Journalists: In the heat of the battle

Hardly a day goes by that journalism is not disparaged with charges of ‘fake news’ and ‘lies.’ How should a citizen weigh that complaint? Some background can help.

The work of journalism actually is protected in the U.S. Constitution. Here are the words of the very short First Amendment from the Bill of Rights, aimed at protecting civil liberties:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

James Madison was its champion. He believed that in the United States, “the people, not the government, possess the absolute sovereignty.” One way to hold public officials accountable is to allow citizens to discuss their actions freely. As he saw it, if those public officials lost the trust of the public, they should not be able to shield themselves from scrutiny by limiting or boxing in the press.

Still, a free press is not completely unfettered. Court cases have establish some limits, like libel and national security. But for the most part, the work of journalism grinds on. Local reporters labor daily to report on the actions of government, from school boards to municipalities to public utilities to state legislatures. Their job is to watch the work of government and bring that information to the public.

So what rules govern their work? How do they know when they’ve strayed? What do they do to make good on mistakes?

Here to help us with that are two local journalists with careers long enough to allow them to rise to leadership positions in their newsrooms. Together, we’ll talk about the Code of Ethics from the Society for Professional Journalists, and how that plays out in day-to-day life in the newsroom and the community.

HOSTKathleen McCoy


  • Tracy Sabo, director of news and content, KTUU
  • David Hulen, editor, Anchorage Daily News



  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
  • Send e-mail to before, during or after the live broadcast (e-mails may be read on air)
  • Post your comment or question below (comments may be read on air)
  • LIVE: Monday, January 21, 2019 at 2:00 p.m.
  • REPEAT: Monday, January 21, 2019 at 8:00 p.m.


kmccoy (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | About Kathleen

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