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SPJ Cautions Journalists in Haiti

Journalists shouldn't become involved in stories

The Society of Professional Journalists issued a reminder to journalists in Haiti to maintain professional and ethical conduct and “avoid making themselves part of the stories they are reporting.”

Purposefully not naming anyone, the release stated: “SPJ does not nor would it ever criticize or downplay the humane acts journalists are performing in Haiti. But news organizations must use caution to avoid blurring the lines between being a participant and being an objective observer.”

President Kevin Smith stated, “I think it’s important for journalists to be cognizant of their roles is disaster coverage.”

Furthermore, he added, “Advocacy, self promotion, offering favors for news and interviews, injecting oneself into the story or creating news events for coverage is not objecting reporting, and it ultimately calls into question the ability of a journalist to be independent, which can damage creditability.”

Smith commented in the announcement: “No one wants to see human suffering, and reporting on these events can certainly take on a personal dimension. 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.”