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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Ethical Considerations for Student Reporters and Editors


Is it ethical for a student journalist to cover a friend’s organization? If the university asks for a story to be removed or changed, is a university (student-run) newspaper editor obligated to comply? If students who are sources for a story wish to remain anonymous, should a student journalist still use their quotes? These are just a few of the ethical questions that 10 new cases help student journalists and editors navigate.

Developed as a 2018-2019 Hackworth fellowship project, Isabella “Bella” Rios ’19 consulted with The Santa Clara to understand the primary ethical issues that arise for student journalists and editors. After reviewing their code of ethics and meeting with The Santa Clara editor-in- chief, Bella identified key journalism ethics concepts at stake in each case. Tensions between serving the public interest and protecting sources’ privacy, for example, became a central theme that Bella tackled during the 2018-2019 school year.

Drawing upon scholarly literature in journalism ethics as well as real-world examples that student journalists have shared, Bella’s cases integrate theoretical and applied research in a collection of cases that provide a set of clear and succinct ethical questions student journalists and editors should ask themselves when they find themselves in the throes of similar situations.   

During the Hackworth fellowship, Bella presented her honors thesis research at the Midwest Political Science Association. Bella also received the Richard J. Riordan Award for outstanding contributions to community service.

Bella worked with Anita Varma, Center program manager for Journalism & Media Ethics as well as Business, Leadership, and Social Sector Ethics.

Case Studies