Ethics for Digital Information Providers

Encouraging ethical conduct in the world of online communications

        When communications professionals put their work out there for the world to see, their decisions have incredible impact. In this digital age, it is more vital than ever to be as sure as possible to do the right thing. A recent survey of the online editors at U.S. daily newspapers indicates that news providers have not been tending to business when it comes to ethical standards.

        With its high speeds and tight economics, the digital information business is a place where mistakes will happen. Those professionals who think ahead, who know the ethical issues, who are willing to admit their mistakes and correct them justly, who have prepared a protocol to deal swiftly and fairly with new ethical conflicts as they come up ... those professionals will be the people who become known as "trusted" professionals. Credibility springs from ethical conduct.

In the information business, a reputation
for trustworthiness and credibility is vital to success.

        This site is aimed at giving digital information executives, editors, writers, students and educators a basis for forming a framework from which to structure or gain knowledge about online ethics codes and protocols. It is inspired by the Online Ethics survey mentioned above. The results of the study, conducted by journalism faculty members Janna Quitney Anderson (Elon University) and David Arant (University of Memphis), indicate that many online news operations operate shorthanded, have no ethics code or protocol, have few staff members trained in news ethics and may be jeapordizing the reputations of their parent news organizations.

        The Online Ethics 2000 survey has earned an overwhelming response from industry professionals and received national media coverage from a number of outlets, including USA Today, The Freedom Forum Online and ABC Radio. Use the following links to find out more about ethics and/or the survey.

*The Summary of the Online Ethics 2000 Survey: Online news managers say small staff sizes and the Internet medium's demand for speed and scoops erode traditional ethical standards.

*The Survey: The Internet is a runaway train, and journalism professionals with a healthy concern for the value of its cargo of information and the people to whom it is being delivered must tug the emergency-stop cord hard enough and long enough to allow ethical thinking and planning onboard. Includes linked references to ethics information sources.

*An Ethics Appendix: A summary of ethics suggestions for content providers from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, ACM, American Society of Newspaper Editors and the American Society of Magazine Editors. Use this site for suggestions to improve your media organization's approach to its work.

*Independent Press Councils: Claude-Jean Bertrand, professor emeritus at Universite de Paris-II, suggested this site, with its excellent collection of more than 300 media codes, data on all world press councils, a list of 80 non-governmental media accountability systems, plus 175 links and 315 book titles on ethics and media accountability systems. A marvelous resource.

*Ethics Discussion Points: Valid ethics background for discussion, inspired by the work of Richard Mason and an Impact Computer Science steering committee comprised of 25 professors of management, sociology, computer science, philosophy, psychology, mathematics and religion from 25 of the finest institutions of higher education in the United States.

This page was updated August 15, 2004. For more information, contact