Top 10 Ethics of Journalism

2:00 pm 14 Feb, 2013

The public relies on the media when it comes to forming opinions and deciphering the society in general. Hence, it is important that the journalists and reporters follow an ethical code of conduct to make sure that what they release in the public domain is not filled with vendetta or misconstrued as an attempt to defame a certain section or part of the society. Ethics and principles are highly important in a profession as important and stimulating as journalism. Here are the top 10 ethics that journalism must follow.

10. Avoid slanderous reporting on sexual orientation:

The fact is that journalists are not meant to pass judgments on what is right or what is wrong. Their duty is to provide facts to the public for them to decide. While they might have a personal opinion, it should not be fed as news to the masses. Sexual orientation is one of those topics to which references must be made with utmost care without offending anyone in particular or general.

Avoid slanderous reporting on sexual orientation

9. Avoid purposeful defamation of public figures:

Sometimes reports related to public figures are liable to law suits. So, care needs to be taken before reporting on anyone. Every report must be backed by facts. Personal, regional or religious vendetta and political allegiance must not be the basis of reporting news which slanders the public image of a personality.

Avoid purposeful defamation of public figures - Journalism

8. Discretion while reporting:

There are times when reporting on a particular issue needs to be controlled. A call should be taken on the extent of reporting. One instance in this context would be the coverage during 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks when every movement by the security agencies was reported by the media inadvertently helping the terrorists. Discretion must be taken into consideration while reporting.

Discretion while reporting

7. Avoid pro-party reporting:

The press is needed to have freedom to bring to the public domain the truth of every event, every scam and every slanderous activity going on in the country. But care should be taken that the reporting and the news items should not be shadow campaigns for political parties. It is highly unethical for a journalist to design a story with political gain in mind.

Avoid pro-party reporting

6. Objectivity:

When it comes to journalism, objectivity means ensuring fairness, neutrality, and non-partisanship. While reporting on a case which is sub-judice, presumption of innocence is essential. For example, care needs to be taken to refer the accused or under trials as having “allegedly” committed crimes and not as proven perpetrators in spite of ample witnesses. It is not the duty of the journalists to give verdicts but to report the facts, and not term someone as guilty until proven otherwise in the court of law.

Objectivity is the root of journalism

5. Avoid discriminatory references to race:

With racial discrimination being a volatile issue, journalists need to be extra careful while reporting race-sensitive topics. The reference to a victim or offender or an incident that revolves around bias and prejudice in the context of race, be it in the workplace or elsewhere, need to be dealt with utmost care. There should be no bias when it comes to reporting on such an issue.

Avoid discriminatory references to race

4. Avoid biased reporting on religion:

The reporting of an incident or news objectively and without weighing it on religious grounds is significant to ensure that there is no backlash from a certain community or that the sentiments of the community in question is not hurt. It goes without saying that religion is one of the most sensitive topics that could affect a society as a whole and, hence, it is the duty of the journalists and reporters to not view events through the glasses of religion.

Avoid biased reporting on religion - Basics of journalism

3. Harm limitation principle:

The news that gets reported is put on the public domain for everyone and anyone to access and judge for themselves. Reporting must be done in a manner that it does no harm to the sensitivities of the people in question. Pinpointing juvenile suspects or naming victims of sex crimes or suspects before the formal filing of charges need to be avoided to prevent harm to their reputations. Sensitivity is also a must when interviewing or using photographs of those affected by calamity or grief.

Harm limitation principle

2. No plagiarism:

The authenticity and credibility of a media house or journalist depends on the originality of reporting. Copying an idea or news item from a rival channel or newspaper should be strictly avoided. The readers or viewers are intelligent enough to know which news is an imitation. Hence, plagiarism is a road that shouldn’t be travelled in this profession of journalism.

Journalism does not allow plagiarism

1. Factual reporting:

One of the prime duties of journalists is to ensure accurate and factual reporting. Since the news items are to be put in the public domain, care needs to be taken with respect to the authenticity of the reports. If there is substantial room for doubt then it is imperative to report that with attribution.  Facts need to be cross checked and verified prior to reporting. Disclaimers must be made known intelligibly.

Factual Reporting

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