What are some concrete “rules of honor” for the newspaper to observe in building a stronger, cleaner press? Each newspaper will have its own “code of ethics,” either written or unwritten. The codes of various newspapers range in flavor from ultra conservatism to extreme sensationalism (the latter being commonly called “yellow journalism”). Below are some of the rules frequently present in the codes observed by highly respected newspapers. If they were accepted as a minimum code of ethics by every newspaper, the prestige of the press truly would be enhanced.
The newspaper must stay within the bounds of decency. Foul language and the sordid details of crimes and other occurrences which should not be read by every person in the community, particularly the young, have no place in a newspaper
The newspaper should report news and should not attempt to “make” news. Exaggeration of a minor incident “to write a better story” is making news. So is the “publicity stunt” planned by the reporter or within the knowledge of the reporter. “Rumor stories” which are conceived by the reporter himself are also invented news.
The newspaper should print the truth and the whole truth. To report that “The chairman of the school board favours eliminating public schools” would be an obvious attempt to smudge character with the half truth (which in this and many other cases becomes a falsehood) if the chairman’s full statement was that public schools should be eliminated “unless the people give adequate financial support to make them good schools.”
The newspaper does not have the privilege to invade, the private rights of an individual unless the actions of the individual have made his private life “public domain” and the information sought is considered to be something the public has a right to know. However, public curiosity should not be substituted for public rights.
The newspaper does not have the privilege to force individuals to speak for publication. Freedom of the press is not , license to command news data. The reporter must not intimidate a person, in an attempt to get a statement, with threats of writing unfavorable comments about him. However, if a person refuses to comment on a matter which obviously concerns him, the reporter may so state in his story
The newspaper should play fair with a person against whom derogatory charges are made. Unless the charges are made in a court hearing or before a legislative body, the newspaper should give an accused person the opportunity to answer the accusations-In the same story which reports the charges, if possible. (However, having a person answer derogatory charges will not relieve the newspaper of a libel suit if the accusations are libelous.)
The newspaper should play fair with persons quoted in its rolumns. Any person interviewed by a reporter should be made to realize that he will be quoted in print. Quotations from speeches should not be garbled to misconstrue the ideas of the speaker or to achieve a more readable story. A person’s grammatical errors should not be quoted in an effort to ridicule him. In summary, the reporter should use only quotations which he would use willing to show~to the person quoted=before publication–even though a reporter rarely does so
The newspaper should keep the confidence of its news sources. Stories should not be released before the time designated by the properly authorized news source. The reporter should not violate his promises to a news source, but he must never promise to suppress news which should be printed.
The newspaper should not suppress news which should be offered to the public. However, the newspaper has a heart and does not unnecessarily or unjustly damage the character of an individual for the sake of a story. Sometimes stories, or names in stories, are suppressed in the case of “first offenders” arrested on minor charges, if the welfare of society is not involved. Names of juveniles arrested usually are voluntarily withheld by newspapers because child offenders should not be put in the same category as adults. The reporter should refer to his superiors all requests to withhold news .
The newspaper should not “sell” its news columns for money or courtesies. Advertisers buy space, not the privilege of getting free pubrr~ity or of determining policies of the newspaper. Special courtesy to staff members is no excuse for free publicity– nor is friendship with staff members
The newspaper should refrain from allowing party politics to enter the news column. The editorial page is the place for the opinions of the newspaper. The news colmns should present unbiased news regarding political affairs
The newspaper should serve the whole of society, not just one “class. ” The same consideration should be given persons in all social and economic strata of society served by the newspapers.
The newspaper should fight and discourage crime. The newspaper is a social institution; the criminal is antisocial. The newspaper should never glorify the criminal, or protect the criminal or create sympathy for the criminal who should pay the penalty of his crime. The newspaper should never overplay the crime and underplay the penalty, and it should cooperate with police in withholding news which will obviously aid the criminal in escape.
The newspaper must respect and did the law and the courts. The newspaper should not criticize or ridicule an official for faithfully enforcing the law. Disagreement with the objectives or effectiveness of certain laws is permissible, however, 88 editorial comment. The newspaper should never “try” a case in its columns, nor should it call an arrested person a criminal until he is convicted in a court oflaw.
The newspaper should seek, to build its community. “Playing up” the degrading news and giving little play to news of progressive developments willnot build a community
The newspaper should not injure the relatives and friends of a wrongdoer. Parents, brothers and sisters, the wife or husband of an accused person should not be made to suffer adverse publicity for the sake of “human-interest copy
The newspaper should recognize divorce as an unfortunate social problem, not as an excuse for a sensational, salacious story A divorce is news and must be printed. But the newspaper is justified in shearing the story of any indecent details
The newspaper should recognize suicide as an unfortunate social problem, not as an excuse for a sensational story. One suicide is suggestive of others. Though the suicide should be reported, it should not be played up in detail
The newspaper should not stoop to an attack on competitive newspapers, or boast about a “scoop” over other newspapers in an effort to increase its own prestige. The excellence of the newspaper should speak for itself. However, the newspaper may advertise its achievements in a positive way through regular promotional channels.
The newspaper should not ridicule the insane or the feebleminded or the misfortunes of an individual
The newspaper should respect churches, nationalities and races. Slurring nicknames pertaining to race, nativity or religion should not be printed
The newspaper’s sports page is written for everybody, not for a selected number of “fans” or participants and certainly not for petty or big-time gamblers.
The newspaper should be prompt in correcting errors which have appeared in its columns, for errors are bound to occur. Furthermore, an earnest effort to correct errors may help mitigate damages should libel have resulted
The newspaper should remember that the news is read by young boys and girls, by the mentally unstable and by the assimilated foreigner as well as by the normal adult. Stories, pictures and advertisements appearing in its columns should not be an evil influence on any of its readers:’For some of the readers, the of details on certain types of crimes may lead to lower morals’ or even the committing of similar crimes