CHICAGO — A revised “Fair Publishing Practices Code” of the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada was unveiled during the organization’s business meeting June 21 at the Catholic Media Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The code will be available to members via www.catholicpress.org, the Chicago-based association’s website.
The effort grew out of a sense that a revision done in 2004 did not adequately reflect the growing importance of social media and digital media in the Catholic press, according to Mark Lombard, who chaired the committee that oversaw that earlier revision.
Lombard is business manager and a contributing editor of the Clarion Herald, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. He also is the 2019 winner of the CPA’s St. Francis de Sales Award.
He recalled that a need to update the code was raised at the CPA business meeting during the 2016 CMC in St. Louis, so he volunteered to chair a team to take on the revision project.
Writing last January in The Catholic Journalist, newspaper of the CPA, Lombard noted that the 2004 revisions “greatly expanded the depth and breadth” of the code to reflect the “technological, social and economic evolution in communications since the previous revisions in 1985.”
“Yet, in the last decade and a half since 2004,” he wrote, “we who have worked in Catholic communications — whether in editorial, public relations and promotion, advertising, circulation, marketing, photography, or design and production — have witnessed and experienced much more rapid and unprecedented changes, and some dislocation, requiring reevaluation of our own publication/organization missions, personnel allocation, modes and models of operation.”
He added, “Even the audiences we are seeking to reach and impact and the media we use to do that have changed.”
Beginning last fall, a team of some 50 CPA members and other professionals signed on to work on the effort, with that number split into 10 working groups, which included eight St. Francis de Sales winners and eight CPA presidents. That number was expanded to include the CPA board of directors, who were involved in its final review in the months before they unanimously approved it on behalf of the membership June 18.
Each of the 10 working groups was given the mandate to review the 2004 revised code, make changes where needed and expand its scope to reflect the reality of social media and digital media significantly impacting each discipline.
“Beyond honoring that mandate, this revision includes the needed addition of sections on social media and digital media as a distinct discipline, accountability and transparency and on individual privacy rights, as well as greatly expanding the freelancing and intellectual property rights sections,” Lombard said.
But beyond the additional content — it was about 3,700 words and is now 6,600 words — this revision provides the association members “with a clearer sense of purpose and direction in their work in the Catholic press,” he remarked.
Lombard told CPA members at the June 21 business meeting that “it is an educational tool to expand and improve the professionalism of our staffs.”
“It provides CPA members with a much more comprehensive outlining of standards of professionalism, a common understanding of what and who we are,” he said. “It also provides our staffs with a vehicle to truly examine our practices and compare them to accepted industry standards and those of our colleagues.”
But as Lombard said, it is not a document to just “be printed and filed, as a dead letter.”
He called it “a living, breathing, working document,” and said the CPA has committed to several things to help all those in Catholic media use it in their daily work, including:
— Webinars to deal with ethical situations and best practices “in a changing and challenging media environment.”
— The creation of an online resource center that will provide such real-world examples of items including freelance agreements, advertising policies, photo model releases, permissions for online usage, writers guidelines, advertising rate cards, marketing, editorial and social media policies, ethics codes from other secular journalism organizations and copyright law.
In addition the CPA board of directors has committed to there being an annual audit of the code to ensure that necessary changes will be done “to prevent the association finding itself with a code years behind issues members are forced to confront.”
Lombard called upon member publications and organizations to distribute copies in print or electronically to each staff member and to use it to examine and embrace best practices, as well as engage with other publications through CPA webinars and on their own to continue the discussion and the growth toward more ethical practices, “especially during these times when media practices are called into question.”
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