Last week we ran a ‘Letter to the Editor’ from a reader, a Grand County political activist who apparently believes the Winter Park Times has ventured off course with our journalism practices. The letter seemed to question our credibility as a news organization.
“I request a clear and concise statement from you as to whether you feel it necessary to update your newspaper’s policies to bring them in line with the CPA’s code of ethics,” he wrote.
The letter suggested that we are violating journalism ethics in some way.
So I attached the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics (online) for those that care to dive into the principles established as a guideline to ethical behavior for journalists.
We here at Winter Park Times take issue with the letter’s implication. And as the Times’ editor, I wanted our readers to know that our staff members do our utmost to follow the SPJ Code of Ethics.
Running a successful newspaper today is a balancing act of giving the readership what a free society needs to know as well as what it wants to know, even if these goals sometimes seem at odds with each other.
Good reporting and honest work ethics are essential roles of any news media outlet. I believe our role and purpose is to serve the community we call home and be the cheerleader for our moment in time. We believe a community paper has to be a paper that is engaging and engaged.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the freedom of the press regardless of who opposes publication of specific stories. Occasionally, small-town newspapers find themselves in a battle over First Amendment principles and the interests of the community.
The grand designers of the U.S. Constitution recognized the importance of a free press to our democracy. They wanted journalists to have the power to carry out their watchdog role over government for the benefit of all Americans. But it’s not easy. It becomes a balancing act, weighing ethics, understanding and compassion.
A peer once said, “You have to remember that the person you are talking about may be related to the person you are talking to.” If we chose to “not print” something that may cause harm or doesn’t fit the times, does this constitute a breach in some ethical code?
As the publisher/editor, I read everything before we send our publication to the press. I do ask tough questions when necessary, but for the most part, our contributors report the story in the best way they can. I have never rejected an editorial, but I have suggested that words were too harsh or may be misguided in the moment. I have even asked people to sit on a story for a week and ponder or rewrite it when necessary.
Is that crossing an ethical boundary?
You readers decide. We welcome your submissions, contributions and donations. Our newspaper is more of a philanthropic endeavor than a profit-driven empire, as portrayed in movies like “Citizen Kane.”
Of course, we have limited resources. Sure, we work long hours on a shoestring budget to put out every edition. But we’re not complaining. We are proud of Winter Park Times and the communities we serve.