Ethics: Avoiding Journalism Sins

There are a lot of rights and wrongs in Journalism. Everyone wants to write the story that gets his or her audience’s attention. However, you do not want to be that journalist that writes the wrong thing, on purpose or not on purpose. You may get in huge trouble and be left wondering, “what did I do wrong?”

Many different areas in communications have a Code of Ethics.  Journalism Code of Ethics has 4 major areas, including:

Seek Truth and Report It
In all cases, a journalist should be fair and honest in gathering their information from their sources and attributes and reporting it to their audiences. This includes a lot of important aspects of your articles or pieces of work. Before you publish your pieces you should always make sure that they are accurate. You can check this by seeing if all your sources agree with one another. Another important thing to remember is to make sure that your headlines, photos, and quotes don’t mislead your audience. Most importantly, tell the story in your own words to your audience; there should never be a reason to plagiarize.

Minimize Harm
Treat everyone with respect. A journalist should always be compassionate and sensitive to whom they are working with. Some topics can be very emotional to the people you are interviewing or reporting on, you want to recognize that your story may bring discomfort, therefore always show good taste.

Act Independently-
The Journalist main focus should be the public’s right to know, therefore, they should stay free of obligation to any other interest. A journalist should avoid gifts or any special treatment from outsiders.

Be Accountable-
A journalist is responsible for their audience. You want to give them the right information, but if you do make a mistake, you need to admit to your audience and correct it.

Every journalist practices these ethics, but there have been some ethicist in the past that made it easier for us to understand what to do in a situation.  Ethicist like Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, John Rawls, and Niccolo Machivialli have gave us ethical paths on how to write about situations from writing it with the style of the golden mean to go with your gut, the ends justify the means. To learn more about these ethical path writing styles, read “Contraversies of Media Ethics“, partly written by yours truly Mike Dorsher.

If you tend to avoid following these guidelines, consequences will follow. Some may be harsher than others, but either way a Journalist does not want any on their record.  There are stories that can put you in jail, get you sued, get you fired, or on a lesser account get you that boss-screaming-in-your-ear phone call. Understanding ethics is important. If you have any questions, use your resources. SPJ takes questions online and emails you back how they feel about your story. (Resources for Students)


About perryrh

I am a Junior at UWEC
This entry was posted in Law and ethics, Writing tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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