Abu Dhabi students to promote ethics in journalism

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Not even the ingenious art of media 'spin' could disguise the fact that it has been a bad year for journalism.
In the UK and US, the phone-hacking scandal has brought shame on Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. The once-mighty media empire lost two of its key 'red tops' over allegations that its journalists illegally intercepted voicemail messages: The News of the World newspaper closed, while flame-haired executive Rebekah Brooks resigned amid widespread public backlash.
Then there was the case of Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent in the UK, who was forced to take a leave of absence after admitting to plagiarism. Aspects of Hari's particularly inventive article about Dubai have now been called into question
Neither case earned journalists favour with the public, not that they had much of that in the first place.

Against this backdrop, it is encouraging to see students at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi helping to promote ethics in the media.

The university is launching a student arm of the US-based Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), which has a role in promoting good standards in the media.
A group of students will today vote in the leaders of the University-based society.
"One of the things that the SPJ is really big on is calling for a strenuous code of ethics and setting up guidelines for best practices among journalists," said Matt Duffy, an assistant professor of journalism at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.
"I looked around to try to find something like this, and I really didn't find another body that does what the Society of Professional Journalists does," he added.
Prof Duffy said that the student club could act as a "springboard" for the creation a UAE arm of the Society of Professional Journalists for working journalists.
"Right now it's a student chapter," he said. "However, in our application we have set it out there as a goal that we would like to form a professional chapter here in the UAE of this organisation."
The SPJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr Duffy said that, while the existing UAE Journalists' Association has an important role to play, it was not the answer for his students.
"There is an international press association. But they don't have the student chapters, and they're not as strong on the code of ethics," said Prof Duffy.
While the UAE has not seen any scandals akin to the phone-hacking case, Prof Duffy said that best practice may not always be adhered to by the local media.
"I have seen examples where the highest ethical standards didn't appear to be evident in some of the reporting that I have seen in the UAE," he said.

"My students have told me stories about reporters who have made up quotes. They were not interviewed by a reporter, but a quote has appeared in the paper."