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Former Sac Bee Writer Heads Ethics Workshop

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About 30 local writers, journalists, students and public relations professionals met at The Sacramento Press office Wednesday evening to attend a media ethics workshop headed by assistant professor of journalism at California State University, Sacramento, Molly Dugan.

Dugan hooked her audience by posing hypothetical questions like “If I see a public official strangling a baby, can I write about it?” The answer is yes, but it’s best to seek legal counsel before targeting someone with the means to hire a good attorney.

Dugan warned journalists against using anonymous sources whenever possible, encouraged them to keep notes and documents as long as possible for personal protection, and to use common sense and check facts before writing. Truth, she said, is the best protection against a libel lawsuit.

After going over the history of ethics in the media, Dugan took questions from participants and opened discussion on ethical problems that arise while gathering information or taking photographs for use in the media. The workshop participants were eager to get practical advice from Dugan, who is also a former Sacramento Bee staff writer.

In attendance was a retired construction contractor and author Richard Lingensjo, who said he’s not a journalist, but wanted to get some insight from a professional writer now that he’s retired and has more time to focus on writing.

Lingensjo said he started attending Sacramento Press workshops about two months ago.

“Everyone here has been really nice and helpful,” he said. “And that’s why I’ve continued to come.”

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