Annual ethics workshop focuses on ‘dirty politics’

Drew Woyat

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication hosted its eighth annual Poynter Media Ethics Workshop Thursday in Franklin Hall.

This year’s workshop, “Dirty Politics,” focused on issues affecting political reporting, including fact-checking, polling and anti-gender bias.

Senior advertising major Elizabeth Vertosick said she attended the workshop because she believes it is important to evaluate ethics in politics. “I’m interested to find out how fact checking and understanding [if] certain campaigns are truthful.”

The workshop featured speakers Dan Moulthrop of The Civic Commons, Pam Fine of Political Fiber Project, Greg Korte of USA Today and others. Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize winner and Kent State alumna, presented the keynote speech.

About 150 students and media professionals contributed to the workshop, asking questions via Twitter using the hashtag #ksuethics12. Audience members tweeted comments during the workshop, which appeared as a live-stream broadcast to the auditorium on a large screen behind the presenters.

Thor Wasbotten, director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, presented the opening remarks, informing the audience that “discussing ethics is timeless.” He went on to describe his experience dealing with ethics in journalism and how media workshops are vital to learning.

Kelly McBride and Ellyn Angelotti from the Poynter Institute were the first speakers of the day. Their speech “What the Fact?” focused on the rise of the internet as a news outlet.

“There is no doubt that the values of journalism are under pressure,”McBride said, referring to how easy social media makes it for people to become “journalists” online.

To explain McBride’s point, she and Angelotti discussed how internet memes have become political commentary and how Facebook and Twitter have caused journalists to sometimes abandon neutrality on news issues.

“The attachment to neutrality is declining [and] attachment to transparency is rising,” McBride said.

John Green of the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute talked about how polling has become overwhelming because of the number of polls that can now be conducted through social media.

“Last time I counted the number of new polls there were two or three dozen,” Green said. “There is an extraordinary amount of information you could have that is good news, but for a working journalist that is bad news.”

The workshop also featured a panel discussion on women and gender bias in politics and a discussion on the ethics of political ads and campaigns.

To watch the speeches from Thursday’s Media Ethics Workshop, visit the video archive at

Contact Drew Woyat at [email protected].