Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Are Codes of Ethics Really Needed in Journalism?

Michael Bundt

When reading through the various codes of ethics, one thing kept popping into my head. Are codes of ethics really needed in the field of journalism?

I understand what they represent and how they make our field look more professional but most of their points seem fairly obvious.

Some of the obvious points included in the codes of ethics mentioned in the reading include:

  1. -Test the accuracy of all sources
  2. -Never plagiarize
  3. -Avoid stereotyping different groups
  4. -Refuse gifts from people that may compromise journalistic integrity

The list goes on and on with things that journalists should already be expected to know. So why do we need a code of ethics if we already know most of the rules?

In my opinion, a code of ethics is needed in journalism as a reminder to journalists to always put forth their best effort while being honest on the job. It reminds us of the rules that we must follow in order to be good journalists. And during times when you have ethical questions about a story your writing, it provides a good outline to go back to in order to check the proper procedures you should follow.

Another question that pops up when talking about codes of ethics is whether there should be one universal code of ethics in the field of journalism or many smaller codes of ethics for individual newspapers and stations.

On this topic, I think both should be in place. There should a universal code of ethics for the separate journalism fields as a general code for all journalists to follow. Then, in addition to that, each station should have there own code of ethics.

As we already know, there are large-scale codes of ethics for journalists to follow such as the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. But that shouldn’t the only one. Individual stations should have their own code of ethics with set consequences if rules get broken. Therefore, if a station hires you, you will learn their set of rules right away.

Codes of ethics are important. I know that many of the rules seem pretty obvious at. But it is a good reminder that we are journalists and we have a high standard to uphold. A code of ethics is just one of the few things in places that help us meet those standards on an annual basis.

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