Admitting to "major errors" in its handling of the ongoing dispute between Zondervan Publishing House and World magazine, the Evangelical Press Association (EPA) board decided July 22 to set aside its independent ethics inquiry and start afresh.
The EPA board announced July 28 that it would work privately with the parties toward a solution "in order to avoid further inflaming the dispute."
Zondervan and the International Bible Society filed an ethics complaint with the EPA regarding World 's March 29 article "Femme Fatale" and subsequent reports on moves to revise the New International Version Bible using "inclusive language" (CT, June 16, 1997, p. 52).
The EPA board confessed to violating its own bylaws by appointing non-EPA members to an ad hoc ethics committee and then to compounding the problem further by releasing the committee's report to the public before the board had a chance to review it formally (CT, Aug. 11, 1997, p. 58).
The committee—Wheaton College journalism professor Mark Fackler; Washington, D.C.-based author Beth Spring; and University of Missouri- Columbia, Washington Reporting Program director Wes Pippert—found that World 's articles were "written in sincerity," "courage," and "with honesty" while also falling "seriously short" of the EPA code's requirement that its members report with "accuracy and an avoidance of distortion and sensationalism." But that code held "little value" in evaluating the case, Pippert wrote in an addendum to the report.
The four-point EPA code of ethics needs serious review, according to EPA administrator Ron Wilson. "The process by which we handle ethics cases is not outlined in our bylaws," Wilson says. "We need to get something clearly in black and white and approved by the members."
For Zondervan, the EPA code is "the crux of the matter," says Jonathan Peterson, director of corporate affairs for the publishing house in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "That's really why we went to EPA—for them to judge whether or not their own code of ethics had been violated."
World publisher Joel Belz and editor Marvin Olasky expressed satisfaction that the EPA board had distanced itself from the ad hoc committee's report. World wants the board now to repudiate the "substance" of the report.
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