Student journalism ethics

I’ve argued for years that journalism students need ethics training to prepare them for the tough calls they’ll have to make on the job. Jerry Ceppos, now the journalism dean at the University of Nevada, Reno, thinks so too. His school requires students to take a journalism ethics course and a First Amendment class that covers ethics. But this year, Ceppos writes in the Reno Gazette-Journal, his students also taught him something about ethics: “You don’t have to beat it into them.”

Building on an honor code that one senior developed on her own, students developed an ethics pledge that the Journalism Student Advisory Board is now asking all graduates to sign:

As a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism, I will uphold and apply the highest standards of integrity and ethics. This includes helping others by minimizing harm and showing compassion. As a graduate of the Reynolds School of Journalism, I will act independently and be accountable for my actions.

Cortney Maddock, who worked on the pledge, tells Ceppos she expects every graduate to sign the pledge. And she’ll be happy if it stops “just one person before falsifying a contact or plagiarizing or lying or not contributing to the common good.”

The pledge cites the basic principles of the SPJ and RTNDA ethics codes but what I really like about it is that it’s a personal statement, short enough to fit in your wallet.  I’d suggest that the grads who sign it might want to print the pledge on the back of their new business cards to remind themselves and the people they deal with of their commitment to ethical journalism.