics may turn out to be a plurality of codes suited to particular practices, without overarching common principles. Pluralism, fragmentation and micro ethics was king; universal, macro ethics was not.



The Online News Association is helping journalists create their own ethics codes.

The best example of personalized ethics in 2014 is the ONA’s current attempt to develop guidelines for members. The ONA site encourages its members to “build your own ethics” using the tools provided by the code. The ONA is “curating a toolkit to help news outlets, as well as individual bloggers/journalists, create guidelines that respond to their own concepts of journalism.”

The toolkit starts with a small set of common principles such as tell the truth, don’t plagiarize and correct your errors. Journalists make a choice between traditional objective journalism, where your personal opinion is kept under wraps, and transparency journalism, meaning you can write from a political or social point of view as long as you’re upfront about it.

Then, the toolkit provides guidance on constructing guidelines for about 40 areas of practice where journalists might disagree, such as removing items from online archives, use of anonymous sources and verification of social media sources.

In a previous column, I contrasted this approach with the SPJ’s revision of its famous code of ethics, approved by members earlier this year. I said the SPJ used a de-personal approach because the revisions maintained the code’s commitment to speak for all professional journalists. It did not name specific forms of journalism. Also, unlike the personalized approach, the SPJ code remained rich in content, articulating many common principles and norms.

For some, the DIY approach is a positive, inclusive and democratic approach, suited to a plural media world. The end of the dream of macro journalism ethics. For others, it is an abandonment of journalism ethics, an ill-timed concession to ethical subjectivism.

It is customary for year-end reviews to fearlessly predict the future. I will not shrink from this tradition, even if it may be foolhardy.

I predict the continuing co-existence of, and tension between, the depersonalized and personalized approaches. Mainstream associations won’t abandon their depersonalize codes, and online associations won’t abandon their personalized guidelines. Nor should they. We need both forms of thinking. We need a healthy and experimental approach to code writing.

However, I believe this third stage should give way to a fourth response, an integration of both approaches. This journalism ethics combines macro and micro, common principles and personalized applications.

Getting the balance right will be difficult.

Nonetheless, journalism ethics will have little future, and certainly little public credibility, unless it has the following features:

New unifying principles: We construct a consensus around aims and principles for all responsible journalists. We focus on common values. The key is to develop principles that express the mission of a diverse news media serving an open democracy and a global world. The content will include new aims and principles, such as advocating for global humanity, and the re-interpretation of principles such as impartiality and independence.
Personalized value systems for new practices: We construct specific best practices for entrepreneurial journalism, non-profit journalism, social media journalism, and other new and innovative forms of journalism.
Public basis for all of journalism ethics: We place a crucial restraint on the types of personalized values and practices that can be proposed. Whatever these practices are, they must be consistent with the unifying principles of democratic journalism. We recognize that the basis of journalism ethics is public, not subjective. We should be able to justify any personalization of ethics by reference to the public good, not the personal interests of individual journalists. The ultimate moral authority of any journalism ethics is not the fact that the values are “mine,” but because they promote a flourishing society, however we define it.

Fourth-response journalism ethics will be a more complicated, sophisticated enterprise than in the past. There is no avoiding the complexities.

Suppose that journalists ignore this advice and create a simpler personalized ethics that is subjective or idiosyncratic. It announces what they, as individuals, believe, and what ethical restraints they accept. Full stop. There is no serious attempt to link these values to the practice of journalism at large, or to provide more objective reasons for affirming their values. Then they ask the public to accept their values, and to trust that they will follow their self-created, and self-announced, ethical values.

Given the level of public cynicism about journalists, they will be laughed derisively out of the court of public opinion. The public simply will not buy the idea of journalism ethics and self-regulation as anything less than a practice-wide accountability based on public principles.

The public will not buy an individualized My Journalism Ethics.

Is a new integrated ethics possible? It does not exist. Will it ever exist?

That is the trouble with predicting the future. One can always think of many obstacles. The world does not always satisfy our wishes, especially in ethics.

However, the rise of personalized ethics in 2014, especially in the form that it has taken in the ONA, advances our evolving response to ethical problems. Personalization forces out into the open the key questions of journalism ethics today.

Gradually, we get glimpses of how to redefine responsible journalism for a digital world.

This article was originally posted on EducationShift, part of the PBS MediaShift site, and is reposted here by permission of the author.

Stephen J. A. Ward is an internationally recognized media ethicist, author and educator. He is ethics adviser/lecturer at the University of British Columbia, Courtesy Professor at the University of Oregon, and founding director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin.