Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Ethics Center News

Occupational hazards: when reporters bear witness to traumatic events

Journalists are professional observers. But bearing witness to all manner of horrible events can have consequences. Continue reading

Kathleen Culver, the James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics, moderates the discussion "Media After The Midterms" with panelists Dhavan Shah, UW-Madison professor, David Folkenflik, NRR correspondent and writer in residence with the UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics, and Jessie Opoien, Capital Times political reporter, at the Overture Center in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 7, 2018.

Director Katy Culver weighs in on Sandy Hook defamation case

Knoxville, TN, as seen from the top edge of Neyland Stadium

Covering extremism in the digital era: A Q&A with Joel Christopher

Journalists have always had to grapple with how to cover extremists and hate-filled ideologies. But in today’s digital world, and with experts warning about the threat of white supremacy and far-right extremism, journalists are taking a new look at how … Continue reading

Photo of police car.

Doing no harm: the call for crime reporting that does justice to the beat

  If you ask Carroll Bogert, crime news in the U.S. is broken. Building off renewed interest in the Central Park Five case spurred by Ava Duvernay’s Netflix series “When They See Us,” Bogert attacked criminal justice coverage in a … Continue reading

Lake Mendota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, including Alumni Park and the Memorial Union Terrace, are pictured in an early morning aerial taken from a helicopter on Oct. 23, 2018. (Photo by Bryce Richter /UW-Madison)

Left out: freelance journalists have no recourse against sexual harassment

  Despite high-profile firings and policy changes after the #MeToo movement swept through newsrooms, a subset of news professionals often remains unprotected, largely unheard from and without recourse in cases of sexual misconduct: freelance journalists. Women are especially vulnerable to … Continue reading

Photo collage from 2018-2019 Center for Journalism Ethics annual report

Center for Journalism Ethics 2018-19

Kathleen Culver, the James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics, moderates the discussion "Media After The Midterms" with panelists Dhavan Shah, UW-Madison professor, David Folkenflik, NRR correspondent and writer in residence with the UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics, and Jessie Opoien, Capital Times political reporter, at the Overture Center in Madison, Wis., on Nov. 7, 2018.

Director Katy Culver reports on what’s keeping nurses out of health news

Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism public engagement and marketing assistant Natalie Yahr interviews Bob Blersch on primary day at the Oconomowoc Community Center on August 14, 2018, as part of the Center's ongoing series "Undemocratic: Secrecy and Power vs. the People." (Katie Scheidt / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism)

Why should I tell you?: a guide to less-extractive reporting

Kate McCarthy, director of programs for the Women's Media Center, speaks about SheSource, an online database of media-experienced women experts, to the staff of Voice of America in September 2018. Photo courtesy of the Women’s Media Center.

“Not good enough”: gender imbalance drives efforts to use women as sources more often

  Journalism has a gender problem. In 2019, according to the Women’s Media Center’s Status of Women in the U.S. Media report, men accounted for 63 percent of bylines and other credits in print, Internet, TV and wire news. The … Continue reading

When news orgs cover their own scandals; media critics weigh in

  As #MeToo accusations mounted against a number of high-profile media figures in 2017 and 2018, organizations faced questions of how sexual harassment and assault could fester unaddressed. But for individual journalists, particularly those who cover news media, questions focused … Continue reading

Recap: What #MeToo Means for Gender, Power & Ethical Journalism

    More than 160 people attended the Center for Journalism Ethics conference on April 26, 2019, with an additional 435 views occurring via livestream. Focused on “What #MeToo Means for Gender, Power & Ethical Journalism,” the conference featured a … Continue reading

Be accountable, be transparent – with your data too; A Q&A with Rodrigo Zamith

  Journalists incorporate data into their reporting for good reason: numbers tell us important, odd and interesting things about ourselves. Hidden within raw data are insights about our patterns, problems and trends, such as the frequency of our activities, crime … Continue reading

On April 3, 2018, students fill out ballots for the Wisconsin Spring Election in Tripp Commons inside the Memorial Union at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of several official polling places for UW-Madison students living on campus. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

Avoiding the horse race: a resource guide for ethical election coverage

  The 2020 presidential primary will not officially begin for another ten months. And yet campaigning, and media coverage about that campaigning, are already well underway. A large field of Democratic candidates and a long election cycle present a challenge … Continue reading

