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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Category: Conference

Saving the date: April 29

Have you put it on the calendar yet?

The annual conference will be April 29, 2016.

This year, the conference topic is race, ethnicity and journalism ethics.

The easiest way to learn about important updates, including keynote speaker, panels, presentation of the Shadid award, and registration information is to sign up for our email list.  Update your information if its changed from last year, too.

See you there for a great discussion about how race and ethnicity is represented in the newsroom and on the news.1bc93bad-54aa-42fe-82b0-651550eb324a

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

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.

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.

Legendary sports journalist Robert Lipsyte to keynote our 2015 conference

Coverage of Lipsyte’s keynote address and other panel discussions and breakout sessions from the conference can be found here

The keynote speaker for our upcoming conference, Robert Lipsyte, has had a career that most could only dream of. He’s seen success in various fields throughout his storied career, and is an excellent example for aspiring writers.

Working as both a journalist and as a novelist, Lipsyte’s first experience came as a copyboy in the sports department of the New York Times, and even though he hated his job, he fell in love with the paper.

He eventually worked his way up to cover the spring training for the Mets in 1962, and was given the opportunity to cover the heavyweight championship fight between Sonny Liston and Cassius Clay in 1964.

Lipsyte wLipsyteould go on to become the new boxing reporter for the paper, and wrote for the publication until 1971, when he left to write novels and movies. He wrote his first young adult novel , “The Contender,” while still a reporter at the Times.

Over the course of his career as an author, Lipsyte has authored 12 young adult novels, seven books for adults and seven young adult non-fiction books. He has won numerous awards that add prestige to an already illustrious career.

Recently, Lipsyte has served as the ombudsman for ESPN. His additional media credits include CBS Sunday Morning, NBC Nightly News and PBS.

Lipsyte turned a fascination with a newsroom in 1960’s New York into one of the most successful and storied careers of our time.

We at the Center of Journalism Ethics are honored to host Mr. Lipsyte at the University of Wisconsin, and look forward to his keynote address on April 10th.

Read more about Robert Lipsyte on his personal website.

More information about our conference is available here, and you may visit our registration page here. The conference is open to the public.

Center for Journalism Ethics 2015 Conference to focus on Sports Journalism

***We will be loading video from the keynote, panels, plenary and presentations of the Shadid Award and Mulhern Scholarship in the coming days.  Thanks to all who attended, and especially to our sponsors.***

The Center for Journalism Ethics will address the topic of ethics in sports journalism at our seventh annual conference, which will be held April 10, 2015 at Union South on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus..

The conference, titled Fair or Foul: Ethics and Sports Journalism, will feature Robert Lipsyte, veteran sports journalist, author and current ombudsman for ESPN, as keynote speaker.  The program will include panels addressing ways journalism ethics come into play in topical areas including issues of privacy, editorial independence in a world of sponsorship and rights fees, representation of minorities, and the bounds of civil discourse in a sporting context.

fedexfieldpressboxWe need look no further than recent headlines for examples of events and the coverage that followed them for rich subject matter, such as Donald Sterling’s leaked racial commentary, the NFL handling of a domestic abuse issue that blew wide open with one TMZ video post, or Bill Simmons’ recent suspension for his heated criticism of both the NFL and his own management.  These and other stories will serve to inspire panels and the selection of panelists with the goal of offering lively discussions and, perhaps, some direction looking forward.

Be sure to save the date, April 10, 2015.  More details will be available here on our site in the coming weeks and months.

(Photo credit: Scott Ableman/Flickr-Creative Commons)

Conference 2014 through the eyes of an undergraduate journalism student

As an undergraduate journalism student, I spend much of my time generating stories and little time reflecting on the bigger questions of my writing. Finishing projects under a deadline, or contacting just the right person for a quote often seems more important than debating the pros and cons of drone technology. But working with the Center for Journalism Ethics this spring has made me realize how relevant ethics are to journalism, and that it is difficult (if not impossible) to separate ethical principles from my work in this field.

14094959746_83f6f24040_bParticipating in a national conference much like the annual ethics conference at UW-Madison is often the best way to learn about the newest trends and research in journalism. I enjoyed learning about commercial data sensors from John Keefe, and was shocked to discover how much data these tiny yet extremely cheap and accessible devices can capture. Although these devices could be useful for many journalists, they could also make the public even more distrusting of the media (or even be confused for some kind of explosive device). I also thought that the new database technology several of the panelists discussed was fascinating. It has become more common for news organizations to create searchable and user-friendly databases, which if done well, are heavily used by the public. I myself have used many of these databases when completing class projects or research, but never thought about the journalists who perhaps created them. And if I didn’t already know it yet – I should probably make my passwords more secure. Apparently the most common online password is still “123456.”

