Journalism: Code of Ethics

Preamble

Our obligation is to the people. People overrepresented and underrepresented in the media. People both “right” and “wrong”. People tied to numerous big organizations or mere individuals.

We strive to provide accurate and unbiased news to the public devoid of any attachment, fear or influence from any governing bodies, organizations or private bodies.

We seek to balance a respectful way of reporting news that honours an individual’s right to privacy with the general public’s best interest.

We rebuke stereotypical representation and serve to help broadcast the voices of groups that are less heard.

This code of ethics is created with the intention of being used as a guide. It is not to be used as an instructions manual. In many cases, an equal balance of the need to serve the public and an attempt to minimize harm is needed to write a good story without sacrificing one’s own values and ethics.

Accuracy

  • Accuracy should always be prioritized over speed or quantity of writing. False information is not permitted regardless of the platform used.
  • The identity and background of sources and any substantial history with the subject matter which may lead to bias should be verified.
  • Always use original sources whenever possible. Attribute due credit to the original sources if they are found after the publication of the story.
  • Quotes should be situated in their original context as to retain their intended meaning and tone. Do not intentionally distort the meaning of a statement or exclude important qualifiers.
  • Outside clips, images or quotations should be clearly labelled with the sources to avoid plagiarism.
  • Inform audience if any clips or images were re-enacted, retouched or edited in any way.
  • Any mistakes made should be promptly corrected and publicly acknowledged.
  • News story that has changed drastically with original information becoming obsolete should be updated with the correct information.
  • Death counts should be kept at a confirmed number even if unconfirmed rumors are of a number that is much higher.
  • Be responsible in verifying the methodology and process behind polls, studies and surveys particularly medical and scientific ones.

Rights to Privacy

  • Ensure the subject fully understands the permanency and full extent of being involved in the publication especially if the story will be posted on different social media platforms.
  • Ensure children and other subject matters that may have difficulty giving consent understand the full implications of being part of the publication as best as possible even if consent is given by a guardian on their behalf.
  • Information on private family life and matters should only be published if it affects public interest.
  • Be fair in dealing with incriminating and defamatory information unless it is of a clear public interest in doing otherwise. Consider legal matters, confidentiality and safety issues.
  • Avoid making promises but if necessary, make sure the subject understands the extent to which the promises such as going “off-the-record”will be kept. The information may have to be released and the promise void when under threat of imprisonment.
  • Only offer anonymity if sources may come under threat by providing information. Check to ensure sources do not have any other motives for staying anonymous.
  • When using anonymous sources, state the reason why this is required and provide as much information as possible about the source to lend context and credibility.
  • Do not manipulate subjects to obtain desired statements or quotations.
  • Employ sensitivity when interacting with people under vulnerable circumstances.
  • Public figures’ posts on social media are generally accepted to be used in reporting news. Social media accounts that are privatized or personal featuring incriminating materials should be handled with more sensitivity such as by censoring out names and images in the appropriate circumstances.
  • Recording without consent either on private properties or refusal to take part on the participant’s part should only be permitted if there is a strong public interest.

Independence

  • A journalist’s obligation is to the public. Not the government, big corporations or even the organization in which they work.
  • Do not write opinion pieces on the subject matter to avoid conflict of interest.
  • Do not accept gifts, discounts, coupons or anything of monetary value from subject matters either for one’s own benefit or on family and friends’ behalf.
  • Items such as books and food sent for reviews are acceptable provided that they are not used for profit such as by selling them after the reviews are published.
  • Do not pay to obtain information.
  • Travel or lunch expenses to meet with a source for information are generally acceptable.
  • Personal advocacy is permitted but one should avoid writing on subject matters that are related to their political interests.
  • Individuals are permitted to support causes they care about through donations, protests, and activism but when writing articles where the topic may incur impartiality, one must state any and all connections they have had with the cause(s).
  • Writing on topics one is committed or passionate about is encouraged but one should consult with the editor before and after writing the article to avoid bias.
  • Identification between news reporting and one’s own opinions should be distinct.
  • Drafts are generally not shown to participants or contributors prior to publication to remain objective and ensuring that editorial control is not surrendered.
  • Participants should be notified of any significant changes to the story and their consent once again confirmed prior to publication.
  • Participants wishing to revoke their consent in being involved prior to or after publication normally do not have the right to do so in such circumstances but they should be given fair and reasonable consideration on a case-by-case basis.

Transparency

  • Avoid procuring information while hiding one’s own identity. If going undercover is necessary, include a description of the process and state the reason for doing so.
  • If the journalist had at any point in time had any significant dealings with the subject matter, it has to be mentioned to avoid being impartial.
  • If the subject matter has ties to one’s company such as a sister company, they should be stated clearly in the article.
  • Be ready and willing to share notes or recordings if challenged on misquotation or misrepresentation.

Equality

  • Reasonable efforts should be taken to reach out to the opposing side to the subject matter to provide them the chance to defend their views.
  • Inclusion of diverse voices from groups less represented by the media such as minorities is encouraged.
  • Do not be afraid of exposing corruptions within big corporations even when it exists within one’s own.
  • Subject’s gender, race, sexuality and other personal attributes should only be published if permission is given and if they are of relevance to the story.
  • Consideration should be given to include the time frame in which sensitive information or quotes from an individual is obtained and when it is used in a more recent news story involving the individual in a significantly different matter.
  • A brief outline or context may be provided to participants of a story to grant them fair notifications on how they will be portrayed in the story.
  • Published content are presumed to be permanent and are usually not removable or deletable. In regards to extreme safety or privacy issues, the content may be taken down but it is notable that other third party organizations may have unauthorized copies of the publication.

Social Responsibility

  • Label content that contains flash photography that may stimulate photosensitive epilepsy.
  • Put a nsfw warning label on any materials that may be considered to be explicit and tag the content informing the audience on what it contains such as swearing, nudity, gore, and blood.
  • Violent acts such as murders, terrorism, and assaults should not be portrayed in a glorified manner.
  • Links embedded in an article that leads to other websites should be verified in terms of accuracy and fairness.
  • Images and footage of the deceased should be treated with extreme sensitivity by into broadcasting the moment of death or close-ups of the individual’s face or grievous injuries unless justified and/or given consent.
  • Avoid using labels and stereotypes such as “terrorists” unless otherwise justified. More accurate definitions such as “gunman”, “perpetrator” and “shooter” should be used instead.
  • Be responsible in understanding and learning the cultural differences that may occur in foreign environments to prevent any avoidable offense.
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