Why Do People Laugh When You Tell Them You Are Studying Journalism Ethics?

Mar 32011

-- Why do people laugh when I tell them I'm taking a journalism ethics course?--, I ask Flor when I see her smiling face.

-- Because I think you don't need it--, says Flor Ortega, a Panamanian journalist and ethics university professor.

I feel honored to hear Flor saying I don't need a journalism ethics course. She has been a university professor for a number of years and she has also been a founding member of the National Council of Journalism's Ethics Committee.

However, I think I need to keep studying journalism ethics. I try to be abreast of new ethical challenges in online environments and new technologies. What challenges we might face in citizen journalism, the use of social networks, in blogging, twitting, or digital mapping? A new journalism universe is emerging and I don't think we are exempt of different ethical challenges.

Flor and I have been involved in training journalists as a part of an ICFJ project to create a digital crowdsourcing map to track crime and corruption in Panama. We train journalists to use the map as a source information to produce stories. We are trying to create a network of citizen reporters and professional journalists collaborating together to improve public policies in security and transparency. Ethics is the first and most important topic in the training.

Now we are preparing to offer training sessions on digital journalism and the use of new technologies. I suggest Flor include questions, topics, and readings about recent developments in ethics in the digital era.

Flor keeps laughing throughout all the conversation. I guess she is happy and maybe she agrees with me: I need to study ethics in digital journalism.