SPJ considers overdue update to Code of Ethics

It is always good to have a discussion of how to word basic rules of journalism — including what it means to be ethical.

The SPJ Code has been translated into a number of languages and has proved to be a powerful guide for journalists around the world who are trying to improve the quality of journalism in their home countries. I have seen journalists and news organizations in the Dominican Republic, China and Hong Kong use the SPJ Code as the basis for their own codes. (That means they were dumping the weak or non-existent codes in their area.)

The Buttry Diary

I’m pleased that the Society of Professional Journalists is considering an update to its Code of Ethics.

The SPJ Code of Ethics has guided journalists for decades, but hasn’t been updated since 1996. I called for an update in a blog post nearly three years ago, then in a follow-up cover story for Quill magazine and discussed the need for an update in an #spjchat Twitter chat. I applaud new SPJ President David Cullier for calling on the Ethics Committee to consider an update.

In a discussion Sunday at the Excellence in Journalism conference, SPJ Ethics Chair Kevin Smith and some other Ethics Committee members acknowledged a need for at least some fine-tuning, though some said they did not see the need for heavy revisions.

I won’t belabor here the points I’ve made before, but I’ll summarize briefly. The journalism landscape has changed dramatically since 1996 and I…

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