Santa Clara University

Digital Journalism Ethics: Questions and Resources

These materials refer to Digital Journalism Ethics

 
 
Richard Gingras/Ethical Challenges for Digital Journalism

More information is being created by more people than ever before, Gingras says. But information is not the same as knowledge. The public is not always equipped to discern the quality of information and misinformation and fears easily can gain ground.

  1. Does the inclusion of trivial information in the news package diminish perceptions of its overall quality?
  2. Should journalism shift all of its attention away from what Gingras calls “the documentation of trivia” to the creation of higher knowledge and insight?
  3. Should the mission of the journalist change from reporting news to developing cognitive reasoning, insight and exchange in the digital public square?

Resources for further discussion:
   - Review USA Today on Information Overload, or
     just search “information overload” or “news overload” for recent articles
     Compare the mission statements of various news organizations in your area.
   - A Push for Content Aggregation Guidelines
   - The Curator’s Code

 
 
Scott Rosenberg/Accuracy and Newsgathering Online

The news cycle has sped up and journalists must sort through multiple sources of information nonstop. At the same time, once distributed online, information lives forever.

  1. Is the journalist’s responsibility for accuracy changing?
  2. How can news organizations build the public’s trust in its accuracy and fairness?

Examples you can use for further discussion:
   - “The Error Iceberg,” by Arthur S. Brisbane, New York Times ombudsman
   - Gabrielle Giffords reported dead: Link 1, Link 2 and Link 3

 
 
Bryan Monroe/Accountability and Transparency in Digital Media

Monroe discusses the business imperative of accountability and transparency. “To bring in many voices and many sides, and also disclose what their attachments are is very important, because if we fail to do that, our audiences will turn us off.”

  1. How would you respond to the scenarios Monroe describes?
  2. Should policies be different for freelancers than for staff reporters?
  3. Some bloggers reject traditional journalism codes of ethics and some freelancers work for industry even as they report the news. Are audience expectations for transparency and accountability different in the Internet era?

Resources:
   - The Washington News Council’s pledge
   - The Poynter Review Project with ESPN

 
 
Joaquin Alvarado/Inclusiveness in Digital Media

Alvarado argues that for children now growing up in the U.S., media that is not “totally diverse” will not be considered legitimate.

What would be necessary to attract all kinds of people to news?

  1. How can social media such as Google and Twitter be used to draw more people to news?
  2. Does social media add to diversity of the information and news we see, or because of personalization, does it diminish it?

Resources you can use for further discussion:
   - “Social Media’s Diversity Problem,” by Tracy Baines
   - 28Days of Diversity: People of Color Impacting the Social Web
   - Maynard Institute for Journalism Education
   - RTNDA Diversity Toolkit
   - ASNE Newsroom Census

 
 
Christine Montgomery/Using Metrics to Make Editorial Decisions

Metrics are a way to assess not just how many people come to your site, but also how engaged they are with your content and brand. Engagement metrics show up in what they view, how long, and whether they share it.

  1. Montgomery discusses the ways in which metrics may or may not align with journalism's mission. What do you see as journalism's mission?
  2. Montgomery describes news sharing and "liking" as the best metrics to use in today's social media environment. Do you agree or disagree that these align with the news mission?
  3. If you could create your own measure to test how well a news site is achieving its mission, what would it be?

Resources:
   - Confusion Online: Faulty Metrics & the Future of Digital Journalism
   - Measuring Audience Engagement
   - Do News Algorithms Influence Democracy?
   - Examples of mug shots and photo gallery pages: 1 and 2

 
 
Jane McDonnell/Findings from the ONA Ethics Survey

McDonnell asks managers to make sure they are including reporters and producers in any discussion of ethics codes. They are already sorting through tricky issues on a day-to-day basis, she says.

  1. Should these day-to-day decisions be codified in some way and explained to the public? Why or why not?
  2. How should managers work within newsrooms to create and ethical culture and to make sure that reporters, producers and editors are making wise ethical decisions?

Resources:
   - The Markkula Center’s collection of journalism ethics codes.
   - iMediaEthics covers media standards and media ethics.