SPJ To Journos in Haiti: It’s Not All About You

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By: E&P Staff

Stepping into the debate on the ethical responsibility of reporters at disaster scenes, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) on Friday admonished journalists covering the Haiti earthquake to avoid making themselves part of the story.

“Even in crises, journalists have a responsibility to their audiences to gather news objectively and to report facts,” SPJ said.

SPJ said it is not criticizing the many humane acts of aid towards victims performed by journalists in Haiti. But the group, the biggest organization of U.S. journalists, said reporters must avoid blurring the line between being a participant and an objective observer.

“No one wants to see human suffering, and reporting on these events can certainly take on a personal dimension,” said SPJ President Kevin Smith, an assistant professor of journalism at Fairmont State University in West Virginia. “But participating in events, even with the intention of dramatizing the humanity of the situation, takes news reporting in a different direction and places journalists in a situation they should not be in, and that is one of forgoing their roles as informants.”

This story has been revised to correct the location of Fairmont State. It is in West Virginia, not Virginia.

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