Anyone can write a story about a current event. Most people can even do it with decent grammar and punctuation, and honestly it will probably even sound good. In order for someone to really call themselves a journalist though (or at least a good journalist), it is important that they follow the ethical rules of journalism.
According to the Ethical Journalism Network, there are five principals of ethical journalism. They are truth and accuracy, independence, fairness and impartiality, humanity, and accountability,.
Truth and accuracy are pretty self-explanatory. As journalists, it is important that we are giving the public the most honest rendition of the news. In order to do this, is important we get our facts from a reliable source and verify them by interviewing multiple sources.
It is very important, now more than ever, to speak with absolute certainty when it comes to reporting the news.
Independence in journalism, means that as reporters we need to stay unbiased. This means putting any political affiliation or personal interests aside and simply reporting the facts. If our personal beliefs are too strong on a subject, and we feel they may interfere with our story, it is important to declare that and perhaps let someone else report on that particular subject.
Fairness and impartiality goes hand in hand with independence. It means reporting on both sides of an issue and remaining unbiased when appropriate. Of course, there are instances when you are expected to take a side (when reporting on crimes, etc.) but when a story has a political agenda or controversy in is important to highlight and interview members of both sides of the argument.
Humanity is an important one. This means reporting that does no harm to anyone or their reputations. This encompasses things like libel. Not only is this a moral issue, but it can also become a legal issue. Although a lot of magazines and tabloids get away with it, it is something that as good reporters, we need to stay clear of.
Accountability is the fifth and last principal of ethical journalism. Naturally, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. Nobody expects us to be perfect, but it is important to hold ourselves accountable when we do make mistakes. If we admit our faults, the public is much more likely to forgive. This is a principal that we can apply not only to work, but also to our everyday lives.
This quote from Noam Chomsky really summarizes what is means to be ethical as a journalist. By reporting truth and accuracy with verified facts and the intentions of informing instead of persuading, we are being ethical in our field.
The 5 Principles of Ethical Journalism. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ethical Journalism Network: https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/who-we-are/5-principles-of-journalism