Monday, December 2, 2013

Got Ethics? New & Improved

Ann Watercutter
watercutter_1@hotmail.com


Until reading "The New Ethics of Journalism: Principles for the 21st Century" I had not known the ethical codes for journalists had been updated. I was extremely glad to see that the new codes have been modernized with consideration for the astounding impact of the Internet.

It is not news to anyone in the profession that the developments of social media and all other connections that the Internet allows for have forever changed the landscape of news organizations’ relationship with the public. These new codes correctly recognize the blending of journalism and strategic communication efforts, creating a combination of ethical values that better serves those in the profession. 

This link provides the full list of new codes with some additional comments on their implications. I’d like to discuss a couple of the principles I find to be the most impactful and forward thinking.



Be Transparent. 

Clearly articulate your journalistic approach, whether you strive for information or approach information from a political or philosophical point of view. Describe how your point of view impacts the information you report, including how you select the topics you cover and the sources that inform your work.


This principle recognizes that independence may be somewhat abstract with the increasing connectivity of world. One could appear to be independent, but if transparency didn’t exist no one would know if it was truly sovereign reporting.

Transparency encompasses independence in a more practical way by including the readers. It allows them to know all the facts and make decisions about the value of the content they are consuming. This also increases reliability and trust. Journalists cannot be perfect, and to recognize up front that there are areas that hold potential bias or problems will increase trust in the story and the profession. 

Engage community as an end, rather than as a means. 

Allow and encourage members of the community to self-inform. Make journalism a continuing dialogue in which everyone can responsibly take part and be informed.


The Internet made this a reality before ethical principles could catch up with it, but it is journalist and communicator's responsibility to recognize that the news is no longer a one-way or even two-way conversation. It is a million-way conversation. Successful organizations have taken this principle to heart, and it makes them better. News is generated to serve the public. By allowing the public to participate, the organization has more stories to work with and more ethically sound news.

A news organization that has truly embraced this value is Patch.comPatch is an organization that sprouts up to support small communities that would otherwise not have their news stories covered. Each community only has one or two paid staff, so it really relies on readers to post their own news and events. It connects the production of the news with those it’s produced for in a new and innovative way. Patch is just one example of the ways that journalism is evolving to continue to find ways to serve the public.


Updating the ethical principles that govern it will continue to be an essential part of moving forward.  

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