Ethics are the moral codes which define everything a person does. Everyone’s ethics will be different, depending on your upbringing, beliefs, and life experience, and naturally these ethics will influence how a journalist perceives the world and how they represent it in their writing. We have free speech to ensure writers of different ethical backgrounds can have a voice, and it’s also an vital part of having a diverse and colourful culture.
However, there some basic ethical codes which every journalist is expected to follow. Below is the National Union of Journalist’s code of conduct.
NUJ code of conduct requires that a journalist honours the following statures.
- 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
What is a Journalist?
A journalist is simply a professional writer who serves the public by diligently reporting, investigating, and commenting on current affairs. They gather information on social-political events from multiple sources, evaluate their reliability, and use their storytelling panache to organise it into a clear narrative which can be understood by all.
Before the digital revolution, being a journalist meant having your writing published in a print, perhaps in a magazine or a newspaper. Now, anyone with the access to the internet and a smart phone can report on local and international events, regardless of whether they have the professional training to do so ethically and legally. People who practice this are known as Citizen Journalists.
What is Non-Profit Journalism?
Non-profit journalism, or NPJ, are journalistic organisations able to serve the public interest without the concern of generating a profit. They rely on private donations and foundation grants to pay additional expenses of operating costs, rent, and staff salaries.
Types of Non-Profit Journalism
The BBC is an example of Non-Profit journalism, due to its unique funding via the license fee. Its aim isn’t to make profit, but to use the public’s donations to finance thoughtful and incisive broadcast journalism.
Social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are all possible sources of citizen journalism. Members of the public may post images, videos, and commentary on important social and political events. I point to the infamous Ferguson case. When an unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer, it was minutes before a witness had posted pictures of the killing on Twitter. Documentation supplied by citizen journalists who witnessed the event was instrumental in bringing America’s racial unrest to international account.
Can Citizen Journalism Uncover Newsworthy Stories?
If done right, citizen journalism can yield insightful reporting and contribute essential information to the conversation which would be absent otherwise. No news crew could have obtained the striking shots amateur photojournalist Hasan Amin took of 2011 Egyptian Revolution. These images doubtlessly qualify as news- they provide information which is accurate, clear, and most importantly, overwhelmingly in the public interest. Amin’s bold work was instrumental in making the international audience pay attention to the uprising, which prompted American news broadcaster CNN to award Amin with the Breaking News award at their 2012 iReport Ceremony, an awards body which recognises stellar citizen journalism. Judge and CNN international correspondent Arwa Damon commented that they “really stand out and grip the viewer”.
Of course, not everything reported by citizen journalists is as newsworthy as that. Later that year, filmmaker Spike Lee retweeted what appeared to be the home address of George Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch coordinator who had shot and killed the unarmed Trayvon Martin after the African-American teenager walked into his gated community. However, it later emerged it was not Zimmerman who owned that residence, but George and Elaine Mclaine, who were forced to leave their home and stay in a hotel after receiving countless death threats. Citizen journalism in absence of typical journalistic ethics- considering the impact of making private information public, for example- can mislead the public.
Non-Profit Journalism and how it is affected by Freedom of Speech Laws
There some issues pertaining to free speech hovering citizen journalism, the most prominent of which are bias, copyright, and defamation.
For instance, citizen journalists often lack the training of professional journalists to present fair and unbiased reports. Consequently, citizen journalists may offer heavily biased reports which could misrepresent important issues.
Another potential hurdle is copyright laws. According to SocialMediaToday.Com “Lots of news sites now actively encourage you to upload your pictures, video and text to give added perspective on news and features. The latest, the Guardian’s Witness site, provides the chance to contribute to live news and other content through a smartphone app. Content is vetted before going onto the site, with stories and videos made available to journalists for potentially developing into bigger pieces. All great, except that as soon as you post your prized video, The Guardian gets an unconditional, perpetual and worldwide licence to use it as it sees fit. You may still retain the copyright, but the paper can commercially exploit the content however it wants”. This means the intelligence donated by citizen journalists could be distorted to meet the publication’s own ends.
Furthermore, Citizen journalists may lack crucial awareness of libel and defamation laws. For instance, SocialMediaToday points to “Reddit’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing” as a demonstration of “ what can happen when citizen journalists are given an unpoliced platform. The site’s Find Boston Bombers thread wrongly accused several people of being involved in the atrocity, leading to harassment of their families and potentially slowing down the police investigation. In today’s instant news cycle, where an unsubstantiated tweet can be front page news in seconds, there’s a real issue with potentially malicious or unthinking reports quickly making it into the mainstream news.” If citizen journalists are going to help further the conversation, their work may need to be overseen or vetted by a professionally trained journalist to ensure it does not contain potentially harmful misinformation.
What makes a Reporter
A reporter isn’t someone who merely posts a video of a Syrian airstrike on YouTube. By watching that video, the viewer learns nothing more than there was an explosion and that some anonymous persons were probably killed in blast. They have no clue why it happened or what it’s immediate or future impacts may be . A reporter is someone who examines the political and social motivations for the airstrike, explains why it happened, and contemplates the ramifications of the airstrike. In short, they put it into a meaningful context, a story if you will, that can be readily understood by all. A citizen reporter is simply contributing one piece of the jigsaw. It’s up to the professionals, or at least those with a longer view, to gather these pieces and find the bigger picture.