April 08, 2011

Panels to discuss social media, journalism ethics

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A conference next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will look at the impact that social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and WikiLeaks have on journalism ethics.

Two panels of experts will discuss whether the traditional tools in media accountability, such as ombudsmen, newsroom ethics codes, journalism reviews, news councils, and public journalism, are keeping up with the mushrooming ethical issues brought about by social media.

Journalism and media experts including Alicia C. Shepard, the ombudsman for National Public Radio, and Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center, will discuss the issues as part of a Liberty Tree Initiative on campus on Tuesday, April 12.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographer and camera crews are welcome to cover the panel discussions. For more information on the event, contact William Freivogel, director of SIUC’s School of Journalism, at 618-536-3361, or by email at wfreivogel@gmail.com.

The first panel discussion begins at 11 a.m. in the Dean’s Conference Room (1032) in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts. The event will be over about 2 p.m.

The panel discussions are free, and the public is welcome.

“This is one of the more interesting issues that journalists face these days,” said William H. Freivogel, director of SIUC’s School of Journalism. “The answer to the question posed at the moment, at least, is the traditional methods of media accountability are not really keeping up with all the ethical problems that social media poses.”

Freivogel said as exciting as social media is, it “still raises a whole lot of questions.”

Each panel member has had a role in some form of media accountability, Freivogel said. He expects many of the audience will be journalism students who will face these questions “that are really center to their careers.”

The first panel is comprised of Shepard, Jan Schaffer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and executive director of “J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism” at American University’s School of Communication; Margaret Wolf Freivogel, founder and editor of the St. Louis Beacon, a non-profit online news organization; and journalist and teacher Gary Gilson, the former executive director of the Minnesota News Council.

A second panel will provide reaction to the earlier discussion. In addition to Policinski and William Freivogel, participants will include Carolyn Kingcade, the former reader’s advocate at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and David Yepsen, former chief political writer, political editor and political columnist for the Des Moines Register, who now is director of SIUC’s Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

William A. Babcock, a professor in the School of Journalism whose expertise is on media ethics, will moderate the discussions.

In addition to the conference, SIUC students have an opportunity to submit a 1,000-word essay on the topic: “Are Traditional Tools of Media Accountability up to the Ethical Issues of a Twitter World?” The Gateway Journalism Review will publish the winning student’s essay this summer and the winner will also receive $300. The submission deadline is April 30.