Red, yellow, green labs teach ethics and law

Cherubs raise colored cards to indicate their response to an ethical dilemma.
Photo by: Joe Grimm

Colored cards and ethical dilemmas provided cherubs with an eye-opening look at tough decisions journalists must make every day.

Surrounded by fellow journalists, Ashley Soebroto of Jakarta, Indonesia, said she realized no “definite line” of ethics exists in journalism. Soebroto said the ethics labs will impact her school publication because she will be more thoughtful before publishing articles.

In the ethics lab, instructors gave each cherub a green, yellow and red card. Presented with an ethical dilemma, cherubs raised cards to represent how they would respond. Instructors call on cherubs with different card colors to explain their response. Cherubs then re-vote following the discussion. Instructors share the responses of professional journalists who were surveyed about the same ethical dilemmas.

A series of ethics labs are held over the course of the program. Two labs cover real-life scenarios for reporting and print, and the third covers photography and visuals. The interactive classes help cherubs understand journalistic principles behind making decisions.

“It’s better to start earlier than later,” Soebroto said.

Since cherubs are journalists with published work, she said they face the same issues and consequences they will later in their career.

Choices “could put us in danger with the law or get us sued,” Soebroto said. “We have to be careful with what we write and say.”

Co-head instructor Joe Grimm said high school journalists face ethical challenges. Ethics become increasingly complicated over time, he said. But the importance of accuracy, thoroughness and fairness remain.

“We’re using different tools, but the principles don’t change,” Grimm said.

Ethics are especially important today, as journalists are being questioned and attacked. Cherubs should be upstanding because journalism is a noble profession said instructor Erica Snow, who helped lead the workshops.

“Cherubs benefit from learning about ethics at a young age,” Snow said.

Journalists must begin their careers with a strong ethical code and moral compass, Snow said. Because every story contains potential repercussions, journalists must consider how to protect sources while informing the public. In other words: Minimize harm and maximize truth.

“The best way to learn about ethics is on the job,” Snow said.

Cherubs will face ethical dilemmas even within the next school year, she said. They can apply skills from the ethics labs, such as how to get a variety of opinions and discuss a course of action with their editorial staff.

Prospective cherubs should know the labs cover all forms of journalism, she said, and that ethics are used throughout the process, from finding a story idea to execution and publication.