Julia Ioffe talks ethics of journalism in annual Dorothy Garrett Martin lecture

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On Sept. 29, Julia Ioffe, the founding partner and Washington correspondent for Puck Media Company and internationally recognized expert on Russia, gave a speech on the ethics of journalism as part of the Dorothy Garrett Martin lecture. Hosted by the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics in partnership with Delta Gamma and the Delta Gamma Foundation, the lecture took place at Meharry Hall in East College. 

According to the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, Ioffe was a Fulbright scholar and a correspondent for Foreign Policy and The New Yorkers in Moscow. Her works on the subject of Russia have been published in The Atlantic, GQ, Washington Post, New York Times Magazine, Politico Magazine, The New Republic, and Forbes.

According to Emily Knuth, assistant director of events and engagement at the Prindle Insititute, 150 people showed up to Ioffe’s speech. It focused on the truth in journalism and how “it is important to be truthful, not neutral.” 

According to Ioffe, American journalists often mistake objectivity for neutrality and coverage of both sides, while in certain situations, the truth does not have two sides. She gave an example of the Bosnian Srebrenica genocide in July 1995, when it is clear that one side is morally wrong. 

“Your goal is not to bring the arguments on both sides but to bring [the audience] the truth. They are coming to you to find out what is happening,” Ioffe said. 

She added that journalists “bending over backward to appear neutral rather than truthful” is one of the reasons why the public is having less trust in public media. 

Ioffe said that neutrality is associated with having no emotions in American newsrooms, which are male-dominated. Journalists are supposed to “write like a robot” because emotions have no informational value.

“You're supposed to have no perspective, and you're not supposed to make a call. You're just supposed to present information for the reader to make a decision, and sometimes that's not good enough,” she said. 

According to Events & Facilities Manager Leslie Petiniot at the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, the planning process for the Dorothy Garrett Martin lecture this year started in the middle of August and it is a “very tight turnaround time.” 

Petiniot added that the speaker who was scheduled to come ended up not coming because she wanted to present virtually. However, Petiniot wanted the event to be in person this year. As a result, Petiniot’s team reached an agreement with Julia Ioffe and planned the lecture. 

“We're hoping that the audience will reflect on the ethical and moral challenges of journalism, specifically as it applies to the world in Ukraine,” Petiniot said.