Like every other type of media, journalism has a set of standards that help reporters to make ethical decisions. These standards are meant to help make news what it is supposed to be: accurate and informative.
The The Society of Professional Journalists has a list of such standards that defines their principle: enlightening the public is the foundation for truth and democracy.
- Seek Truth and Report it: Journalists should be honest, fair, and courageous in gathering, reporting, and interpreting information; they should cross check sources, avoid distorting any materials they gather, and verify that what they are being told is accurate.
- Minimize Harm: Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects, and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect; they should be cautious about whose names they reveal when it comes to touchy situations and use sensitivity when working with affected people.
- Act Independently: Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know; they should avoid favors or bribes from sources and hold sources of power accountable.
- Be Accountable: Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers, and each other; they should expose unethical journalism, admit mistakes and fix them promptly, and encourage readers to voice their opinions about news.
These ethics are embraced by journalists, newsrooms, and class rooms as a way of stressing the importance of ethical writing. If journalists are not ethical, it can result in loss of credibility, trust, or even their jobs.