Monday, September 5, 2016

Universal Codes of Ethics: Truth, Accuracy and Integrity

Kristopher Perez

Different organizations, whether they belong in the realm of public relations or journalism, have ethics guidelines that go hand in hand, at the end of the day. Every ethics code focuses on three main points: truth, accuracy and integrity. Some organizations differ, but the main idea is still outlined in every ethics code. Journalists and PR professionals must abide by these moral codes in order to succeed in their field and protect the integrity of his or her employer.



Truth is a concept journalists have to grapple with on a daily basis. Sometimes, as journalists, we go through ethical dilemmas that make us stop in our tracks and think, "do the people really need to know this?" A main idea that goes into this comes straight out of SPJ's Ethics Code. The code states that journalists should, "balance the public's need for information against potential harm or discomfort." A modern day example of this dilemma could point straight at Edward Snowden's exposure of the NSA in June of 2013.

As journalists, we should be telling nothing but the truth, but sometimes that truth can be hurtful to our readers and, sometimes, those who are affected. It's up to our learned morals and values, along with the baseline established from ethical codes from these professional organizations.



Being precise with our reporting and what we decide to send out into the world is also an extremely important aspect of being a journalist. If we aren't accurate, what's the point of releasing the story? Several codes of ethics for different organizations talk about keeping stories up to date and relevant. If there is a development within a story a week after the story is posted, it's our job as gatekeepers and media professionals to keep the public informed and ensure the post is updated with relevant and important information they need to know. 

Being accurate also means to do the proper research before and even after writing the story. Ethics codes constantly speak about the importance of writing an accurate story because the minute the reader finds out your story is inaccurate, they will stop reading your content. Your integrity is, in a way, destroyed.


Integrity is defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, an idea that goes hand-in-hand with both truth and accuracy. Integrity is a way for the writer or the advertiser to establish themselves with the audience. It's a way for them to establish credibility and ensure the return of the reader. 

Without credibility, a writer or an advertiser has nothing for his or her audience to grasp a hold of. Take NBC anchor Brian Williams for example. Williams was/is a household name, a source of "truth" for viewers all over the country, but the minute his lies were exposed, his journalistic integrity was shown for what it was, and he was fired. One of the most trusted people on TV went from that, to a person people aren't even attempting to give a second chance. The truth is important, and journalistic integrity falls right along with it.

Why Ethics (and Codes of Ethics) Are Important

As journalists, we live by our own code of ethics. We make hasty decisions and need to know quickly what to do in a situation that could be both beneficial and harmful to the general public. Codes of Ethics are important, but each and every one of us are responsible for creating our own code to follow. The more we write stories and go through a variety of experiences within our field, the better we get at handling these situations. 

It's our responsibility to ensure our stories or works are truthful, fair, accurate and maintain journalistic integrity. Because without ethics, how would we know what to do?

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