The committee that revised the Society’s Code of Ethics felt the document’s tenets and underlying principles apply to all journalism regardless of how it’s ultimately presented. Still, the committee knew people interested in ethical journalism may benefit from additional guidance from the Society and other people and organizations.
Below are several resources that the Society’s ethics committee compiled to help people with day-to-day decisions. These resources are not formally part of the Code. Also, these lists will grow and change as more resources are found, or as resources become obsolete.
For those people who still have questions, please email the Society’s Ethics Hotline: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fred Brown of the Society’s Ethics Committee offers advice and pointers to journalists about gifts and political involvement. “‘Refuse’ may be a little harsh; ‘decline’ suggests a more polite approach to avoiding the appearance of conflict of interest,” he writes. “This is the starting point for many employers’ codes of ethics, and those codes are more specific and detailed about what news employees can and can’t do.”
- The Society’s Ethics Committee examines the importance of credibility to journalists in a position paper. “Credibility is at the heart of journalism,” the Committee writes. “The audience must believe the information it is receiving is accurate, the editorial judgments based on principles of fairness and balance.”
- Journalists often wonder whether they are allowed to become involved with any political activities or movements. The Society’s Ethics Committee offers some suggestions in a position paper, but discourages any involvement. “Don’t get involved,” the Committee writes. “Don’t contribute money, don’t work in a campaign, don’t lobby, and especially, don’t run for office yourself.”
- Fred Brown and Nerissa Young examine for the Society’s Ethics Committee whether journalists can be involved in social movements. In this case study, they look at whether a journalist should be allowed to take part in a parade supporting LGBT rights.
- Sometimes the government asks journalists to withhold certain information for various purposes, including national security. In this case study, the Society’s Ethics Committee looks at whether journalists should cooperate with government officials to withhold certain information from publication.
- Tony Rogers writes on About.com on six ways journalists can avoid conflicts of interest. “Avoiding conflicts of interest is sometimes easier said than done,” he writes.
- NPR‘s Ethics Handbook offers some guidelines on avoiding conflicts of interest, including when a journalist’s spouse becomes involved with politics. “To secure the public’s trust, we must make it clear that our primary allegiance is to the public,” NPR advises. “Any personal or professional interests that conflict with that allegiance, whether in appearance or in reality, risk compromising our credibility.”
- The NYU Journalism Handbook for Students also offers a list of potential conflicts of interest, including subjects, events, gifts and other offerings.
- RTDNA compiled a comprehensive list of questions journalists should ask themselves to avoid conflicts of interest. “The act of reporting and presenting the news often puts journalists in the position of working very closely with sources,” RTDNA writes. “This is where conflicts of interest can occur.”