An Evolving Code of Ethics

Sharing the responsibilities of journalists and their audience.

This document is made to assist both professional and citizen journalists to report on news in an ethical manner. In some cases this even applies to everyday users of new media. New media can be seen as any digital medium that is used for communication. This code of ethics seeks to address key issues related to news in our connected world. It is about creating accountability in order to build trust with the audience. Even with these guidelines the consumer must view any news source through a critical lens, and research further into a topic if it concerns them. This guideline should serve as an ethical base for journalists, any story can be created through this model. But if a story makes the journalist or audience question these ethics, common sense must be used with this guide as a baseline.

1. Transparency

Readers must know where a journalists sympathies lie. A publication should make it apparent if they receive donations from another party and who that party is.

The publication must also reveal if they are supporting a cause through advocacy journalism, and if they are donating to another organization.

The journalist should make disclaimers as to their personal leanings and what they feel about the subject. But it is important that they do not let these biases get in the way of honest reporting.

It is unethical for a journalist to advertise themselves as an objective observer only to twist facts and statements to support their personal beliefs. While it is their choice if they want to cover each side equally, it must be apparent what side they are reporting for.

Published work shall not be removed except in cases when it is proven to be false due to new information or in the case of a major error. It is the Journalist’s responsibility to fight censorship in all forms. If they present an honest and polished product there is no reason for it to be removed, regardless of controversy.

Journalists should provide access to their sources, whether that is links to a database, or a full recording of an interview. This is in order to provide the audience with context if they feel the need to look deeper.

With journalists making their work transparent, it gives the audience the ability to understand who is making the report and why. This empowers them to make smart choices as they can find full sources and easily note different views.

2. Accuracy

Sources must be verified and researched before being quoted in order to be sure they are relevant to the story.

Credit should be provided to another story if other journalists are used as sources. These sources must still be verified and looked into for accuracy.

Anything being reported as a fact must be verified by the journalist. If your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Quotes should be given in context, this is crucial to promoting an accurate interpretation.

Personal bias should not interfere with the telling of a story.

Any mistake should be corrected promptly and transparently.

New developments to stories should be added even if they conflict with what has been reported before.

Accuracy is crucial to journalists, the primary function of news is to inform, therefore those creating it must be striving to inform correctly. If questions about accuracy appear, a journalist’s credibility becomes nonexistent.

3. Fairness

A journalist must respect an individual’s right to a fair trial. An early or false accusation is extremely harmful, making this is an ethical problem for journalist’s and anyone using social media.

If a person or entity is criticized they should be given an opportunity to respond.

A journalist should not lie about their intentions in order to get information, interview tactics must be fair.

Children must understand what they are being interviewed about and parental consent is key.

Journalists must be fair in their reporting. It is too easy to skew public opinion by ignoring or inaccurately portraying a different view. A journalist reports so people can create their own opinions, not to force an idea on others.

4. Privacy

If a story has the potential to endanger a source, their identity should be protected. However the journalist shall still verify the source beforehand, even if they choose to be anonymous.

Explain any reasons for anonymity.

While recording, be respectful rather than voyeuristic.

Posts on social media should be treated as any other source, and while journalists may use these they must be aware of the impact on the poster.

Privacy must be respected within reason. A widely publicized story can do immense harm to someone’s professional and personal life. This harm must be weighed with what the story is telling and whether it is justifiable to reveal their information.

5. Audience

Digital news sources should allow comments on their stories in order to be held accountable by their audience.

Citizen journalists, and anyone posting on a public medium should be aware of journalistic ethics, but cannot allow these guidelines to hamper the freedom of speech.

Now more than ever the audience is the central focus of news. Journalists must work for them in order to provide them with meaningful information. it is the audience is who decides what to view and what sources are reliable.

Conclusion:

This list serves as a guideline for journalists to build trust with the audience. Anyone who consumes news must be accountable for ensuring its accuracy. Objectivity should be a goal, and all sides of a story should be represented. However, this is impossible as almost any human will attempt to push their agenda and beliefs onto others, knowingly or not. Journalists must be held accountable for these biases in order to to avoid deceiving the public. By following this code of ethics they will enable their audience to do their own research and eventually come to trust them. In the end it is the public’s responsibility to not be deceived. If an audience wants an accurate and objective news source they must have the ability to see what a journalist is loyal to in order to find multiple viewpoints. Transparency is crucial for this system of ethics. As it transfers more power to the readers and viewers rather than editors and producers. A journalist must promote understanding and awareness, but the people are the ones who decide what they want to see.

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