As a child, most are told to be honest, truthful, and are told not to damage someone's feelings or reputation for the benefit of their own good. The same is relatable to organizations across the board, and specifically relatable to any form of public communication organizations.
In the Society of Professional Journalists, their ethical code focuses on reporting the truth, minimizing harm, being independent, and being accountable for one's work.
The Importance of Truth
As a journalist, it is extremely important to be accurate and report only the truth. Although it can be tempting to publish unreliable facts or fabricate information, it is important to remain a faithful to your audience and to yourself.
The truth of your writings go into great depth. Not only should your writings be accurate, but your quotes should be taken from those whose voices will impact the story most and often are not featured.
Quotes and facts should not only be reported, but they should be double checked. It is the responsibility of a journalist to stay up to date and make any corrections as soon as possible.
Mistakes can give your audience the wrong information, and it is important that mistakes are avoided as much as possible in order for the public to be kept informed. If a journalist does not do their part to inform the public, then there are limited ways that much of the general population will be given the important facts they need to understand society.
Minimize the Harm
The largest and most important reason to minimize harm is because every human, rather they be a criminal or a person being harmed, is still a human. At the end of the day, all people deserve respect.
Harm can be brought not only to those who may be discussed in an article or broadcast, but harm can also impact the public. Information that lacks compassion or could be dangerous for the general public to witness is usually a "no go" and is considered harmful.
In general, the public has the right to know most information, and it is a journalist's job to report accurately. However, if the information can cause long term damage or is not in the best of interest to be reported, it turns into a balancing act.
Keeping harm to a minimum should be the goal, but sometimes extenuating circumstances may sway a journalist one way or the other on exactly how to report.
The Independence Factor
When the stressful situations set in, it is a journalist who must refuse any free gifts or pay-offs in return for quotes or information. The journalists must make sacrifices at times, and these include avoiding conflicts of interest and refusing to bend to the pressure.
Journalists shouldn't be in this field because of all the money, but instead should seek pride in their work and the good they do for the public.
Being independent doesn't mean a journalist can't look for help or take advice from their peers and advisors. Being independent as a journalist is the ability to refuse blending advertisements with their stories and refusing to give special treatment to any sources that offer to provide money.
Being an independent journalist should be for the good of the public. The public audience deserves the honest truth in reports and should be able to trust their journalists. Unfortunately, in today's society, many cannot trust any form of journalism.
From advertisers, to public relations, and to radio, there are minimal people who have the belief that those in the public communications field do their duty to provide the public with truthful and independent information.
Who's Responsible? That's You!
Finally, according to the SPJ Code of Ethics, it is important to be accountable for your own work. Journalists are responsible for providing information and being able to explain their actions if asked.
If a mistake is made, which is possible because journalists are only human, it is important to own up to the mistake and go about fixing any mistakes as soon as they are brought to one's attention. Journalists should be accurate and quick while providing information.
Accuracy and efficiency are important to make sure that the reports made are fair and non-biased.
All Forms of Ethical Codes Are Important
Whether a communicator is specialized in hard news, magazine writing, radio, advertising or public relations, it is important to use an ethical code of conduct. All occupations face their own difficulties, but most ethical codes provide the same main messages.
It will always be important to be honest and to provide the public with the ability to learn the information they want because, otherwise, they are blind to the world.
Ethical standards allow people to be intelligent humans. If the PRSA Code of Ethics, the Online News Ethical Code, or any other form of ethical conduct wasn't followed, there would be seriously misleading information.
Although mistakes can seem minimal and harmless at the time, if constant mistakes and unethical choices are made, there will be no journalistic information, and the public will not have the opportunity to go looking for information.
As a new generation of journalists, it is important to remember the importance of ethical codes. It really is a journalist's responsibility to be ethical and make honest and accurate reports.