Real Life Journalism Ethics

My students are talking about journalism ethics — even when I’m not around.

I’ll take that as a small measure of teaching success.

This all started last Friday when FOX News was airing a high-speed auto chase occurring in Arizona and then didn’t cut away fast enough; the driver exited the vehicle and shot himself in the head on national television. (YouTube currently has a clip of Shepard Smith’s apology.)

The incident spawned a whole lot of discussion in journalism circles. The Amarillo Globe-News, my local newspaper, even wrote a story about it. The report officially puts me on the record against covering car chases live.

What’s even cooler than getting quoted in the local newspaper, though, is that the editor of The Prairie, West Texas A&M University’s student newspaper, decided this topic would make a great editorial for our current edition.

Editorials are a new addition to the newspaper this year, and I’ve been asked to look over the first few “just to make sure.” Not this one, though, so it was a pleasant surprise when I read the headline as I looked through the newspaper’s pre-publication pages on Monday.

Journalism ethics is difficult territory” makes the case that journalism can be a tricky affair at times. That’s why we have codes, such as the one for the Society of Professional Journalists, to help guide us when the action gets a little too fast and loose.

I’m pumped that my students are not only talking about journalism’s ethical issues, they’re sharing their thoughts with the campus at large.

Higher education, indeed.

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