Running the clock on fair response
 
As print confines give way to the freedom of online, journalists face increasing pressure to be fast and first. Readers can follow along as a story develops, monitoring reporters’ tweets or updates made to a published story as it evolves.

But rapid publishing technology brings the risk that stories will be posted before their subjects have the chance to weigh in.

Traditional fair response ethics dictate that any time people are depicted negatively, they must be given a chance to respond, said Shauna Snow-Capparelli, associate professor of journalism at Mount Royal University. “It’s both for the complete reporting and to be sure that the story is accurate,” she said, and a practice that shouldn’t change for online stories.

These principles are still being upheld by the best journalists, said Stephen Ward, media ethicist and former head of UBC’s journalism school. But he believes it’s a decreasing proportion.

“Given the speed in which we do journalism today … the willingness to actually take time to give another perspective, another space in the story, I think that, along with many other traditional forms of writing has certainly declined,” he said.

Whether problematic fair response practices afflict the industry overall or are exclusively in the domain of online media is a source of debate....