Online Tool Helps Support Ethical Decision-Making

Here's a potentially useful resource: The American Society of Newspaper Editors and The Poynter Institute offer an online Ethics Tool designed to guide you through a solution to an ethical problem. The tool poses a series of questions and then compiles your responses into a printable document you can use to analyze the problem.

In light of ASBPE's ethics survey results showing that a significant number of B2B editors feel their publications "only sometimes" back them on ethical issues, it seems as if this tool could be useful. For instance, an editor could use it to help map out an argument to convince managers that an ethical dilemma does, in fact, exist. And it couldn't hurt to be able to point out that two respected organizations, ASNE and Poynter, created the standards used in the decision-making process.

In order to protect your confidentiality, you must be a registered Poynter user to use the tool (registration is free). Once you've answered the initial questions, you can invite other staff members will be able to collaborate on the project and upload relevant documents if they register too; only you and those invited by you are able to see your case information. But if you'd rather skip the online process and just work out your problem on paper, you can do that by printing out this questionnaire. The questionnaire is directed toward deciding whether or not to publish information; it doesn't sem to have been designed to answer questions such as whether it's ethical to sell ad space on a gatefold cover.

If anyone has actually used the ASNE/Poynter Ethics Tool — especially the online, collaborative version — I'd be curious to hear whether it was helpful. You can leave a comment to this post or email me.
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