Ethics Week this year was a joke.

Ethics Week this year (2005) was a cruel joke. With a ton of unethical behaviors to choose from in print and broadcast -- deceptive stories, overt bias, slanted story selection, anti-gun-rights parading, Minuteman distortions and hysteria, video news release fraud, lapdog support of government spending projects, failure to achieve even marginal compliance with the official Code of Ethics, my local chapter (Phoenix) of the Society of Professional Journalists featured this:

“Ethical considerations of publishing
overly strong or insightful commentary”

In other words, rather than look at any ethical lapses by the media, they chose to question the public who manage to get letters into the opinion section. Calling that a cruel joke is putting it too nicely:

Valley of the Sun SPJ:
"Igniting the Opinion Bomb"
Panel discussion on the ethics of the editorial pages

Save the date! "Igniting the Opinion Bomb: Are Some Views Too Incendiary to be Published?" is a panel discussion program on a part of journalism that deeply touches the public, but is rarely explored by journalists: The opinion section.

This public forum will deal the ethical considerations of publishing overly strong or insightful commentary. It is based in part on the Arizona Supreme Court's current consideration of a case involving a letter to the editor of the Tucson Citizen. Panelists will include editorial page editors and stakeholders in newspaper opinion pages.

Questions to be discussed include: Where are the boundaries? If certain views are out of bounds legally, does that leave the media with leaving the tacit impression that such views don't exist? Isn't it better to put such speech "out there" for all to see and for moral people to repudiate?

More information -- including a list of panelists -- will be coming soon on the SPJ chapter's Web site,, and on its 24-hour recorded telephone InfoLine, (480) 970-2314.

It's 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, April 25, at the Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave. (between Roosevelt and McDowell), Phoenix, and sponsored by the Valley of the Sun chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The event, in celebration of SPJ's annual Ethics Week, is underwritten by a grant provided by the Indianapolis-based Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, SPJ's fund-raising arm. Admission is free. Refreshments will be served.


Relax, it gets worse.

The SPJ national magazine, Quill, in its “Annual Ethics Issue” began with:

“Conflicts of interest a part of life—
No matter how hard you try, avoiding perceived conflicts
is nearly impossible for journalists”

... and ended with:

“Get public officials to help you—
10 tips that will help you work better with political figures”

I especially liked:

“The price of playing for pay—
Accepting money from interest groups
is a good way to hurt your reputation”


“Ethics alter writing techniques—
With a closer eye being paid to ethics,
writers don’t have as much freedom as they used to”

The cover story dealt with a reporter doing a piece about an escaped child murderer. She accidentally found the criminal—should she just publish the story and help him get away? OK, maybe this is an ethical dilemma. But the chances of any other reporter ever facing this challenge is so small it hardly merits mention -- especially with the stunning amounts of bias and unethical tactics reporters are embroiled in every day. A desire to truly address the outrageous ethical problems within the news business is simply not there.


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