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Hartman-AJPA Ethics Project
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By Alan D. Abbey

Journalism is a challenging, demanding, and rewarding occupation. It requires a difficult and delicate blend of idealism and pragmatism, flexibility and resoluteness. Jewish journalism adds an extra layer of communal responsibilities and professional challenges. 

One of the greatest assets we bring to our work as journalists is our commitment to high ethical standards. Our credibility with the public and ultimately our success on individual and organizational levels is largely dependent on meeting those standards when faced with ethical challenges. We distinguish ourselves when we strive to achieve our goals by remaining true to our aspirations. Yet we live and work in an era in which both our profession and our communities are undergoing rapid changes; the ethical practices and attitudes of the past are themselves facing new trials. 

It is with these developments in mind that the Shalom Hartman Institute / American Jewish Press Association Ethics Project was created. The Project was charged with revising and updating the AJPA’s Code of Ethics, so that it addresses the changing environment in which we live and work by integrating Jewish values into the journalistic values that the Code already espouses.

It is the belief of the Project that Jewish ethics and traditions can and should inform and assist journalists in producing work of the highest professional standards and aspirations. The participants in the Project are not insisting in any fashion that AJPA members must adhere to halakha, Jewish law. We urge everyone to explore Jewish values, many of which are elucidated in halakha, and decide for his or her entity, and for him or herself, which values to incorporate into the journalism they practice. The goal of the Project is to put the tools to study and discuss these issues in the hands of Jewish journalists and JMOs.

The Project provides media professionals with the tools they need to perform this work through working papers that raise classic journalism ethics questions and issues through the lens of Jewish values. Not all journalists will reach the same conclusions from these sources, but our hope is that the material we have prepared will help them in their work.

The series of Working Papers on ethics being developed by the Project members and Advisory Panel will offer a variety of contemporary commentaries, and analyses on the themes of Jewish journalism, journalism ethics, and changes in the media environment. In addition, Jewish sources on ethics, speech, and public behavior will be provided included to provide background and source material. 

In keeping with the contemporary, and worthwhile values of crowdsourcing and transparency, the Shalom Hartman Institute – American Jewish Press Association Ethics Project is pleased to present this research – even in its uncompleted state – and a proposed series of revisions to the AJPA Code of Ethics and Manual. These are not the final words. This is not Torah from Sinai; rather, lo b'shamayim hi – it's not in heaven; it's in your hands to work over, contribute to, and shape and reshape.

Once we have completed this work, the next step will be to work on providing the training, materials, and resources that Jewish media organizations and professionals can employ to develop personalized Codes of Ethics and Disclosure Statements for themselves.

For questions, please contact AJPA headquarters.


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