SPJ’s Code of Ethics is among the most cited codes for journalism professionals, but there are certainly more from other organizations and news outlets. These codes are mostly starting points to guide ethical decision making. Often the gray areas of journalism ethics require your own additional thought process.
So, we ask, what’s your personal code of ethics? Are there more points you use to steer your own work? What, in addition to SPJ’s Code or other institutional rules, do you follow?
This is a question we pose in the upcoming issue of Quill magazine, the annual ethics issue.
As an example, we asked Steve Buttry, digital transformation editor at Digital First Media and a frequent writer on journalism ethics topics, to give us his personal code of ethics. (Steve has previously written on his blog and for Quill about the need to update the SPJ Code.)
Steve Buttry’s Personal Code of Ethics
A journalist’s job is pretty much like a witness’s oath in court: to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This goes deeper and broader than the call in codes of ethics to seek and report the truth. We must tell the whole truth about our reporting: showing our work and linking to our sources (including the competition). We must tell the whole truth about connections and experiences that might influence our reporting. This means acknowledging that we are humans with biases and opinions, not insisting that we’re objects. We must tell nothing but the truth. This means that we don’t settle for the faux balance of he-said-she-said journalism, but dig for verification and learn who is telling the truth. We must fact-check and call out the liars who too often use media as megaphones.
That’s Steve’s take. What’s yours?
Scott Leadingham is SPJ’s Director of Education and editor of Quill. Interact on Twitter: @scottleadingham