When Journalists Err Ethically
Student research projects address an area of journalistic ethical misconduct
Students will research and find examples of unethical behavior. While researching, students will evaluate the sources they are using as well as the scenario of the ethical infraction. This lesson should benefit students later in the unit as they work to develop a code of ethics.
Students will present on these ethical infractions and explain their significance, cost to the profession and cost to the individual(s) who lapsed in judgment.
- Students will research using credible sites.
- Students will evaluate the information they find on the internet.
- Students will analyze the situation and see the end result effect.
- Students will present the information they find to the class.
Common Core State Standards
|CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3a||Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation and its significance, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.|
|CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3d||Use precise words and phrases, telling details, and sensory language to convey a vivid picture of the experiences, events, setting, and/or characters.|
|CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6||Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.|
|CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.7||Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.|
|CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4||Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.|
|CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.4||Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.|
Partnership for 21st Century Skills — Student Outcomes
|Creativity and Innovation||Think creatively|
|Creativity and Innovation||Work creatively with others|
|Critical Thinking||Solve problems|
|Communication and Collaboration||Communicate clearly|
|Communication and Collaboration||Collaborate with others|
|Information Literacy||Use and manage information|
|Media Literacy||Analyze media|
|ICT||Apply technology effectively|
|Initiative and Self-Direction||Manage goals and time|
|Initiative and Self-Direction||Work independently|
200 minutes (four 50-minute classes)
1. Introduction — 2 minutes
Explain to the students that they will be finding examples of ethical issues in journalism. They will be creating a poster explaining the issue, the significance, the cost to the profession and cost to the individual(s) who exercised poor judgment.
2. Setting up groups — 5 minutes
Count students off (using numbers 1-14) so the groups are as even as possible. (The students will research 14 different ethical lapses.)
3. Assignment explanation — 5 minutes
Pass out the rubric and assignment sheet. Go through both. Remind students they must credit where they get their information.
4. Research — 38 minutes
Students should research their ethics category.
1. Refocus, review — 5 minutes
Remind students they are finding examples of ethical issues in journalism. They should create their poster explaining the issue, the significance, the cost to the profession and cost to the individual(s) who exercised poor judgment. Remind them again to cite their information. Again refer to the rubric and assignment sheet.
2. Research — 45 minutes
Students should research their ethics category. Remind students to include visuals on their posters.
Days 3 and 4
1. Presentations — 50 minutes
Each small group should present their poster. When each group finishes, they should hang the poster up in the room (unless the teacher needs it to finish grading). This poster will serve as a reminder while students work on their Code of Ethics, which is a culminating project in this unit.
Teacher should grade the presentations as they occur.
• An ethical lapse is a mistake or error in judgment that produces a harmful outcome. A lapse in ethics doesn’t show a complete lack of integrity, just an oversight or an ethical blind spot. Routinely producing harmful results is not considered a “lapse,” that’s just considered unethical. Ethical lapses can be large or small scale, kept private or publicized and be illegal or within the realm of the law but still immoral. In academia, the causes of these lapses (in a regularly ethical person) are sometimes called fallacies.
An article by Christine Tatum, who was president of SPJ in 2006-07 when she wrote the column: SPJ, ethical lapses in the past year http://www.spj.org/rrr.asp?ref=77&t=ethics. [JEA has obtained permission to use this article, so you may choose to distribute it as a handout.]
• Indiana University resource: http://journalism.indiana.edu/resources/ethics/
• The bad and the ugly: An examination of ethical lapses 0f the past year: http://www.spj.org/rrr.asp?ref=77&t=ethics
• Ethical lapses: http://ajrarchive.org/article.asp?id=574
• Are there ethical lapses in the Times story http://www.newstatesman.com/media/2013/06/are-there-ethical-lapses-times-story-williams-indian-ancestry
• US media still needs some work on its Africa tropes: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2013/12/10/toto_and_wimoweh_the_u_s_media_still_needs_some_work_on_its_africa_tropes.html?wpisrc=hpsponsoredd2
• Ethical case studies in modern era journalism: http://shelf1.library.cmu.edu/HSS/a1042985.pdf
• What is the ethics breach in this story? http://www.wtae.com/news/local/allegheny/JFK-s-connections-to-Pittsburgh/-/10927008/23115822/-/10rc3ns/-/index.html
• Does the NY Times reporter understand his paper’s ethics policy? http://gawker.com/does-the-n-y-times-star-tech-reporter-understand-its-1466714271
• Fake outdoor parade coverage: ethical lapse http://www.newscaststudio.com/2013/11/26/duluth-station-fakes-outdoor-parade-coverage