Online ethics focus of conference

Amy Szabo

Poynter fellows discuss blogging rules, journalism values

When dealing with the world of online journalism, Bob Steele said that journalists have to be like border collies – smart and focused.

If not, he said journalists will be turning over the field of journalism to “pit bulls and lap dogs.”

As journalism in its online form transfers from strictly professionals producing content, to anyone who posts a comment online, Steele, a distinguished visiting professor of journalism of DePauw University, reinforced the role of professional journalists at a conference in Franklin Hall yesterday.

For the first time in the Poynter Kent State Media Ethics Workshop’s history, the entire workshop focused on online ethics, specifically blogs and blogging.

“This is the first year (the workshop is) completely dedicated to online (ethics),” said Jan Leach, Media Law Center director and assistant professor in Journalism and Mass Communication.

And it’s an essential part of a journalist’s career.

“Freedom that isn’t connected to other guidelines is dangerous,” Steele said on the issue of online journalists who have no set rules.

Throughout the course of the workshop, participants discussed the ideas of applying some sort of order upon online journalists.

“I know we can’t,” said Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, as the audience responded with chuckles, “but let’s pretend we can.”

One of the important discussion topics was transparency, meaning the audience can see where a journalist or blogger got his or her information.

“Transparency is one of the ways to build trust with the audience,” McBride said.

Accompanied with transparency is persuasiveness. Jay Rosen, New York University professor and author of the journalism blog “PressThink,” said that above all, if an article is not persuasive, “you won’t get people to accept your account.”

Other topics discussed during the workshop were whether or not blogging has hurt journalism. They concluded that there must be some implied ethical guidelines in online journalism or it would have failed by now.

Overall, participants decided that “the Internet is still a foreign country, and we’re still learning its culture,” as Robin Sloan, Current media company media strategist, put it.

Leach was the driving force behind getting Poynter to come to Kent State. As an ethics fellow, she said she is “very interested in ethics and all that kind of stuff.”

She worked on the Poynter development and training program at first, then moved on to teach fellow professionals on the issues of ethics before finally becoming an ethics fellow.

Contact College of Communications and Information reporter Amy Szabo at [email protected].