By Olivia Ingle
The Working Press
Fred Brown’s email address includes “ethicalfred” for a reason.
He has more than 40 years of journalism experience; he teaches communications ethics at the University of Denver, and he has edited an ethics book.
The fourth edition of “Journalism Ethics—A Casebook of Professional Conduct for News Media,” was published in March. It includes 50 case studies exploring ethical dilemmas and decisions.
“What differentiates this book from a lot of books is that these studies are all real-life situations,” Brown said. “They are not hypothetical.”
In 1964, after graduating from Northwestern University, Brown started work as an intern at the Denver Post, where two decades later he earned a Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial writing. In 2002, he was chief of the Denver Post’s State Capitol Bureau before retiring after 38 years with the paper. He continues to write columns.
Brown’s book includes chapters on the history of ethics thinkers and ethics and law, which he said were not included in the third edition.
“A lot of ethics books in the past were more philosophical,” he said. “This one was intended to be more practical.”
Sara Stone, a professor of journalism at Baylor University, a former national vice president for SPJ campus chapter affairs and a former SPJ Ethics Committee member, said she and her students wrote some of the case studies featured in the book.
“A lot of ethics books in the past were more philosophical. This one was intended to be more practical.” – Fred Brown, SPJ Ethics Committee vice chairman
“It was a good opportunity for students to research popular cases and to weigh the options and arrive at an ethical decision,” Stone said. “Ethics is rarely black and white, but good decision making is important.”
Sue Wiltz, editorial director for Angie’s List, attended an ethics session Monday led by Brown; Irwin Gratz, a past SPJ president and current Ethics Committee member; and Liz Hansen, chairwoman of the School of Journalism at Eastern Kentucky University and a former Ethics Committee member.
After the session, she said she would consider buying the book.
“There are a lot of things developing in the ethics area,” Wiltz said. “ I think it would be good for me to get a refresher.”
Seven colleges and universities across the country have already placed orders for the text.
Mark Scarp, an adjunct professor at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and an SPJ Ethics Committee member, said he already has a copy of his colleague’s book and plans to use the text in his next ethics class.
The two journalists met in 1997 at an SPJ convention.
“He [Brown] really puts himself out there to further standards in journalism,” Scarp said. “He’s a guy who is very active and engaged in journalism, especially when a lot of people are fading out and doing non-journalism things.”
Stone said she has known Brown for more than 20 years, and “he has been a tireless worker for SPJ and for what ethical journalism means in the world.”
Brown said the problem with ethics now is that a lot of new journalists haven’t taken time to think about ethics and to establish principles.
“In my opinion, there needs to be more adherence to standards and more discussion of ethical dilemmas,” he said.