University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication student Becca Beato works with the Columbus Ledger-EnquirerÕs Mike Haskey during a photojournalism workshop at the Georgia National Fair on Friday, October 5, 2018, in Perry, Georgia. (Photo/Mark E. Johnson, mej@mejphoto.com)

When news orgs turn to stock imagery: An ethics Q & A with Mark E. Johnson

  As the practices of journalism continue to become more digitally oriented, they’re also becoming more visual. Metrics for more than the last two decades have shown that having a visual attached to a story, tweet or Facebook post increases … Continue reading

Screen shot of Miami Herald's Perversion of Justice story "How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime."

“Perversion of Justice” wins 2019 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics

“Perversion of Justice” by Julie K. Brown and Emily Michot of the Miami Herald has won the 2019 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics from the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This three-part series investigated how … Continue reading

Photo of AP Stylebook opened to the entry "boy, girl": Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

Changing the conversation, one word at a time: how professional organizations are pushing for changes in the AP Stylebook – and beyond

It started with a single word: Boy. At a protest following the in-custody death of Freddie Gray, a black woman had been caught on video hitting and berating her teenage son for participating in the demonstration. “I believe the headline … Continue reading

Photo of panelists from the Power Shift Summit 2.0 on Jan. 15, 2019

Changes in HR: What #MeToo means for news organizations

  In October 2017 the New York Times published a story detailing decades of alleged abuse by film executive Harvey Weinstein. The story marked a watershed, resulting in new stories of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct that spanned industries, including … Continue reading

Photo of an open book

Should journalists be transparent about their religion?

In her years as a religion reporter, Cathy Grossman has traveled from Texas to Vatican City and covered nearly every religious group imaginable. But amid her thousands of interviews, she’s had a strict policy of never revealing her own faith. In … Continue reading

Image of The Colorado Sun gathering for a press conference surrounded by reporters.

New funding models mean new ethical challenges for media companies

It’s no secret that in recent decades the financial woes of traditional newspapers have continued to get worse. It’s also no secret that Americans’ trust in the news media has dropped over the past decade. According to a recent report … Continue reading

Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink: a guide to confidential sources

Two trains of thought prevail when it comes to using confidential sources. Some see them as a necessary journalistic tool — to be used sparingly — when a story wouldn’t materialize without them. Others argue that their use and overuse … Continue reading

A light snow falls on the Abraham Lincoln statue in front of Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during winter on Dec. 28, 2015. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Populist times and the perils of “neutral” journalism: A Q&A with media ethicist Stephen J.A. Ward

Stephen J. A. Ward is an internationally recognized media ethicist and the founding director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His new book, “Ethical Journalism in a Populist Age: The Democratically Engaged Journalist,”argues that a … Continue reading

UW–Madison's Dhavan Shah, NPR's David Folkenflik, and The Capital Times' Jessie Opoien on a Fall 2018 Center for Journalism Ethics panel ocused on "Media after the Midterms: Journalism in a Contentious Age."

Recap of “Media after the Midterms: Journalism Ethics in a Contentious Age”

A light snow falls on the Abraham Lincoln statue in front of Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during winter on Dec. 28, 2015. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

The ethics and future of freedom of information: a Q&A with Bill Lueders

Disclosure: Steven Potter conducted this interview for the Center for Journalism Ethics and later was invited to join the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council board.   Access to government records, data and meetings is critical to good watchdog journalism. But … Continue reading

A light snow falls on the Abraham Lincoln statue in front of Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during winter on Dec. 28, 2015. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Playing it straight in polarized times: A Q&A with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert

In less than a month, a highly divided American electorate will head to the polls for the U.S. midterm elections. Craig Gilbert, Washington Bureau Chief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has covered every presidential election since 1988 and written extensively … Continue reading

Soon to be legacy, rows of card catalogue drawers are pictured in the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 29, 2012. in May 2012, the library will remove the last of its card catalogues, completing a quarter-century transition to an online record system for books, journals and more. One row of built-in cases will remain as part of a historic display. More than 100 cases are being sold through UW Surplus With A Purpose (SWAP), and 6,700 drawers of cards are being recycled. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Training provides resources and guidance before midterm elections

