Monday, September 5, 2016

Society of Professional Journalist Code of Ethics: "Give voice to the voiceless."

Sarah Parker

The Guiding Principles

The Society of Professional Journalists created four guiding principles all journalists should use as a guideline for every step of the journalistic process.

While reading SPJ's code of ethics, one sentence spoke out to me the most and it was, "give voice to the voiceless." This sentence came from SPJ's first principle: Seek the truth and report it. 

This sentence stuck out to me the most because I think it perfectly sums up our number one job as journalists and professional communicators. Our job is to provide our audiences with the information they need to know. 

Simply put by SPJ, our one goal is to seek the truth and report it. Giving a voice to those who otherwise would not have a voice is our way of holding people accountable. 

As journalists, we must take the seriousness of our job very seriously. We have an outlet unlike any other to share information. We cannot take that for granted. We are doing an injustice to the public if we do not conduct ourselves in the most honest and professional way. 

Finding Balance

Journalism is a way to expose the truth, but SPJ's second principle is to minimize harm. At what point do we stop being truthful in order to prevent doing any harm to someone? Could we possibly do harm to someone by giving them a voice that might be dangerous to be heard? 

It feels as if sometimes these principles conflict and it's our job to find a balance. 

I think finding that balance is a test of your ethics as a journalist. Give a voice to the voiceless, but do not do harm to someone because we owe subjects of our stories the utmost respect. 

Authenticity and Respect

Respect is key to ethical decisions. We, as journalists, are to be respectful of ourselves, of our organization, our readers and our sources. If we respect ourselves as journalists and the work that we do, ethical decisions may be a little easier because we respect our work. 

Journalists are in the field of public service. We serve the public by being a reliable and trustworthy outlet to look to for truthful information. 

We cannot authentically be public servants if we give false information or take money or favors from sources or advertisers. 

Not only should we hold ourselves to this standard of ethical responsibility, but we should hold others accountable if they are acting unethically. 

It's important to expose unethical behavior out of respect for the field of journalism and our readers. By doing this, by not tolerating unethical decisions by other journalists, we can help improve the ethical conduct in the field of journalism. 

Can we enforce ethics?

No, we cannot enforce these principles because they are not rules, they are guidelines you are encouraged to follow. 

The first amendment is just as important as ethics to a journalist. We are allowed to be journalists and write freely because of our right to speak given to us by the first amendment.

 Law is what you can do and ethics is what you should do. There is a line one cannot cross and that is trying to enforce ethical decisions on a journalist. 

PRSSA put it simply:

SPJ made this video about their 4 ethical principles:

Source: YouTube

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