I’m sure that every journalist, from the online blogger to the traditional print writer to the radio host to the broadcast producer, has their own personal view of the ethics of their craft. Although some values (mostly) hold strong across the profession, I’m sure everyone believes something slightly different about what it means to be independent or truthful or fair. I’m going to do my best to outline below my own personal code of ethics. There’s no way it will cover every situation and I’m sure there will be exceptions to every rule, but here are what I believe are the most important issues to keep in mind while I’m reporting.
The first thing that I always want to strive for is my reporting is to be empathetic to all parties involved. Before I write something, I need to examine the journalistic need for the story, what potential harm the story could cause and how publishing my article could affect those involved. While I can’t stop from hurting everybody, I think it’s important to examine whether a potentially-harmful article is journalistically necessary.
Due to my life experiences and personality, I have my own political, religious and social views. I don’t think anyone expects reporters to be completely objective in their lives. Instead, I want to strive for independence in my writing. I’ll aim not to go into a story with an already-formed opinion and to do my best not to let my own views color what I write.
A journalist’s #1 job is to be accurate. To do this, I will double-check all my facts, names, etc. I will try to paint as best a picture as I can of a situation with my writing and I won’t report rumors or things that I don’t know to be true without adding a disclaimer.
In keeping with my commitment to accuracy, if I get something wrong, I will take steps to change it and apologize to anyone who might be affected. I won’t hide when I get something wrong – instead, I’ll print a correction, add one to an online article or correct myself via social media. I’ll try to keep an ongoing conversation going with sources, readers and fellow journalists about my stories and my attempts to fix any errors.
An article might be accurate but not necessarily truthful, if it isn’t thoroughly reported. I’ll do my best to base my writing on multiple sources and to consider various sides of the argument. If something I didn’t consider comes up after I publish a story, I will attempt to write a follow-up to ensure that the topic is covered as fully as possible.
If I have to make an important ethical decision, I won’t try to make it alone. I’ll talk it through with my editor and other journalists so I can explain my thought process and conform to the standards of the organization that I work for.