  Personal security, misinformation, ethical questions and data protection are all key issues facing journalists during election season. With the U.S. midterm elections a month away, the Society for Professional Journalists and Google News Initiative co-sponsored a free training on … Continue reading

A guide to responsible reporting on suicide

More than 50 international studies have found that certain types of media coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide for some individuals. Headlines, language, images and even the decision to report on suicide can all have an impact on individuals … Continue reading

Advertisement for "Media after the Midterms: Journalism Ethics in a Contentious Age," a panel convened on November 7, 2018

Panel to discuss midterm elections and journalism ethics

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Panel to discuss midterm elections and journalism ethics Madison, Wis. – The Center for Journalism Ethics will facilitate a discussion on “Media after the Midterms: Journalism Ethics in a Contentious Age” at a free public … Continue reading

Audio: Amber Hunt and the ethics of the Aftermath podcast

Over two decades of reporting, Amber Hunt has covered a lot of crime. In that time, she’s reported on a number of shootings, the conflicts that proceeded them and the prosecutions that came after. But rarely has she been able … Continue reading

Needed: Empathy and an open mind; Religion reporters face unique challenges

Religion is a topic of conversation many choose to avoid, especially when talking with people they don’t know. Religion reporters, however, must do just the opposite. As they dive into different cultures and broach highly sensitive subjects with complete strangers, … Continue reading

Climate change reporting is (slowly) increasing awareness

Reporting on Justin Gillis’s keynote address at the 2018 “Division, Denial & Journalism Ethics” conference at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In recent years, Justin Gillis, former lead writer on climate science at The New York Times and a current contributing … Continue reading

A light snow falls on the Abraham Lincoln statue in front of Bascom Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during winter on Dec. 28, 2015. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Investigative journalism and infrastructure failures: A Q&A with Brant Houston

A pedestrian bridge on Florida International University’s campus collapsed March 15, 2018, killing nine people and injuring six more. Brant Houston, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois, … Continue reading

A Q&A with Lindsay Palmer, author of ‘Becoming the Story’

Lindsay Palmer is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison. She focuses mostly on international news from a qualitative perspective, as well as global media ethics as part of her involvement through the Center … Continue reading

Newsrooms have an ethical obligation to address the power structure of internships; Jill Geisler is bringing that front and center

Jill Geisler, the newly appointed Newseum Institute Fellow in Women’s Leadership, recently modered a program which focused on what interns, employers and educators should know and should do to maintain ensure workplace integrity. The Center for Journalism Ethics talked with … Continue reading

Why we need “feminist” human rights journalism

Editor's note: Lindsay Palmer led Cultures in Conflict: Navigating Cultural Difference in International Human Rights Reporting conference Feb. 9 and 10, which was co-sponsored by the Center for Journalism Ethics. Information about the conference is here.   A 25-year-old woman, … Continue reading

Lake Mendota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, including Alumni Park and the Memorial Union Terrace, are pictured in an early morning aerial taken from a helicopter on Oct. 23, 2018. (Photo by Bryce Richter /UW-Madison)

Solutions to low media trust not clear

One of the researchers of a study that finds Republicans and supporters of President Donald Trump have far more negative attitudes toward the press than Democrats and Trump opponents, doubts that incremental changes in news ethics will make a significant … Continue reading

Local markets are adopting drones, and facing ethical issues

Drones aren't just for large newsrooms.   Brittany Schmidt, journalist and reporter for WBAY-TV in Green Bay, said drones are especially important for small and mid-size news markets. "Instead of talking about the remodeling of this huge, 80,000 square foot … Continue reading

Keeping journalists safe abroad is about ethics

Too many young journalists go into high-risk areas without proper safety training, without identifying mentors and without a true plan of what they’re going to do when they arrive, said Bruce Shapiro, director of the Dart Center for Journalism and … Continue reading

Reporting on Nassar: It takes a toll

Read Part 2: Gould's advice to other journalism instructors, "Teaching students to cover stories that hit close to home."     It takes a toll.   At first, you try to ignore it.   But then it comes at you … Continue reading

Teaching students to cover the stories that hit close to home

Bob Gould, broadcast journalist in-residence at Michigan State University. Editor's note: This compilation of teaching tips is a companion piece to the author's essay on what it was like to teach student journalists to cover events that affected the campus … Continue reading

