NEW YORK – How do you set a standard for ethics in journalism in the digital age?
Is it any different than the ethical standards that have been enshrined by generations past in the old-school world of newspapers and network news?
And how do reporters out there in the world establish ‘truth’ in a landscape where spouting opinion too often prevails over digging for facts?
The Paley Center for Media hosted a gathering of journalists, entrepreneurs and new media thinkers to ponder these questions at a forum on “The New Ethics of Journalism: A Guide for the 21st Century.”
The forum was sponsored by the Poynter Institute and craigconnects, the foundation that was created by Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.
I was invited to participate in the conference to share GlobalPost's story—how our team has built a stellar team of editors in Boston and more than 75 correspondents around the world who have, in four years, created a news organization that carries out solid reporting and great storytelling every day. I shared the idea of GroundTruth, a core philosophy at GlobalPost which holds that the closest path to getting at the ‘truth’ of a story is by being there where it is happening on the ground.
As Tom Rosenstiel, the Director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the co-author of the new book, "Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload," put it, “Truth is a process, it’s a search.”
A simple but profound statement, and I couldn’t agree more. Kelly McBride, who is on the faculty at The Poynter Institute, called upon the gathering to establish three principles for a new ethical code in the digital age. As the all-day conference came to a close, the group was still trying to hammer these three principles out. It concluded without agreement, but with a vow that the list was a “work in progress,” as McBride put it.
Clay Shirky, a professor at New York University and a thought leader on the internet's impact on society, earlier in the day offered one overriding truth about how news organizations will ensure that they are ethical. As he put it, “Ethics in news used to be an internal matter, but the internet has changed that.” In other words, we rely not only on our own internal standards but also on our community of readers to keep us honest.
I’m sure you won’t let us down in that regard.
Video from the Poynter Digital Journalism Ethics Symposium