ONA launches crowdsourcing for DIY Ethics Code

By on May 2, 2014

The Online News Association has opened up crowdsourcing for our “do-it-yourself” ethics code project, aimed at helping news organizations, startups and individual bloggers and journalists create their own codes. The project’s operating principle: no single ethics code can reflect the needs of everyone in our widely varied profession.

The team developing the Build Your Own Ethics Code project has completed its first draft, covering more than 40 ethical issues. Now we’re hoping to get comments from working journalists on what we’ve missed – especially international and multimedia angles. Start by visiting our DIY Ethics Code resource page.

The first draft will be publicly presented May 3 by project leader @tjrkent at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy #ijf14. Crowdsourcing will run for several months, and even after the project is declared complete, we expect updates to continue for years to keep up with our ever-evolving field.

The initiative, created by 20 journalists and media educators from four nations, is the first product of ONA’s News Ethics Committee. The project starts with a baseline, a limited set of fundamentals that all journalists should agree on (tell the truth, don’t plagiarize, don’t take money to skew your stories, etc.). It then moves on to a choice between traditional, objective journalism and point-of-view journalism.

Finally, the toolkit presents 40 more finely detailed issues on which honest journalists might disagree. For instance:

● Removal of items from online archives
● Anonymous sources
● Quoting, without permission, comments people make on social media
● Social media sources, verification and corrections
● Racial references, hate speech and vulgarities
● Coverage of suicides, hostage incidents and bomb threats

In each case, the project offers various points of view; users can select the approaches that seem right to them.

We welcome your input and comments on the specific issues. Are we reflecting the latest thinking on each issue we cover? What subjects should we address that we’ve missed? Is our approach truly international? Can you suggest additional links to add?

We’ll be happy to credit you for constructive ideas added at your suggestion. And we’d also be grateful for thoughts on how to improve the structure and usability of the materials.

To start, visit our DIY Ethics Code resource page; we suggest you read through the project description, move through Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3, then feel free to put brief comments (50 words or less) directly on the Google Docs pages outlining specific issues. For broader comments or questions, email us at onaethics@gmail.com.

We hope that once you have worked through the project documents, you’ll have a comprehensive, personalized understanding of how you see journalism ethics — something that can be publicly posted and lived by.

By Thomas Kent, Deputy Managing Editor/Standards Editor, The Associated Press; ONA News Ethics Committee

Jane McDonnell

Jane McDonnell

As executive director, Jane oversees and manages the day-to-day operations of the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, working closely with the Board of Directors. Her purview includes membership, partnerships, global community outreach, budgeting and revenue generation, fundraising and development, the Online Journalism Awards, and providing vision for ONA’s state-of-the-art annual conference.