Code of Ethics for Journalists
A Code of Ethics exists for journalists, the problem is that it is totally voluntary and there are no penalties associated with the code.
A) Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics
Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility. Members of the Society share a dedication to ethical behavior and adopt this code to declare the Society's principles and standards of practice.
Seek Truth and Report It
Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
* Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
* Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
* Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
* Always question sources' motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
* Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
* Never distort the content of news photos or video. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
* Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events. If re-enactment is necessary to tell a story, label it.
* Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public. Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story
* Never plagiarize.
* Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
* Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others.
* Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
* Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
* Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
* Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
* Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
* Recognize a special obligation to ensure that the public's business is conducted in the open and that government records are open to inspection.
Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.
* Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
* Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
* Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance.
* Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.
* Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
* Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
* Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
* Balance a criminal suspect's fair trial rights with the public's right to be informed.
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.
* Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
* Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
* Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
* Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
* Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
* Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
* Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; avoid bidding for news.
Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.
* Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
* Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
* Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
* Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
* Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
B) Recommended Additions to Code of Ethics
1) All news stories must have a peer review and sign-off before publication. This is a normal Quality Assurance process for all business.
2) All news stories will contain comparative information if available. If the item is a common occurrence it should be stated. If the same thing has happened before the relative magnitude must be stated. A part of the comparative information should be an evaluation of previous situations. The democrats have totally failed to do almost everything, but when the Republicans do something they get criticized because they do not do it perfectly.
3) The number of people represented by a news story must be stated. 20 people can be made to look like a football stadium is full but represent only .00001 percent of the population thus distorting the presentation.
3) All news stories will have data presented in as many ways as possible in order that it be as clear as possible. Usually percentages are a better representation than numbers. To state a particular number can be misleading. 1000 deaths many seem large, but not out of 200 million people.
4) The source of all information used in a news story must be identified.
5) Credibility information must be presented for all sources of information. A terrorist account of an event is not as credible as the soldiers.
6) Only news (events) should be reported, thus speculation of future events should be eliminated.
7) Views by news anchors and reporters should be eliminated. Reports by differing opinions should be presented in a balanced manner.
8) News Media people must stay out of politics/social issues. No money, time, endorsements, etc. should be made available to political/social causes by News Media people.
9) Reporters are required to immediately report to authorities any illegal activity they discover. The first responsibility of any reporter is to assure the proper authorities are notified and that any possible help be rendered, then begin filming or reporting. The news media knew what was happening in New Orleans but failed to report to local and federal authorities. Instead the kept the cameras running to get good film footage.
C) Penalties for Violation of Code of Ethics
The main reason the news media has been able to get away with trash has been the reluctance of the judicial system to take action against the news media because of the freedom of the press Constitutional issue. A lot of the item that are involved are political in nature, so there is a question of who used who.
The Republicans have never been successful proving the news media is biased, and the democrats get the benefit so nothing ever gets done. I believe the real harm is the American people who do not get the best government possible because of the news media bias so it is the America people that should be allowed to sue and who should be allowed to sue the news media.
The news media is big business and get more money for more bazaar things. The news media is basically a pornography distributor because they play on the base nature of humans to see bloody images and hear stories of weird sexual events.
It is time consuming to prove that something is a half-truth or a fabrication. Most people do not have the time to spend on investigations, where their results will never be paid for. Fines punish the guilty and reward the person that did the investigative work.
(to be awarded by court and paid to the person that exposed the situation)
$1,000,000 for proof of Treason - New York Times Wire Tap and Money Tracking Stories
$100,000 for fabricated lie - Dan Rather story about Bush
$10,000 for failure to research sources -
$1000 for violation of Code of Ethics
The person who revealed the letter that Dan Rather used against President Bush was produced by a word processor and not a typewriter should have been paid $100,000.
With fines and rewards to people who investigate the news media, there will be an effective check and balance that is defiantly needed.
D) Need for National Association for Responsible Journalism - NARJ
A Code of Ethics should be required by congress, but neither Republicans nor democrats will tackle this issue and private citizens do not have the time or money to pursue the court battle that will be required to get a Code of Ethics in place.
A Code of Ethics needs to be established and all journalists held accountable to that Code of Ethics.
I am establishing a NARJ to pay individuals for proof of Code of Ethics violation and to pay for legal fees to get a Code of Ethics established by suing relative to a Code of Ethics that should be in place. If the lawsuit is won, the Code of Ethics now has legal standing.
If you would like to support the NARJ, please respond to this blog.