Sunday, May 4, 2008

Getting Personal

Upon finishing JMC 366: Ethics and Diversity, our final assignment was to write our own codes of ethics. I thought this was kind of a cheesy assignment at first. Everyone knows the ethics. I recommend checking or, if you haven’t already, for a couple of solid codes of ethics.
But, because I want to graduate this week, I went ahead with the task of writing my own personal code of ethics. I drew mostly from the standard codes of ethics and philosophers we had studied throughout the semester.
I had a really good time with it because it allowed me to explore and accentuate what I deem to be most important of the conventional wisdom and to expand on my own observations. I think it was a valuable reflection. I would correct some parts of it already, but I still think it was interesting.
I think, as editors ourselves (and reporters are the most important editors of their stories), we are the gatekeepers of ethics. Below I’ve pasted my code of ethics. I encourage everyone to try it as a drill.

The Quigley Society of Journalists (QSJ) believes that an informed, educated society is the true path to social justice, the revival of democracy and the avoidance of tyranny.

***Aggressively and Courageously Pursue Truth and Report it as Aggressively and Courageously as It Is Sought
* Never omit information that is relevant to the understanding of the facts.
* Seek new areas of truth, such as new sources or angles that others may have missed.
* Never lie or accept a lie as truth. Check sources’ statements for accuracy, as well as your own.
* Do not be afraid to alienate sources with tough questions.
* Report all information relevant to a story no matter how disgusting or disheartening the information may be to the public.
* Never withhold information because it may insight a negative reaction, such as alienating the public or motivating criminal acts. The public chooses how it reacts to stories. The truth is always the truth. It is not our duties to be protectors or law enforcers.
* Always provide context to stories that helps the public understand the relevance and importance of information that could be repulsive or confusing.
* Be transparent to sources and the public. Anonymous sources and undercover work should only be used when it provides the public with vital knowledge not otherwise attainable. All methods, reasoning and products of such practices should be divulged to the public when such information is no longer a detriment to the story. All information acquired in these manners should be provably true.

***Be Completely Independent
* Do not let editors, managers or other bosses dictate a message if accuracy would be sacrificed.
* Do not let the public’s emotions guide a story if it does not increase accuracy.
* Do not be afraid to quit an outlet that does not uphold your values.
* Never heed threats or take bribes or gifts of any sort unless there is an immediate danger of the loss of life.
* Never look at a source, such as a law enforcement officer, government or military officer or any other person, as someone to whom you owe allegiance or subordination. Journalists are observers.

***Be Part of a Diverse Community
* Keep an open mind. An independent journalist is not afraid to change his/her own – or accept others’ – perceptions. Cooperation, negotiation and argument that uphold or enhance accuracy of stories or the codes in this document are essential to our field.
* Treat everybody with honesty and respect.
* Find the humanity in every story.
* Include diverse views of the meanings of information from experts and other members of the community.
* Cover diverse ethnic and cultural issues and use diverse sources in ordinary contexts where diversity is not the issue.
* Include all stakeholders in decision-making.
* Avoid using sources who are trying to block members of the community from accessing others. For example, call the company president rather than a crafty PR officer or other gatekeeper hired to stonewall or deceive.

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