How a new journalism ethics book can help PR pros

If journalists and PR professionals could agree on one code of ethics, what would it look like? Just maybe this one.

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Imagine what we could accomplish as public relations professionals if journalistic ethics codes not only incorporated the realities of Internet-centered communication, but were accepted universally by the journalism and PR fields as the basis for resolving issues of fairness and accuracy.

That time may be near. The Poynter Institute seems to be speeding it along with the publication of Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel’s “The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century.”

Poynter, a strategy and education center for both student and working journalists, has developed and offered ethics training since the early 1980s. That led, in the early 1990s, to Poynter’s introduction of its first set of ethical guidelines, which became the keystone of ethics codes created by the Society of Professional Journalists and other organizations.

I have long advocated use of the SPJ’s ethics code in crisis management media relations, as leverage to persuade writers and editors to amend their copy or behavior when either appears to violate it. However, that code is a little antiquated. It doesn’t take into consideration the Internet’s immense impact on media relations of all kinds, traditional and social.

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