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Knight Center concludes online course: Journalism Ethics for a Digital Age

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas offered the online course "Journalism Ethics for a Digital Age" from Feb. 27 to March 20, 2011, taught in English by Professor Edward Wasserman.

The course was designed to help journalists deal with ethical issues that arise in the daily pursuit of journalism. It offered an introduction to the major moral and philosophical themes and served as a practical guide for solving some of the complex problems that journalists face using real-world cases and models.

“Even though journalists of different countries work under very different conditions of professional culture, state regulation, business basics, and public expectation, it’s remarkable how similar the ethical problems they encounter are,” Wasserman explains. “Conflict of interest, privacy, fairness, employer pressure — these are practically universal to newsrooms throughout the hemisphere.”

The course also examined problems that arise in the new media environment. “Conflict of interest is emerging as a signature problem in the New Media age, with more and more of the people who practice journalism doing it as one of several things they must do in order to earn a living,” Wasserman says. “That opens the way for unacknowledged loyalties to develop that can lead journalists to tilt their work in ways that ill-serve the public. Greater vigilance and candor are essential for dealing with this.”

The course was conducted entirely online. It was divided into weekly modules that contain audiovisual presentations, documents and online resources. Weekly exercises, online discussions and forums and additional assignments were also part of the course activities.

Edward Wasserman is a Knight Chair and ethics professor at Washington and Lee University of Lexington, Va. His specialties include technological changes, media control, plagiarism, source confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. Rachel Barrera, a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin in instructional technology, will serve as the teaching assistant for the course.

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin was launched in 2002 by Professor Rosental Calmon Alves. Thanks to generous grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the center has assisted thousands of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean.