Journalistic Code of Ethics
In today’s increasingly enterprising digital world, where information accessibility is rarely the issue, it is a matter of information integrity that is essential. In this age, the media stands as an authoritative and omniscient power. It is highly pivotal that the news audience believes and trusts what is presented to them as a valuable story, and it is important that the story is an informative piece resultant of principled journalistic tradition. Professional journalists are bolstered with the fundamental task of capturing stories where they may be the only witnesses, and with this comes the salient task of adhering to a critical code of morals or ethics that provide the basic guidelines to honest and respectable journalism.
There are three basic principles of journalistic tradition:
It is with regard to these principles that the following standard code of ethics is based on.
The principle of journalism authenticity is based on the fact that the media is a trusted source of information with the potential to make, shape, or break public and personal knowledge, and this sense of agency must produce reliable and factual content, by ethically proper means of conduct.
· Do not fabricate information: Fabrication involves the act of writing false or only partially true information. Fabricating information can be done unintentionally or intentionally, and both cases are equally inadmissible in the field of professional journalism. Unintentional fabrication is often a result of negligence on part of the journalist, as they may have failed to verify information and accepted it as they came across it, producing content misleading to the actuality of the situation. The statements made by the journalist, notwithstanding plausibility or possibility, are not based on fact, making the information inauthentic. Intentional fabrication is done with malicious intent to create a more appealing or interesting story by manufacturing, exaggerating, or manipulating quotations/sources/details of the situation, and a journalist who condones to such behavior is likely unprofessional and not suited for the job. Fabrication shows a lack of respect on part of the journalist for the audience, the actual situation of the story and everyone involved, and the field of journalism. It is ethically improper to take advantage of being in a situation of power and being complacent about how much people can be mislead, whether done intentionally or unintentionally.
· Do not plagiarize: Plagiarism involves reclaiming the ideas of another party and presenting them as one’s own. In the field of professional journalism, the journalist is exposed to a large number of facts, ideas, and details, and it is necessary that every derivative bit of information is accredited to its source. Failure to do so results in plagiarism as it involves the assertion that any detail of the story unaccounted for is an original contribution by the journalist, when it is not. Plagiarism is never tolerated as it shows a lack of honesty and a sense of deceit on part of the journalist, and a callous attitude towards the duties and responsibilities one holds as a journalist.
Journalistic fairness involves acknowledgement on part of the journalist of their role as a witness to a story and their duty to represent the situation and subjects fairly. Unfair practices in professional journalism are undoubtedly unethical.
· Do not conduct ambush interviews: Ambush interviews are unscheduled and uninformed interviews that are intended to catch subjects off guard, generally for purposes of dramatic conflict or to make a mockery of the subjects. Although they hold a position in documentary film-making, ambush interviews are generally not tolerated in professional journalism. Ambush interviews display a sense of superiority and an unequal balance of power between the interviewer and the unprepared interviewee. They are also deemed an attention-seeking practice meant to dramatize and boost the attractiveness of the story, and professional journalism does not compromise truth for hype — falling in line with the principles of journalism authenticity.
· Do not monetarily compensate the subjects: Giving monetary compensation to subjects can compromise the integrity of the story and can be construed as bribery, resulting in an unfair representation of the story. Monetary compensation can also show disrespect for the subjects, and can be seen as rude, as some subjects may believe their contributions to be meaningful acts of general public service and rewarding them monetarily may be insulting to their goodwill. Therefore, it is just generally wise to avoid involving money in the investigative process as it complicates matters and compromises the ethicality of journalistic procedures.
· Protect the rights of the subjects: It is important to know the rights of the people who are giving you information for the story, and so it is crucial to obtain informed consent from them. Informed consent is the practice of informing subjects of their involvement in the story and the consequences of doing so. They must be made explicitly aware of their contributions, and an acknowledgment of their awareness must be elucidated by a written or filmed record of their consent to participation.
Journalistic objectivity involves the maintenance of neutral behavior as a third party, under any circumstances, for the sake of professionalism in presenting a story without influencing it. A lack of objective journalistic behavior can be seen to be ethically improper.
· Avoid conflicts of interest: Do not involve persons closely known to you to be the subjects of or be party to the story being produced. There is a sense of bias that is likely to arise in the involvement of friends, significant others, and family members in that it can influence the authenticity of the story. When interviewing someone known to you, you hold an understanding and perspective of them that may influence not only how you present them but also how much information you present from them. You may hold a certain amount of known, obvious information about the person and may omit mentioning these details to the average reader who does not know them. On the whole, engaging with conflicts of interest in professional journalism is deemed unethical as it holds the potential to produce largely skewed content.