Although I learned about new technologies for journalists, the conference also left me with the impression that many “older” ethical issues still exist. For example, the surveillance panel discussed the ethical problems of journalists telling people that they are collecting data for one purpose, but using it for another. While technology has allowed this kind of dishonesty to be more pronounced, the choice of a journalist to mislead sources has been an issue for many years, and still continues to be. “New” media ethics regarding digital technologies will continue to be important, but perhaps it is still too early to dismiss these ethical concerns.

14137961843_1b50557909_bThe conference also left me with the impression that thoughtful journalism requires a great variety of backgrounds and educations. Although a journalism degree is often the foundation for an aspiring writer or media professional, it’s also important to develop skills in statistics, math or science. In the breakout session I attended, Alexander Howard discussed the manipulation of graphs and charts by journalists, noting that many journalists falsely represent data (check out this link for some interesting examples). While its true that some journalists may intentionally manipulate data to fit their agenda, others may simply be lacking a basic understanding of how to use and treat numbers. Requiring journalists to develop these skills may not only enrich the value of their stories, but also ensure that fewer incidents of data misrepresentation occur. I won’t become a “math person” overnight, but attending this conference made me realize that I too may need to acquire skills other than writing in order to be successful in this industry.

My experience at the Center for Journalism Ethics conference made me excited to see what the future of journalism will bring. The attendees and speakers at the conference were all actively engaged in the issues they discussed, and genuinely interested in media ethics. I had the opportunity to ask questions and have dialogues with some of the most preeminent experts in their fields, which is a rare occurrence for an undergraduate student. I hope to implement some of what I learned in my own work, and that I am able to attend similar events in the future.

[Photos by Jentri Colello for UW Center for Journalism Ethics].

Conference 2014 keynote: Media Minefields: Journalism, National Security and the Right to Know

Eric Lichtblau, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter in the Washington Bureau of The New York Times, challenged government pressure and prosecution of journalists in the name of national security, and instead encouraged journalists to continue publishing stories to widen the ongoing debate regarding national security, in his keynote address Media Minefields: Journalism, National Security and the Right to Know at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics 2014 conference.

keynote wideLichtblau highlighted the increasing pressure on journalists by the government to keep national secrets and other “embarrassing” information from reaching the public by referencing The Guardian’s controversial 2013 decision to publish information provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the NSA’s private security information mining process.

As the whistle blower style of national security narrative increases, Lichtblau said, reporting like The Guardian’s Snowden coverage, which incited the U.S. government to label the journalists as “co-conspirators” or “disgraces,” poses a larger issue regarding the widening gap between what the government is willing to tell the public and what the public “has a right to know.”

Sometimes the government “over-classifi[es]” information, not to protect national security, but instead to hide politically problematic or embarrassing information from the public, Lichtblau said.

Despite government pressure to keep journalists from publishing “politically unflattering” or, even, illegal activity, Lichtblau stressed that the First Amendment allows journalists to legally publish classified information. Furthermore, it’s the media’s responsibility to push back and, in some cases, allow for public scrutiny.

“[Journalists] still have the right and responsibility to report aggressively on national security measures,” Lichtblau said.

key2In his recent book project, Lichtblau discovered dozens of files detailing the U.S. government’s protection of Nazi officials after World War II which were still labeled as classified over 60 years later.

However, Lichtblau explained that classified information should not be published without first gauging public interest and safety.

He pointed to the AP’s decision to hold a story (which was awarded the 2014 Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics at the conference) for three years about the CIA’s involvement in the case of a missing agent in Iran to ensure the story did not compromise the agent’s safety as an excellent example of ethical responsibility from a news organization.

However, in the age of citizen journalism, Lichtblau admits he is unsure how entities like Wikileaks, which do not have internal policies or self-censorship practices regarding public safety in place like journalists, can guarantee ethical practices.

Basically, Lichtblau said, ethics regarding national security reporting boils down to: “when to publish and when to sit on a story.” But, he argued, that should be the journalist’s, not the government’s, decision.

“Do you want the government making the decisions, or do you want the media making the decisions?” Lichtblau asked.

keyscottWhile the Obama administration promised to be the most transparent administration thus far, its increased prosecution of journalists who publish classified information is alarming, Lichtblau said.

Government officials gave one of Lichtblau’s sources a “Draconian” ultimatum, in which he was forced to either agree to stop talking to Lichtblau or he would lose his security clearance.

Lichtblau stressed that in cases of national security journalism, sources are at an increased risk. Therefore, reporters need to use extra caution when protecting them.

“Obviously, there are secrets that have to be kept,” Lichtblau said regarding some cases in which unveiling federal secrets could lead to the endangerment or death of a person.

However, the practice of government secrecy is often worse than the actual substance of secrets, Lichtblau said.

“We have to be the check on the government,” Lichtblau said, closing his address by encouraging journalists to publish hard-hitting national security stories in an effort to widen public debate about government secrecy.

[Photos by Jentri Colello for UW Center for Journalism Ethics].