Journalism Code of Ethics: a Message to the (Mainstream) Media and Their Audiences

Along the way of raking in the big bucks the media – be it newspapers, websites, radio or TV – has completely forgotten about what it really means to “report” the facts. Because of this, their audiences have also forgotten what the meaning is of factual news.

Over the last decades news coverage has been downgraded to pure entertainment, factual coverage has for too long been neglected and so now we find ourselves in a society where anything that is being reported has to have a certain level of sensationalism and preferably along the lines that advertisers, politicians and pressure groups have drawn. Reality and facts be damned!

Well, we do not follow these shallow principles. We refuse to be part of corporate propaganda schemes that are designed to further deceptive and secretive (political) agendas.

Through all the madness and insanity that is going on and being instigated it’s probably time to remind everyone in the business and their audiences of some very crucial principles on which authentic journalism is based, what the purpose of journalism is.

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ): “Public Enlightenment is the Forerunner of Justice”

“The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.” Journalists should “serve the public with thoroughness and honesty.” They should “seek truth and report it.”

“Journalists should be fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.”

In the course of their duties it’s their obligation to:

  • Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
  • Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
  • Make sure 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.
  • Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events.
  • Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even when it is unpopular to do so.
  • 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.
  • 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.

“Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.”

Journalists should:

  • Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
  • Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
  • Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.

Manufacturing news and details, distorting reports and reality, even when this is legally allowed, are practices that are not prescribed by nor correspond with the journalism code of ethics. Such practices should therefore not be undertaken by reporters, journalists and news agencies and certainly be exposed when they do occur.