Day 2 Journalism Ethics lesson

Prepared by: Jami Williams, Mexico High School, Mexico, Missouri

Depending on the time you have with your students, this may need to be split into two days worth of study. There is a natural break that is marked in the Flow of Lesson section.

Students will understand journalistic ethical dilemmas and the process of decision-making based on the notion of duty.


  1. Group work
  2. Graphic organizer for recording results
  3. Casual lecture/discussion


  1. Level 1 (Basic) understanding of some basic journalistic ethical dilemmas
  2. Level 1 (Basic) understanding of the process of decision-making based on the notion of duty.


  1. Students will need the laws that they wrote from the SPJ code of ethics as well as the original ethics.
  2. Journalism Ethics Graphic Organizer Day 2
  3. Powtoon presentation of the nine steps to decision making – Journalism Ethics Day 2 Nine Steps Animation (MP4 format)
  4. Nine Steps Graphic Organizer

Steps to check for student understanding

  1. Teacher will do frequent comprehension checks in the form of Classroom Assessment Techniques (thumbs up, thumbs down; exit slip in the form of post-it note summary); for more CAT’s go here:
  2. Formative assessment will be in the form of an exit slip CAT.


  1. Suggested bell ringer: What is the one thing that matters most when you are making a decision? What drives your decision-making?
  2. Teacher will ask students to share some of their “laws” derived from their ethics. Separate students into groups of three and have them share their laws with each other. Present them with a journalistic decision of your choosing and ask them to apply each of their laws and record the outcome. For examples, see this website:
  3. Discuss the outcomes with their “laws” put in place. Have them revisit the situation applying the SPJ Code of Ethics instead of their “laws.” Ask the students to compare and contrast the varied outcomes and record their results on the Venn Diagram template labeled Journalism Ethics Graphic Organizer Day 2.
  4. Ask for one student from each group to come up and share one thing from their overlapping (same characteristic/shared characteristic) area. (This is a good stopping place if you plan to make this into a two day lesson)
  5. Transition into the decision-making presentation utilize the Powtoon presentation Journalism Ethics Day 2 Nine Steps Animation (MP4 format)
  6. Reflective writing assignment

REFLECTIVE WRITING – Individual writing activity

  1. This activity will ask students to apply the nine steps to a decision that they must make.
  2. You should warn your students that you will be reading this activity and grading it and, if you feel it is appropriate, you may ask them to share out.
  3. Use the Path of Nine Steps Graphic Organizer as a guide.


  1. Exit slip: (Formative assessment at a Proficient level) In your opinion, what is the most difficult step of the decision making process and do you feel that having these steps in place will help you personally and as a journalist?
  2. ALTERNATIVE EXIT SLIP (for those who do not have time to cover the entire lesson). What difference between using the law as your guide as compared to ethics as your guide struck you as the most resonant and surprising?