What is a reporter to do?

By. R. Ammon Ayres

SALT LAKE CITY, “If you know the truth report it,” said Associate Professor of communication, Jim Fisher.

On Tuesday Fisher presented to University of Utah students the importance of how to and why to be ethical when writing as a journalist.

Fisher elaborated on a set code of ethics provided by the Society of Professional Journalists. The four ethical guidelines are: Seek the truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable. He said that when journalists write they should consider if what is written is honest, true and necessary for the report.

When a journalist seeks the truth and finds someone has been lying to the press, what is to be done? Reporting the truth whether it is good or bad should be reported.

Fisher explained a story of how a fellow reporter recorded a story about a high school coach that inspired students. Among the story he discovered the coach was a fraud. Fisher helped out the coach by choosing a way to report the truth in a light that would minimize harm to the coach.

“Your gut feeling may be your best guide,” said Fisher. When it comes down to choosing between reporting good or bad news, reporters are encouraged to follow their gut9o and minimize harm.

Andrew Jones, a student said, “It’s hard to know how one could follow the arbitrary idea of ethics, one could argue either way.” When it comes down to making that choice, it isn’t black and white.

Professor gives a lesson on ethics and morals

By: Kristin Bingham

Associate professor and lecturer Jim Fisher illustrated the difference between morals and ethics through comical stories and examples for a news writing class Tuesday.

“I thought that ethics and morals were a little different but didn’t realize how different they really are-I thought they always overlapped,” said strategic communication major Ryly Larrinaga, who was present during his speech.

Fisher shared stories to help clarify where ethics is needed in reporting. One of the stories he shared was called Sunday, published for the Columbia Missourian Sunday Magazine. Sunday really touched on how to write a genuine story that could turn controversial when ethics aren’t considered.  The story is about John Hamilton who is a swimming coach at Hickman High School. The story discusses his success as a coach but also how he has touched hundreds of lives.

Among the different aspects of ethics that Fisher discussed, he really emphasized that gut feelings may be the best thing in determining what is ethical.

“Morals and morality seem to have conscience, religion and rules. Ethics is the process of making a choice, what is the best decision at the time,” said Fisher.

Overall Fisher’s lecture helped to clear up some of the confusion between morals and ethics. Ellen Lewis, a student among the news class who heard his speech, had this to say: “Fisher changed my point of view. Morals have a conscience-you can still be immoral and practice good ethics.”

Student Journalists Learn the Difference Between Morality and Ethics

Story by Marquis Newman

On Monday, Oct. 3 Jim Fisher, a professor at the University of Utah, gave a lecture to a group of students on the difference between ethics and morality in the context of journalism.

Fisher, a professor in the Department of Communication, is a former journalist and editor for Sunday Magazine, an insert for a Colombia, Mo. newspaper.

Monday’s lecture was to teach students and get them to think critically about the difference between morals and ethics.

“I thought Jim did a great job. He was very credible because he was editor for his own paper, and he opened my eyes to the difference between ethics and morals,” said Alex Goff, a student who attended the lecture.

According to Fisher, “Ethics is a process of making a decision.” Fisher presented different types of stories, scenarios and situations where the students had to make decisions that real journalists would have to make.

After the students made their decisions on each scenario, Fisher emphasized that no matter what the decision was, the student made an ethical decision because he “took the time to think about it.”

Fisher concluded the lecture by saying “The last thing to consider in an ethical argument is more-than likely loyalty.” He asked, what are journalists loyal to? Is it the paycheck, the ideal value of reporting facts and the truth, the community or anything else?
When asked about the lecture, freshman Rachel Maughan praised the “many good details” used and thought the stories made the lecture interesting.

Jim Fisher Gets Ethical

Story By: Kade Sybrowsky

Jim Fisher, associate professor lecturer in the Department of Communication, gave a lecture on media ethics to an Intro to News Writing class on Monday, Oct. 3.

Fisher initially asked the class “What the hell is the difference between morals and ethics?”
He explained that “morals are things that institutions set out as laws…ethics is a process of making decisions… The two are different.”

“He really opened my eyes about the difference between ethics and morals,” said Alex Goff, a student who attended the lecture.

Ethics involves people on a story getting together and asking the main question of running a story and the consequences of running it. Fisher explained thinking of what the viewers reaction will be is essential.

He explained that when running a story it is important to get more than just two sides to the argument. “Nine times out of ten, weak-ass journalism is the result of presenting only two sides of a story,” said Fisher.

Callie Mendenhall, a junior in the class said “I never realized how much there actually was to something so seemingly simple as ethics.”

Fisher also discussed the Society of Professional Journalist’s Code of Ethics. The four main points include: seek truth and report it, minimize harm, act independently and be accountable.

“If you aren’t being accountable, then you aren’t doing journalism.” Fisher said.