Santa Clara University

Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Digital Journalism Ethics Blog


Digital Journalism EthicsThe Executive Roundtable on Digital Journalism Ethics at the Markkula Center, convenes senior-level participants from news media that range from the entrepreneurial to the massive. These include small investigative shops, start-up apps, legacy newspapers and magazines, and news aggregators including Google and Yahoo!

This year we focus on journalism in the public square: Journalists often emphasize our responsibility to cultivate democratic debate, yet it's unclear what this means in our digital age. Can we embed a more ambitious journalism mission and the values it entails into the technology we use to create and deliver the news? In this blog, students respond to the discussions of these issues.

  •  The Value of Traditional Journalism and Collaborative Writing and Editing

    "Never use Wikipedia as a source." Almost every teacher I’ve had repeated this line to their classes, yet they admittedly used Wikipedia to prepare their lectures. In fact, Wikipedia has become a go-to information source for our generation. What is the value in Wikipedia and how does it compare to that of traditional journalism?


    Sue Gardner, the executive director of Wikimedia Foundation, said that collaborative writing and editing--as seen with Wikipedia--allows people to "conduct an act of journalism without being a journalist" and that it results in better articles. Gardner also said that this collaborative style contributes additional depth, transparency, and timeliness compared to what is found in traditional journalism. In closing, Gardner asked what several questions regarding the role of a journalist when collaborative writing is changing the way that information is reaching the consumer.


    For me, it was interesting to think about Wikipedia as a dynamic source of information that is able to evolve as fast as information becomes available. While I do believe that a world filled with collaborative writing and editing process is very valuable, I find that journalists serve a very important a purpose. Yes, Gardner was correct when she said that Wikipedia contributors could efficiently provide a variety of expertise in one article. Journalists, however, can create continuity in their work that makes the information more interesting for the reader. Thus, both traditional journalism and collaborative writing have different strengths that make them essential to creating and delivering the news. 

  •  Reflection

    Journalism should give the public the knowledge that allows them to make their own decisions in and opinions about the world.  The U-T San Diego is obviously not good journalism because it is biased based on the owner's preferences, and this is not good journalism.  I don't think that the inewsource is "boring" at all; journalism is not creative writing and should be stripped of flowery or slanted language.  Yet because so many news sources are privately owned and funded, I don't know that it is totally possible for all of these news sources to be unbiased.

    In the strain of objectivity, I don't think that famous newscasters or journalists should be able to post opinionated tweets to the general public because this could sway or decieve followers into mindlessly adopting the same opinion.  Social media should be used to supplement traditional journalism and maintain the same objectivity.

    Social media also allows journalists to be more timely than ever, since tweets and images can be sent in real-time.

  •  Journalism in the Public Square...Micro-climates in San Diego

    U-T San Diego

    Owner: "Papa Doug"

    Changed the name, launched television and cable stations, redesigned website: building a media company

    New and old ideas

    Stated an agenda for the city of San Diego: development of waterfront, new football stadium, support of military, front page editorials for politicians/authors they favor

    Wanted "GOOD news" about the city

    The Voice: forward thinking practice of journalism (avoid third person) transparent and independent, plainly state the truth (no he said she said), answer questions, not ask them


    Started as a non-profit investigative journalism at the Union Tribune. 

    Document and data-driven


    defanged: no loaded language, flowery description, no opinion

    Do public expressions of opinion via social media by newscasters/journalists cross a line?

    In this new world, what is the mission of journalism?

  •  Social Media Journalism

    Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube. They influence our news on a daily basis, but should they? Sure, it's an excellent way to reach people and spread news, but what about the quality of the news that's being spread?

    Monica Guzman has pointed out that there is definitely a greater outpour of "breaking news," but it seems that a lot of the news being published is posted in response to, "Will my followers like this?"

    I have seen televised news shows that feature a "viral video of the week," while there are important, pressing stories across the nation and globe that have yet to be published. We need to move back to publishing real news! With constant publication of "little" stories, that provide more entertainment rather than information, the public has been desensitized to "breaking news", and no longer detects or realizes the greater, more urgent, grand-scale stories. Too many people are unaware of rights problems, genocides, global economics, and scientific progress that is occurring here at home and abroad. We need an informed public, not a bunch of zombies that can give you the top 10 Youtube videos that are cute or riled a country. Even informative videos, because they are generated by the public, aren't adequate news publications: they present a singular perspective and opinion, and many people don't know how, or choose not to, seek other perspectives and opinions that would allow them to create their own, informed opinion on important, relevant problems in today's society.


    -Gabriela Mena

  •  Todd Gitlin applied to Science and Health Journalism

    The topic of climate change in the news..

    Todd Gitlin was right to point out that the journalism industry generally does "bend over backwards" to ensure there is no bias in published stories. It is an inherent part of good journalism; however, when it comes to science news, there is too often a skewed opinion presented to the public by the media. Gitlin uses climate change as an example of bias making it's way into the media in both positive and negative light. Rick Santorum referred to global warming as "junk science" on national television, and his statement remained unchallenged and uncorrected... and this was not an isolated incident.

    My interest in science and health journalism stems from the often exaggerated, inaccurate stories presented to the media. Scare tactics and discreditation of scientists has led to mass skepticism of scientific and health advances, leading to reduced funding and a narrowing field of scientific research. Sometime over the last 50 years, people have lost interest and trust in science, despite a plethora of advancements that have changed every person's life.

    Journalism needs to redirect the public's opinion regarding science, politics, the economy, etc so that they become more involved in forming their own informed opinion, insteading having reporters and opinion writers form an opinion for the public. Force the public to ask questions, don't answer all the questions! Humans have a natural curiosity, and the advancement of technology and the increase in readily-available news and reports, people have stopped trying to work their own brains and think independently, building on, rather than blindly following the published opinions of news organizations and their writers. As Gitlin has suggested, use the digital platform to reach people in innovative ways with honest, real news! Our society is so mis- and uninformed, it presents a real problem in the coming years, as we look ahead to future generations for leadership.


    -Gabriela Mena