Rewarding What's Right

Article excerpt

Byline: The Register-Guard

They don't carry the cachet of the Pulitzer Prizes, but the Payne Awards for Ethics in Journalism acknowledge achievements that are every bit as exemplary as hard-hitting investigations, groundbreaking public service or incisive criticism.

In fact, at a time when polls indicate 45 percent of Americans believe little or nothing in their daily newspapers, ethical performance is inseparable from excellence and crucial to credibility.

The Denver Post, free-lance journalist Kevin Sites and Arizona State University's independent student newspaper The State Press have been named winners of the sixth annual Payne Awards "for exemplifying the highest standards of their profession in the face of political or economic pressures."

"Pressure" doesn't begin to describe the crushing weight of the competitive, economic, social and political forces the 2005 Payne Award winners had to overcome. There must have been days these folks felt like they were living on Jupiter (where everything weighs 2.5 times what it does on Earth).

You want pressure? Imagine how it felt to be on the Denver Post staff as the newspaper wrestled with the question of whether it should uphold its existing policy to protect the identity of the accuser in the Kobe Bryant rape case or join competing media in naming her. As they debated the ethical issues, Post editors met with a sexual assault expert and a rape survivor, consulted media experts and sought opinions from staff members. In a note to readers published in the editorial section of the paper, the editors explained in detail the reasons behind their decision to follow the newspaper's policy to protect the woman's identity.

You want pressure? Imagine what ran through free-lance NBC photojournalist Kevin Sites' mind as he filmed a U.S. soldier killing an unarmed Iraqi man. The incident was explosive. …