Lake Mendota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, including Alumni Park and the Memorial Union Terrace, are pictured in an early morning aerial taken from a helicopter on Oct. 23, 2018. (Photo by Bryce Richter /UW-Madison)

How and why Twitter corrections happen

Eric Carvin, social media editor Associated Press With just a couple clicks, an erroneous tweet can evaporate. If you spell a restaurant’s name wrong or quote a song lyric incorrectly on your personal account, it’s easy to quickly wash that … Continue reading

Soon to be legacy, rows of card catalogue drawers are pictured in the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 29, 2012. in May 2012, the library will remove the last of its card catalogues, completing a quarter-century transition to an online record system for books, journals and more. One row of built-in cases will remain as part of a historic display. More than 100 cases are being sold through UW Surplus With A Purpose (SWAP), and 6,700 drawers of cards are being recycled. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Interviewing LaVar Ball (sometimes) is an ethical imperative

Have the Los Angeles Lakers players stopped responding to their head coach? LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of the team’s rookie point guard, thinks so. Last weekend, he told an ESPN reporter that Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton “doesn’t have … Continue reading

Kaiser reflects on what he’s learned about journalism ethics

Marty Kaiser has spent a lot of time in newsrooms.   His interest in journalism began as a child and he  chased it through college before joining the Chicago Sun-Times and the Baltimore Sun.   His longest tenure, however, was … Continue reading

Reconsidering objective journalism without becoming partisan

Mark Sappenfield, editor at the The Christian Science Monitor, and Christa Case Bryant, the Monitor’s heartland correspondent, said journalists need to reconsider objectivity as a goal of journalism without falling into partisan journalism. “The goal of all nonpartisan journalism is … Continue reading

Rethinking objectivity in progressive communities: A Q&A with Sue Robinson

Sue Robinson Sue Robinson has navigated media ethics in a couple of different ways. First, as a reporter for more than a decade and now as a UW-Madison journalism professor researching how journalists use new communication technologies to report on … Continue reading

Lake Mendota and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, including Alumni Park and the Memorial Union Terrace, are pictured in an early morning aerial taken from a helicopter on Oct. 23, 2018. (Photo by Bryce Richter /UW-Madison)

Four members join advisory board

MADISON, Wisconsin – Four members, three alumni from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, have joined the advisory board of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics. Since its founding nine years ago, the board has contributed to the … Continue reading

Soon to be legacy, rows of card catalogue drawers are pictured in the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 29, 2012. in May 2012, the library will remove the last of its card catalogues, completing a quarter-century transition to an online record system for books, journals and more. One row of built-in cases will remain as part of a historic display. More than 100 cases are being sold through UW Surplus With A Purpose (SWAP), and 6,700 drawers of cards are being recycled. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Making the call: Determining when to call a political statement a lie

Tom Beaumont is a national political reporter at the Associated Press. Beaumont answered some questions by phone about the ethical issues in reporting in an ever-changing, fast-paced news cycle. This interview was edited for clarity and length.   What journalistic … Continue reading

Technology complicates ethics of natural disaster reporting

More than a decade after covering Hurricane Katrina for The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, John Pope, a member of the team that won two Pultizer Prizes, remembers how live-blogging, a relatively new media technology at the time, improved his publication’s coverage … Continue reading

Kim’s research might shine the light into the “dark” political advertisements

Young Mie Kim, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, founded Project DATA to study how political campaigns use digital media and data to reach an audience.   Before Facebook, Twitter and Google fell under scrutiny from … Continue reading

The ethical decisions behind telling the story of heroin

The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Seven Days project took an immersive dive into the heroin epidemic and increasing toll of overdoes. The sometimes graphic and often gripping reporting captured the national attention. Because the stories it told got up close with videos, … Continue reading

Soon to be legacy, rows of card catalogue drawers are pictured in the Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 29, 2012. in May 2012, the library will remove the last of its card catalogues, completing a quarter-century transition to an online record system for books, journals and more. One row of built-in cases will remain as part of a historic display. More than 100 cases are being sold through UW Surplus With A Purpose (SWAP), and 6,700 drawers of cards are being recycled. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Avoid simple solutions to mass shootings

The most difficult task that journalists and journalism educators face in the days ahead may be to recognize their own biases about guns and challenge their notions with facts.   In the days ahead, politicians and the groups that sway … Continue reading