The mission of the Center for Journalism Ethics is to encourage the highest standards in journalism ethics worldwide. We foster vigorous debate about ethical practices in journalism, and provide a resource for producers, consumers and students of journalism. We honor the best in ethical journalistic practice and will not hesitate to call attention to journalistic failings.
What We Do
The Center provides an international hub for the examination of the role of professional and personal ethics in the pursuit of fair, accurate and principled journalism. It does so by:
- facilitating debate and discussion intended to inform and strengthen professional ethics;
- acting as a catalyst for thoughtful discussion emphasizing the importance of ethical practice in journalism at both the personal and organizational levels; and
- acting as a resource on ethical matters for journalists, journalism students and the public.
The Center’s director and staff are expert faculty members in one of the leading institutions for journalism education and mass communication research in the world. Through conversation, teaching, research and newsroom partnerships, they continually engage with active and aspiring professionals, with students and educators in other disciplines, and with critics and consumers of journalism.
The role of the website is to provide a forum for vigorous debate of journalism ethics, and to offer a wide range of opinion through news stories, editorials, op-ed columns, blogs, guest contributors and academic research.
We will keep site users updated on ethical issues in the news while providing informed analysis of issues. The site also offers a host of resources, from background discussions on the nature and history of journalism ethics to codes of practice and links to ethics experts.
Our approach to journalism ethics is practical and interdisciplinary. Journalism ethics is a branch of professional (or applied) ethics – addressing and studying the issues that face practitioners. We strive to draw on insights not only from the field of mass communication, but from other disciplines ranging from the natural and social sciences to philosophy and history.
A Brief History
Media ethicist Stephen J. A. Ward founded the Center in 2008 shortly after he moved from the University of British Columbia to become the first James E. Burgess Chair of Journalism Ethics in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison. The position was made possible by a gift from former Wisconsin State Journal publisher James Burgess, who specified that the chair should create a center focusing on journalism ethics and hold an annual conference devoted to journalism ethics.
The Center was approved by the School and officially recognized by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in late 2008. The first conference was held spring of 2009.
Under Ward’s directorship, the Center developed a web site, an advisory board and the Shadid Ethics Award, and Professor Katy Culver became associate director. In 2013, Ward left Wisconsin to become director of the Turnbull Center, a journalism program at the University of Oregon-Portland. Professor Robert Drechsel directed the Center until 2016 when Katy Culver assumed the directorship.