Code of Information Ethics

I’m sitting in my hotel room in New Hampshire, trying to get ready for a week of workshops and an address to ed tech leaders here on Wednesday night. But I can’t seem to switch off e-mail and I just received my three-times-a-day news alert from a local radio station in Raleigh. One of the two “Top News” stories of the hour (9:00 AM) is:

Evacuees Stuck In Traffic As They Try To Return Home
People who were caught in traffic jams evacuating Houston before Hurricane Rita are in heavy traffic this morning as many of them return to the city.

Surprise? OK, it’s all a terrible thing, to live with hurricanes, tornados, winter blizzards, and we’ve just watched a city be destroyed by a storm that we’ve been waiting for for years. But to what degree does a journalism industry stir up controversy.

Now I’m not ranting here, because filling our increasing appetite for news, news, news, is a challenge. But I suspect that this whole issue would be worthy of some discussion in blogging classrooms. Students, who blog, in many ways, are becoming journalists. They are taking what they learn or observe, reflecting on it, and then reporting their impressions. What are the ethical considerations as we empower students to cast their thoughts out on a world of readers?

I would direct you to the Code of Ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). There are four major sections:

  1. Seek Truth and Report It
  2. Minimize Harm
  3. Act Independently
  4. Be Accountable

This document may make an excellent focus for discussion. You might also take a look at the Student and Teachers Information Code of Ethics, which is part of Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century, and adapted, with permission, from SPJ’s code. This document, which is in MSWord format, is designed as a springboard for schools and classrooms to use to fashion their own information code.

Now I’ve GOT to get back to work.

7 thoughts on “Code of Information Ethics”

  1. Thanks David for the SPJ web site. I have been looking for something like this to start a discussion with my 5th grade students. It is interesting trying to teach technology ethics in China. But some of the conversations are amazing.

  2. I’m wondering about the last point: Be Accountable. Does this imply that blogs shouldn’t be anonymous? So many of the educational blogs I read are written under pseudonyms, obviously to hide the identities of teachers who don’t feel like they can voice their opinions otherwise. It seems that it would be more tempting for a person to shirk the first three points of the SPJ Code of Ethics if they knew they could not be identified. Just something that has been on my mind as my school faces two lawsuits stemming from teachers’ (unrecorded) in-class comments, while I write a (very printable) blog with my name on it.

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