Friday, October 26, 2007

Don't forget ethics

One of the benefits of academia is being able to teach and interact with bright students. While Newsplex is a professional training facility, located in a different building from the USC School of Journalism, each semester I typically teach one undergraduate course, Freedom, Responsibility and Ethics.

At this point in the semester, my students are trying to understand the Communications Decency Act of 1996. It all makes sense in theory, a website that simply posts user comments is a conduit, similar to the phone company, and not liable for those postings.

However in practice, as news organizations encourage reader comments, such unedited postings can take on an ugly, unprofessional tone. Things we would never allow in print routinely can be found on the websites of reputable news organizations. By surrendering our journalistic standards to the dark side of the web, aren't we inviting laws and regulations that will erode our journalistic freedoms?

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