What is ethics?
Definition of ethic
1 ethics plural in form but singular or plural in construction: the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
2 a: a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values
Every good news organization has a handbook with a written policy or guidelines that spell out the way they want journalists to act while gathering and reporting the news. Managers, editors, producers, reporters, photographers and anyone who works in serious journalism takes these guidelines to heart and tries to follow them.
While there may be some corporate deviation, standards remain pretty much the same from one organization to another.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to freely assemble, and petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
So we have a mandate to report and cover the news and how we do it is critically important.
We have basic values.
We tell the truth.
We remain independent and as objective as humanly possible.
We report fairly giving all sides of a story and giving multiple viewpoints of a story when possible.
We work to present a rounded picture of what we are reporting with context.
We are accountable. We report what we know and stand behind our work and correct errors.
Journalists serve the public
The New York Times puts its guidelines online
Other news organizations do the same. For example:
The foundation of journalism ethics is simple.
This list reflects the Code of Ethics created by the Society for Professional Journalists.
1. Report fairly and accurately
a. To do that you need to make sure that you verify what people tell you.
How do you do that? By finding more than one source for the information.
2. Avoid conflicts of interest. If you do have an interest in the story you want to disclose it upfront.
3. Do not take gifts, favors, free travel or other perks that could compromise your reporting.
4. Distinguish news from advertising or native content.
4. Update your story to make sure that it is accurate. Things change.
5. Be careful about making promises to people you interview.
6. Identify your sources clearly.
7. Consider your sources’ motives. Why are they talking to you? What is their bias?
8. Be careful about granting someone anonymity. An anonymous source may have a
motive to stay hidden that could undermine the truthfulness of the story. If you use
an anonymous source, explain why.
9. Make every effort to get both sides of a story. Make sure if people are accused of something that you give them every opportunity to respond. This may take extra work.
10. Use undercover reporting only when you must and then explain why you chose to do it.
11. Hold the powerful accountable.
12. Give voice to the powerless.
13. Avoid stereotyping.
14. Label advocacy and commentary.
15. Do not distort information including visual presentations. Make sure that you label re-enactments clearly.
16. Never plagiarize.
17 . Always attribute.
18. Be accountable and transparent.
a. Correct mistakes quickly.
b. Respond to criticism.
c. Explain your ethical choices.