There was an interesting discussion on the comments flowing from one of my blog posts the other week - which exposed some variance in views about what journalists do, or at any rate how journalists should do journalism. It made me think that whilst I am sometimes critical of journalists or individual pieces of journalism I've never really given much thought to any accepted best practice or ethical code. What, I wondered, if I am really off beam with this?
So I went to look. Here's what I found...I'm not going to make comment on it particularly - I think it's pretty self explanatory and it hasn't caused me to alter my views. But I thought it would be a useful reference point for future discussion.
- At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed.
- Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.
- Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies.
- Differentiates between fact and opinion.
- Obtains material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means.
- Does nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest.
- Protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work.
- Resists threats or any other inducements to influence, distort or suppress information and takes no unfair personal advantage of information gained in the course of her/his duties before the information is public knowledge.
- Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation.
- Does not by way of statement, voice or appearance endorse by advertisement any commercial product or service save for the promotion of her/his own work or of the medium by which she/he is employed.
- A journalist shall normally seek the consent of an appropriate adult when interviewing or photographing a child for a story about her/his welfare.
- Avoids plagiarism.
The BBC Editorial Guidelines can be found here. They seem much more robust and comprehensive than the other documents, but the BBC of course is a different beast and I know many would query the extent to which the BBC successfully adheres to all of this code all of the time. Indeed I would rhetorically ask how well the recent "I want my baby back" episode of Panorama would score.