Code of Ethics for New Media

Preamble:

Holistically speaking, new media can be described and likened to a “mass-communications palimpsest.” This alludes to the idea that while new media is an innovative and broad term which encompasses a vast array of digital communicative practices, it also currently involves the fading components of traditional media — established and professional journalists. However, what accounts for the overwriting of its predecessor is new media’s distinguishing characteristic of speedy electronic production, deliverance, and reception of content through the internet. In other words, though both eras revolve around the sharing of information and news, their difference stems from the discrepancy in the medium through which they are distributed.

As the print-based outlet of traditional media — newspapers, books, and magazines — has evolved into the easily-accessible platforms that new media offers — blogs and social media — the subsequent heightened interactivity and audience-generated content has allowed for the rise of citizen journalism. Of course, despite these changes in the relationship between the journalist and reader or consumer and producer, what lies at the core of journalism remains the same — to tell truths and broadcast stories in an ethical and considerate manner.

As such, with this clear guiding principle in mind, it is appropriate to accompany new media’s revolutionizing attributes of intensified immediacy, transparency, and instantaneity with this code of ethics that will be directed towards those who are a part of the new media landscape — citizen journalists, professional journalists, bloggers, and social media users.

Fairness

  • It is mandatory to consider all sides and arguments of a story — especially if it’s controversial — to deliver content with clarity and neutrality.
  • Content cannot be removed nor edited due to an unexplained request by a single person or group — exceptions lie in the case of inaccurate information, impediment on the general public’s well-being and safety, or an unethical privacy intrusion of a subject. (Refer to ACCURACY, below) In such a case, there must an attached note that explains to readers why such decisions were made — should there be any concerns or questions, the author must be ready to swiftly respond, explain, and clarify.
  • The goal is to seek truths and not the pleasing of subjects that are being reported on to achieve an unrealistic depiction of balance. As such, the reception of favours and the giving of favoured treatment will be strictly prohibited as it will infringe upon credibility and independence.
  • Do not manipulate or alter the meanings and words of the people or situation you are reporting on — always remain faithful and considerate to their interpretations. Our own biases and opinions should never obstruct the deliverance of accurate content.

Accuracy

  • In the process of gathering information from other sources (preferably original sources), always verify and fact-check the accuracy of the content — even if it’s attained from other credible news publications.
  • The sources used in the compiling of content should be willingly brought forth and clearly displayed to its audience. Unless the revelation may cause endangerment or harm, anonymity of the source should generally be avoided. That being said, if the source is granted anonymity, full effort must be put in to avoid accidental disclosure.
  • Do not develop a story that is centralized around the opinion and belief of one source or person. Instead, it is mandatory to put in your greatest effort to seek varied perspectives across a diverse demographic and professional range.
  • Intentional staging and the act of photographing a desired perspective or achieving a purposeful misrepresentation through later editing is prohibited as it will wrongfully depict the subject or situation and subsequently mislead viewers.

Privacy and Respect

  • Prior and during the process of telling a story, the author must ethically consider and inform the other parties involved of the permanence associated with the deliverance of content to an inevitably large audience. Even if a person agrees to be interviewed, which implies permission; they should still be reminded of the implications which follow through with their contribution. Moreover, in the case of children or people who are emotionally distraught, it is important to take special care and have a heightened sense of awareness to ensure that consent is ethically give, i.e, parental consent.
  • Even if particular subjects are associated with negative allegations or criticism, everyone that is affected by the pieces written should be treated with respect and professionalism. The purpose is not to ignite confrontation — it is to seek and broadcast the truth.
  • Unless a person’s race, sexual orientation, and religion are of significance to the story, one should avoid such references to avoid feeding into detrimental stereotyping and harmful generalizations.
  • If there is graphic content — profanity, violence and gore etc. — responsibility must be taken to provide an initial warning and a removable pixilation filter. Furthermore, prior to the posting of graphic content, it is mandatory to carefully consider the editorial and ethical justification of such a portrayal.
  • While performing journalistic obligations, be wary and respect the fine line between the public’s right to know and the violation of privacy — a basic human right.

Social Media

Social media offers everyone the opportunity to become a creator and distributor of news as access to the internet will allow the easy share of content through an array of platforms, i.e., Facebook and Twitter. Since social media users are simultaneously connected to large numbers of “followers” or “friends” under this format, information can be delivered and accessed by a large audience at an extremely fast rate.

As such, it is inevitable that the need to abide by new media ethics and to possess a heightened sense of moral awareness weighs even heavier for social media users as one decision made by the click of a mouse could either lead to regret or contribute to positive change.

Thus, it is vital for social media users to ensure that:

  • Articles, news stories, information, and photographs by other people be thoroughly read and looked over with a righteous mindset and adherence to one’s moral compass before choosing to share online.
  • Personal postings that are written by oneself will follow journalistic ethical values and not be swayed by the immediacy of social media to hastily/impulsively produce content with little consideration and forethought.
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