Poynter Publishes New Journalism Ethics Book

Poynter Publishes New Journalism Ethics Book

The Poynter Institute, an international strategy center and a leader in journalism education, has announced the publication of a pivotal new book on media ethics in the digital age. "The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century" (SAGE/CQ Press, 2013) provides an evolved set of guidelines and principles for journalists, students, and mass communicators, with chapters contributed by 14 of media's top thought leaders and practitioners.

The book examines the unique problems of searching for trust and building trust in the 21 st century: Vetting and verifying information in the vast arena of social media; the effects of interactive social media on storytelling and news gathering; the contextual meaning of stories and the value of images; and the evolving role of a community of citizen journalists and individual documentarians in the production of news.

The book is co-edited by Poynter Senior Faculty Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute.

"I've been guiding journalists and newsrooms through ethical quagmires for a decade and we need a new toolkit," said McBride, who has been teaching ethics at Poynter since 2002. "Journalism is changing and if we don't reexamine our guiding principles, I fear we will become irrelevant, or worse, harmful to democracy."

Poynter President Karen Dunlap said the book furthers Poynter's core mission over the last four decades to improve journalism in the service of democracy.

"If we want journalism to stay relevant and influential, then all of us need a framework for understanding our duties and responsibilities in a democratic society," said Dunlap. "This book does just that."

At the encouragement of CQ Press, an imprint of SAGE Publications, McBride began recruiting essayists for the book in early 2012. "We're excited to publish The New Ethics of Journalism to help shed light on new ethical issues borne by emerging technologies and shifting business models, while also offering a fresh look at longstanding ethical conundrums for journalism," said Matt Byrnie, Senior Acquisitions Editor at SAGE and CQ Press. "Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel have assembled a stellar group of thinkers on journalism's past, present, and future to put together this book that gives journalists a new compass to navigate even the murkiest of challenges facing journalism today."

Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and now craigconnects, made a donation to Poynter to help fund a gathering of the invited writers and others interested in the evolving ethics of journalism. Tom Rosenstiel, a member of Poynter's National Advisory Board, volunteered to help and accepted McBride's invitation to serve as a co-editor. Rosenstiel is the founder and former director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence, and author of six other journalism books, including "The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect" and "Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload," both co-authored with Bill Kovach. McBride was thrilled with the philosophical and historical perspective Rosenstiel brought to the editing process.

"Technology has so drastically altered how news is gathered, processed and understood, it has taken journalism closer to its essential purpose," said Rosenstiel. "So it's critical the formal ethics of journalism accommodate those changes. News always belonged to the public. Now the ethics of journalism must consider the role of the audience, and the impact of community and the potential of technology more fully. These new principles and essays do that," Rosenstiel added.

McBride and Rosenstiel believed a collaborative effort involving a number of voices was crucial to developing an ethics inclusive of anyone who might produce journalism responsibly. They approached some of the industry's most innovative thinkers about writing chapters for the book. Writer and New York University professor Clay Shirky was among them.

"A lot of what we used to talk about as the future of journalism is now its present," said Shirky, whose chapter focuses on the Internet's effect on reporting truth. "Production and consumption of news has gone digital, as has public conversation. Now we have to get down to the hard task of producing news that is relevant to citizens, not just entertainment that is pleasing to consumers."

Microsoft Research professor danah boyd (preferred spelling) contributed a chapter called "The Destabilizing Force of Fear," in which she and McBride examine the connections between new technologies and the challenges news producers face in capturing the attention of audiences, especially when competing with content that capitalizes on fear.