A Citizen Journalist’s Code of Ethics
What is new media? New media is the means by which we exchange and spread information within our era of continuous rise of digital technology. New media can be in the form of video, online writing, image, social media, etc. With the increase of accessibility of information and the shift in how information spreads, it’s important as citizens to take a moment and consider the implications that our actions and words may have on other people, groups and ourselves. This code of ethics will specifically apply to citizen journalists and social media users who choose to write and share news and stories on the Internet. This code will act as a general consensus to ensure the respect of other people and truthful information.
- You must verify your facts with multiple sources. Include links where possible.
- Cleary distinct facts from opinion. As citizen journalists, you have much more freedom on what kinds of pieces you choose to write but you must inform your readers if they are reading an opinion and who it is from.
- Be aware of your own biases and do not let it conflict with reporting the truth.
- Take action to prevent your own actions and words skew or distort information that you gather from primary and secondary sources.
- Resist censorship of information and also do not take compensation or bribes from those who desire to influence opinions of the public or influence the ideas or facts present in your writing or multimedia as it challenges the integrity and accuracy of your stories.
- Do not feel pressured by others to delete or remove your own posts or work from your outlet for content related reasons (unless it’s for plagiarism).
- As information to a story may change, add updates and corrections to the news that you write. Also, allow other people to let you know when information is old or incorrect and you must respond to each of these requests.
- When you make corrections or updates to information, you must identify it as such within your piece and include the date and time when the corrections and updates where made.
- When borrowing and creating images, video or any other forms of multimedia for the purpose of supplementing your stories, be aware of the manipulation technologies we have today and make sure that the images are fair and accurate.
- Those who are involved in the news must be respected. Unless the safety of the public is at risk or the information will affect the general public, private and personal information should be kept private and you are under obligation to keep it confidential. However, it is inevitable that conflicts in privacy will arise. In these cases, each situation should be evaluated by use of fair judgement, relevance and common sense.
- Allow others to respond to critical information and offer them a chance to support themselves before you publish information about them.
- Remember that your subjects have a right to a fair trial, even under scrutiny. Your actions and reporting should not conflict with this right and their rights as a citizen as well.
- Consider any potential conflicts of interest. Remember, as citizen journalists you have free reign to choose what you write about as long as you are not endangering others and your facts are accurate.
- Information about a person or community such as race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, social status, ethnicity, physical appearance should not be disclosed unless it is absolutely necessary for the story.
- Do not identify victims of sexual abuse who are children without parental consent. For adult victims, you should consider whether it is in the public’s interest and in the interest of the victim if they should be identified.
- Respect your audience. Remember that the information that you choose to share, even if it is already circulating in the Internet, has an impact on your community and potentially an even larger audience. Once information is posted on the Internet, it cannot simply be removed.
- Consider that certain words and visual content has an impact on people and may cause certain reactions. Be sensitive about your audience when using profane language and graphic content and when you do, be sure to flag and tag your posts as “18+”, “NSFW” or any other words to that effect.
- You must treat the people you write about and interview with decency and respect. Do not be rude or invasive when gathering information and prevent your own presence from skewing aspects of your subject’s life. Be courteous to your subjects as it may affect what kind of information you get from them.
- Do not plagiarize or violate copyrights of any work made by another person as it is deceitful to the audience. If you must use another person’s work, words, social media posts in your own reporting, you must include a source and/or credit the owner.
- Avoid using stereotypes in race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, social status, ethnicity, physical appearance when describing communities or individuals whom you are writing about. Do your best to avoid reproducing untruthful, toxic ideologies and misrepresentations of other people.
- When writing about and interviewing children under the age of 18, be aware and sensitive to their well being and approach their stories with care. Be careful when disclosing important information about them.
- In the event of any violent situations, be aware that your actions or any of the things you post get in the way of peaceful resolution. Remember that in these situations, your safety as well as the safety of others is at risk.
- Be aware of your own rights as a citizen of the internet and your own rights to gathering and reporting information. Speak up and act against any impediments or hindrances to you being able to practice your rights as a citizen and as a journalist.