Each day journalists gather and relay information to the public through print media, television, the Internet and radio. Media professionals choose to adopt a personal code of conduct, also known as a set of ethics, to guide their decision making processes. Although not legally mandatory, journalistic codes of conduct strive to keep reporters honest, level-headed and trustworthy while protecting the integrity of their employer.
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Individual media organisations and professional journalism industry groups often draft a code of conduct to guide their members. Although the individual documents vary among the organisations, the codes share many common ideologies. Seeking truth, providing fair and balanced accounts of the news and striving for accuracy top most codes. Other features of many codes of ethics include the promise to avoid plagiarism, resist from perpetuating stereotypes and never present a re-creation or staged news event as an authentic incident.
When journalists follow a prescribed code of conduct, they exude professionalism on behalf of the media organisation they work for and gain personal credibility. In most codes of conduct, all journalists are guided to treat sources and colleagues with respect, avoid conflicts of interest or accept private payment from a source to sway the content or placement of news. After a media organisation posts a code of conduct, journalists become more accountable for their actions and are encouraged to uphold the code followed by their colleagues.
Implementing a code of conduct strengthens the news product. The New York Times Co. implemented its Policy on Ethics in Journalism to uphold its reputation for high-quality journalism while protecting its overall integrity. Global media organisation Reuters follows the Reuters Trust Principles. This code of conduct guides all staff members to report the news with truth, fairness, accuracy and honesty.
The court system cannot legally enforce any ethical codes of conduct, due to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This limitation makes adhering to journalistic codes--whether set by a journalism institution or organisation--completely voluntary by journalists, according to the Society of Professional Journalists.
When a journalist ignores a company's code of conduct, he risks damaging the media organisation's reputation. Practices such as fabricating a story to gain notoriety, accepting bribes or plagiarising another's work go against the core values of any journalism code of conduct. Such practices may lead to disciplinary action by the journalist's employer.
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