'Journalistic ethics and Standards include principles of ethics and of good practice to address the specific challenges faced by professional journalists. These principles are mostly widely known as ‘Code of Conduct or ethics’.
Philosophical and theoretical concepts
Ethics is derived from the word ‘ethos’, the Ethics is concerned with basic questions about what is right and what is wrong and it involves the character and conduct of individuals and institutions. It is also defined as a branch of philosophy dealing with the moral aspects of life.
Ethics reflects a society’s norms about what morally right and wrong.
Journalistic codes of ethics are designed as guides through numerous difficulties to assist journalists in dealing with ethical dilemmas. The codes and canons provide journalists a framework for self-monitoring and self-correction as they pursue professional assignment.
Modern utilitarian thinking originated from the 19th Century Philosphers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. The basic tenet in their formulations hold that we are to determine what is right and wrong by considering what will yield the best ratio of good to bad for the general society.
Utilitarianism provides a clear method for evaluating ethical choices;
1. Calculate all the consequences both good and bad that would result from each of our options; then
2. Choose the alternative that maximizes value or minimizes loss.
Veil of Ignorance
Justice is blind. Philosopher John Rawls argued that justice emerges when everyone is treated with social differentiations.
In other way, the veil of ignorance is related to fairness.
Rawl advocated all parties concerned in a problem situation should be placed behind a barrier where roles and social differentiations are gone and each participant is treated as an equal member of society as a whole.
In another sense, Veil of ignorance suggests that we should structure our actions to protect the most vulnerable members of society.
The principle of the Golden Mean
Moral virtue lies between two extremes. Aristotle noted that too much food as well as too little food spoils health. Moderation is the key.
In ethical dilemmas, the proper way of behaving lies between doing too much and doing too little. Always try to keep a balance between necessity of informing the public and the need to preserve safety.
The Categorical Imperative
According to German Philospher Immanuel Kant, what is right for one is right for all. The measure of correctness of our behavior, Kant suggests that we act according to the rules that we would want to see universally applied.
In Kant’s formulation, categorical means unconditional –no extenuating circumstances, no exceptions. Right is right and should be done, no matter what the consequences. The categorical imperatives are discovered by an examination of conscience which informs us what is right. If after performing, an act we feel uneasy or guilty, we should probably violated our conscience.
Principle of determination
Do not treat people as means to an end. This might be summarized as ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.
Human beings have unconditional value apart from any and all circumstances. Their basic right to self-determination should not be violated by using them as simply a means to accomplish a goal.
Social Responsibility theory
The media have obligations to society and media ownership is a public trust.
News media should be truthful, accurate, fair, objective and relevant
The media should provide a forum for ideas
The media should be free but self-regulated
Media should follow agreed codes of ethics and professional standards
Under some circumstances, society may need to intervene in the public interest.
International Principles of Professional Ethics in Journalism
- People’s Right to true information: Include the right of people to express themselves freely through media of communication
- The journalist’s dedication to objective reality provides the public with adequate material to facilitate the formation of an accurate and comprehensive picture of the world.
- The Journalist’s Social Responsibility: Emphasizes the fact that journalistic information is a social good not a commodity.
- The Journalist’s Professional Integrity: Deals with matters of professional ethics
- Public access and participation: includes right of rectification and reply.
- Respect for human dignity and privacy
- Respect for the public interest
- Respect for universal values and diversity of cultures; calls for respect for human rights, social progress, national liberation, peace, democracy
- Elimination of war and other evils confronting humanity. Do not justify aggression, arms proliferation, violence, hatred, discrimination
- Promotion of a New World Information and Communication Order: Encourage decolonization and democratization of information and communication flow.
Truth and accuracy
Impartiality and fairness
Respect for individual privacy
Independence from vested interest
Respect for law
Moral decency and good taste
Unequivocal separation between news and opinion
Unequivocal separation between news and advertisement
Reporter/ Journalist must avoid conflict of interest-
Incentives to report a story with a given slant. This include not taking bribes and not reporting on stories that affect the reporter’s personal, economic and political interests
Competing points of view are balanced and fairly characterized and reported
Persons who are subject to adverse news stories are allowed a reasonable opportunity to respond to the adverse information before the story is published or broadcast
Interference with reporting by any entity including censorhip must be disclosed.
Confidentiality of anonymous sources
Accurate attribution of statements made by individuals or others. Pictures, sound and quotations must not be presented in a misleading context. Simulations, re enactments, alterations and artistic imaginings must be clearly labeled as such, if not avoided.
Plagiarism is strongly stigmatized and in many cases illegal
Events with a single eyewitness are reported with attribution.
Events with two or more independent eyewitness may be reported as facts. All controversial facts are reported with attribution.
Corrections are published when errors are discovered or pointed out
Defendants at trial are treated only as having ‘allegedly’ committed crimes until conviction
Opinion surveys and statistical information deserve special treatment to communicate in precise terms any conclusions to contextualize the results and to specify accuracy including estimated error and methodical flaws.
The essence of journalism is a discipline of verification
It separates journalism from fiction or propaganda
Never add anything that was not there
Never deceive the audience
Be transparent as possible about your methods and motives
Rely on your own original reporting
Adjudicating a story line by line, statement by statement, editing the assertions in the stories as well as the facts.
Is the lead of the story sufficiently supported?
Has someone double checked the facts?
Is the background material required to understand the story complete?
Are all the stakeholders in the story identified and have representatives from that side been contacted and given a chance to talk?
Does the story pick sides or make subtle value judgments?
Are all the quotes accurate and properly attributed?
Importance of verifying presumed facts
Don’t rely on official or news accounts. Get close as you can to primary sources. Be systematic. Corroborate.