August 11, 2008

Drawing the line when others cross it

Remember when I said ethical journalists don't charge for news content?

The Society of Professional Journalists announced that on Sept. 6, it will present its Ethics in Journalism Award to Glen Mabie.

If you've never heard of Glen Mabie, don't fret—I hadn't, either, and as a person who works with journalists, I probably should have.

Mabie was chosen for the award because on Jan. 7, 2008, he resigned from his position as news director at WEAU-TV in Eau Claire, Wis.— resigned over an ethics issue.

From the SPJ's news release:

"The general manager at WEAU-TV and the top marketing and communications person at the area’s Sacred Heart hospital negotiated an agreement under which the hospital would pay an undisclosed amount to the station to do two 'health news' segments a week. These segments were to be broadcast as part of the station’s regular newscasts, and the reporters were only to interview Sacred Heart employees as part of the 'news coverage.'

"Mabie protested this agreement but could not get management to cancel the deal. Mabie submitted his resignation a week later and made no public announcement of his departure. In the end, the station’s management decided to end its deal with Sacred Heart."

In his nomination letter, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire professor David Gordon wrote: "I believe that Mabie’s willingness to draw a line in the sand and to stand up for his ethical principles regardless of the personal cost is a perfect fit for the criteria set out for the SPJ Ethics in Journalism Award."

Acccording to the SPJ, Mabie said the award is "a reminder of the strong code of ethics to which journalists adhere."

That's true.

Mabie also said his colleagues in the newsroom contributed to the award. But Mabie is the one who put his job on the line, and therefore serves as a living example of ethics in action.


  1. Several people in the newsroom put their jobs on the line. They just stuck it out and fought it to the end, which was victory. Regardless, this recognition for Mabie and the cause will hopefully help prevent other newsrooms from the pain this one went through.

  2. Thanks for the clarification. The information I had from the SPJ didn't make that clear.