The Center for Ethical Leadership in Media, University of Texas at Austin launch ‘Ethical Leadership in Newsrooms’ Curriculum

April 18, 2022
Contact: Kristin Kepplinger (212-255-2572 x109 or
The Center for Ethical Leadership in Media, University of Texas at Austin launch ‘Ethical Leadership in Newsrooms’ curriculum
New open-source journalism school curriculum will prepare next generation of ethical, inclusive and diverse news industry leadership
SAN FRANCISCO — The Center for Ethical Leadership in Media (formerly The Press Forward) is partnering with the University of Texas at Austin to launch a new curriculum for journalism students as part of the “Ethical Leadership in Newsrooms” Curriculum Project. The curriculum focuses on leadership skills to prepare journalism students to be ethical, effective leaders of news organizations and address many of the cultural challenges that arose publicly over the past four years, including high-profile cases of sexual harassment and misconduct. 
It piloted at UT-Austin’s Moody College of Communication and  is now available online for free to universities and newsrooms worldwide.
“The revelations of the #MeToo movement, business model and digital disruption, declines in audience and readership, and lack of gender and racial diversity in news organizations point to a larger issue: the need for fostering and nurturing ethical, effective leadership and management of news organizations,” said Center for Ethical Leadership in Media Executive Director Carolyn M. Supple. “This knowledge should be open and accessible for journalism schools, news organizations and individuals to use and then positively affect change.” 
The course provides case studies, teaching notes and exercises on established leadership topics, tailored to media, including “understanding leadership,” “creating safe and fair newsrooms,” “giving voice to values,” “shaping organizational culture,” “working in teams,” and “gaining self-awareness.”
“Journalism must be accountable to its communities in order to support and strengthen democracy,” said Kathleen McElroy, director of UT-Austin’ School of Journalism and Media. “This curriculum will equip the next generation of newsroom leaders with the skills they need to create fair workplaces and restore the public’s confidence in journalism, which is good for journalists and the country .”
Research by Professor Minette Drumwright, director of the Moody College’s Communication and Leadership Degree Program, about news organizations shows that systemic problems fuel unethical behavior in newsrooms and create a toxic culture. Even when perpetrators of harassment and discrimination are removed, the problems persist.
“So many problems that might appear initially to be unrelated to leadership, like sexual harassment, discrimination in newsrooms, bullying, and uncivil behavior, those sorts of things are really rooted in a lack of leadership or in bad leadership and bad management,” said Drumwright, who co-led the curriculum project. “Students must understand concepts and theories like those of behavioral ethics so that they will understand how to be ethical leaders and create organizations with cultures that enable journalists to thrive.”
The course also features interviews with industry leaders — who define what ethical leadership means to them —  in an effort to engage news organizations to advance the conversation around positive solutions for media culture.
“Really, ethical newsroom leadership is probably the most important thing for the longevity of a newsroom,” said Karen Pensiero, Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal, in an introductory video. “It’s the probably singular most important thing for serving our audiences really well.”
“Unless we have diverse and accountable leadership in newsrooms, who are driving the kind of content, the kind of products that reflect the society that we’re living in, ultimately there will be a gulf between what we’re creating and what our audiences want to watch or read or listen to,” said Andrew Morse, Executive Vice President at CNN and Head of CNN+, in the interview as well.
“If we don’t get this right, journalism, as we know, will disappear and will be replaced by a fragmented environment in which there is a distortion lens on the truth,” said Subrata De, Executive Vice President at VICE, in the introductory video. “This is a critical point for us as an industry, we really have to take this seriously as a collective.”
The course was developed in partnership with the Center for Ethical Leadership in Media and the University of Texas at Austin. Investment from UT-Austin, Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Dow Jones Foundation made the project possible.
“Good journalism can’t be produced without good work environments and for too long the focus of journalism leadership and ethics has been on the content, and not on building healthy, professional work environments that lead to lasting careers for journalists from all backgrounds,” Craig Newmark said. “Ethical leaders know this is their first responsibility, and this course provides the foundation to achieve those aims.”