Educator Stephen Ward launches mediamorals.org calling new media to account for ethical practices

Portland, Ore. — The new media explosion is challenging previously accepted ethical practices.

Such standards as objectivity and impartiality are often waived in favor of spreading rumors and vigilante-like journalism.

Noted educator Stephen Ward expressed this view to Ethics News Updates. Recently appointed director of the George S. Turnbull Center at University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communications, Ward plans to call out offenders via his new mediamorals.org site. He hopes to have the site operational by March.

Ward initially disclosed his intentions while a panelist at a September workshop sponsored by the Online News Association’s Portland Chapter. His vision required a concerted industry effort “to extract better justifications from non-traditional bloggers and other news sources that report inaccurate or unsubstantiated information.”

During an interview with an Oregonian reporter, Ward elaborated on his stance: “I am tired of people getting away with shabby conduct and even shabbier ethical justifications. It’s time to end that, and I think that we, as ethicists, citizens and concerned journalists, need to turn up the heat.”

Mediamorals.org will be Ward’s major vehicle for organizing the necessary movement. Anyone interested in brainstorming possible approaches can email sward@uoregon.edu or call (503) 658-3918.

Ward foresees his site as an ongoing journalism critique. In some cases, he concedes, shoddy newsroom ethical practice is the result of across-the-board resource cuts. “Fact checking and plagiarism concerns seem to be going the other way,” he said. Reporters are under incredible pressure to meet digital deadlines, he added. As a result, a tendency to water down principles relied on in the past exists.

“It might take five years to have a totally acceptable online ethics code in place,” he said. Meanwhile, ethics education courses must be offered for anyone communicating via digital media.  Additional instruction would address the next level “when those communications become forms of journalism.”