Just like medical ethics set specific boundaries that are to be respected by doctors, similarly, media ethics refers to a set of guidelines for journalists.
This set of rules and regulations has no legal obligation but is considered as ethically and morally compulsory for journalists.
What Are the Five Core Principles?
Obligation to the Truth
“What is true for one person might not be true for another”.
A sentence that should be often meditated by all journalists without exception.
This sentence is also the basis of communication in general and journalism in particular.
The aim of journalism is not to purse an absolute truth or one in a philosophical sense, but it does try to seek truth in a practical sense. The ‘journalistic truth’ is a process that starts with the professional discipline of gathering and verifying facts. After those two critical processes, journalists then try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, subject to further investigation.
This principle suggests that when it comes to methods and sources of information, journalists try to be as transparent so as accurate information is disseminated to the public. In a world of democratizing voices (all thanks to the Internet and the social media, of course), accuracy remains the foundation upon which everything else is built, that is, context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate.
Over time, the ultimate truth will emerge from these platforms. The moment public is faced with an impressive flow of data, the need to be associated with more genuine and identifiable sources will emerge.
Loyalty to the public
While news organizations have to provide answers to many constituencies, such as advertisers and
company shareholders, journalists must work towards and maintain their loyalty to citizens and the larger
public interest above any other agendas. In other words, journalists need to provide
news without fear or favor.
This commitment to the public first is the very basis of the mission of journalists and a news organization’s credibility. It is a sort of covenant that guarantees the audience the coverage is not
slanted for friends or advertisers.
Now, this principle also entails that journalists have the responsibility and task to represent all the minority groups of the society. They should provide a clear picture of all the social occurences. Ignoring specific social groups like poor and needy underclass people can have a disenfranchising effect on them.
This theory also implies that democracy and good governance will only follow where journalists comply with this theory.
Discipline of Verification
Journalists rely on a professional discipline of verifying and disseminating news.
When objectivity became the norm in news organisations and for journalists, it didn’t mean it was free of bias and subjectivity. I’d say it called more for a more reliable method of testing information–a transparent approach to evidence–precisely so that personal and cultural preferences would not undermine the accuracy of the facts.
See, the method is objective but not the journalist.
Hence, seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comments should all be established under such standards.
Then only will this discipline of verification separates journalism from other modes of communication, such as propaganda, advertising, fiction and/or entertainment.
Independence as a Requirement
Independence is a fundamental requirement of journalism, a cornerstone of its reliability and professionalism. What journalists should keep in mind is the independence of spirit and mind instead of a neutral sense. Now, editorialists and commentators may not have that neutrality, but the source of their credibility remains still in their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform–not their devotion to a certain ideology, group or outcome. In this same concept, journalists must avoid any tendency to stray into arrogance, elitism, isolation or nihilism. Journalism has this capacity to serve as a watchdog over those whose power and positions mostly affect citizens.
Make the Significant Relevant
If I could describe journalism in four words, I’d say storytelling with a purpose. Rather than just gathering an audience or cataloging its importance, it should analyze and work towards accomplishing the needs of the society. In other words, it must try its best to make what’s important both interesting and relevant. The worth of a piece of news is only determined by the way it engages an audience.
This is why journalists must ask what news is more important to citizens. What news will have more value in the eyes of the public?
Think about today’s news industry and tell us whether you think journalists are indeed complying with these codes of ethics.