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Conference to address media minefields in surveillance and security issues

April 8, 2014 By Greg Bump

The Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison will address the issues facing 21st-century journalism in a world of Wikileaks, NSA sweeps, corporate cooperation, drones and data mining, at its sixth annual conference.

Titled “Surveillance, Security and Journalism Ethics,” the conference will be held Friday, May 2, from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at Union South. Free registration is now open.

“Since the 9/11 attacks, few issues have commanded more attention than the appropriate balance between national security and freedom from overly intrusive, secret surveillance by government,” says Professor Robert Drechsel, the James E. Burgess Chair in Journalism Ethics and the center’s director.

Photo: Eric Lichtblau

Eric Lichtblau

“As Julian Assange, Edward Snowden and others have made clear, technology itself has facilitated leaking and dissemination of classified material on a scale never before seen, and journalists have often found themselves in the vortex.”

New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau will give the conference’s keynote address, “Media Minefields: Journalism, National Security and the Right to Know.” Lichtblau joined the Washington bureau of the Times as an investigative reporter in 2002 after 15 years with the Los Angeles Times. He won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, together with James Risen, for stories disclosing the existence of the Bush administration’s secret wiretapping program.

Lichtblau has been a visiting professor of journalism at Georgetown University and UCLA, and is a frequent guest on news programs on CNN, PBS, NPR, C-SPAN, ABC and other networks. He is a 1987 graduate of Cornell University, with a BA in both English and government.

Among the ethical questions explored at the conference will be:

  • How much of what journalists learn via leaks should they reveal, when, and under what circumstances?
  • How should they decide where service to the public’s need for information ends and legitimate concern about national security begins?
  • How much protection should and can they give their sources, and how?
  • What are the proper boundaries of appropriate surveillance by journalists of others?

“We are excited to have assembled a wonderful group of speakers, panelists and discussion leaders to guide us through this difficult territory,” Drechsel says. “We hope the public, journalists and academics will join us for a day of important discussion and debate.”

Information on other speakers and panelists, as well as free registration, are available online.

Also at the conference, Associated Press reporters Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo and AP editor Ted Bridis will receive the 2014 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics. The team reported on the disappearance in Iran of Robert Levinson, an American businessman, who they demonstrated was employed by the CIA even as the agency denied it to the White House, the FBI and Congress.

The Center for Journalism Ethics seeks to advance the ethical standards and practices of democratic journalism through discussion, research, teaching, professional outreach and newsroom partnerships.