OLD Media Moves

Business journalism and ethics

April 28, 2009

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers held its 2009 Gary Klott Memorial Ethics Discussion on Tuesday, and as usual, members voted on how they would react to certain situations.

Here are some examples:

1. An important election is about to take place. To show your support for a particular candidate, do you:

A. Make a campaign contribution, paste a bumper sticker on your car bumper, and plant a sign in your yard;

B. Create a social networking site with positive and exhaustive coverage supporting that candidate;

C. Participate in online discussions supporting the candidate using an alternative identity;

D. All of the above since you are a business reporter and this is a free country;

E. None of the above as you remain an impartial journalist and it would violate company policy.

Ninety-five percent of the business journalists in attendance voted E. Five percent voted A.

2. You are working on a breaking story about an explosion at a nearby oil refinery. You post a query on Twitter asking if any of your followers heard or saw the accident. A string of tweets follows with #explosion tags. Do you:

A. Grab the #explosion tweets to fill out the color needed for your story;

B. Go back to fellow posters and identify yourself as a journalist and ask to call them to verify information;

C. Use the eyewitness accounts to inform your questions for authorities;

D. Do all of the above.

Sixty-three percent responded B, while 38 percent responded D.

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