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Ethics in Journalism and other essential information

Dos and Don'ts in the field

Joel Gershon

on 22 April 2014

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Transcript of Ethics in Journalism and other essential information

OK, you are at
BJM now - here are
some Dos and Don'ts
What is at stake why you
act unethically?

How to properly work
with sources

Being responsible
- moral principles that govern a person's or group's behavior or action

- a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life.

- a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning

People's trust in news may be shaken which
has serious consequences.

Sources are your lifeblood in articles, where you
get your information from.

1. A cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event: the minister resigned for personal reasons | it is hard to know for the simple reason that few records survive.
• good or obvious cause to do something: we have reason to celebrate.
• Logic a premise of an argument in support of a belief, esp. a minor premise when given after the conclusion.

2. The power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic: there is a close connection between reason and emotion.
• what is right, practical, or possible; common sense.
• Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character

• Concerned with or derived from the code of interpersonal behavior that is considered right or acceptable in a particular society.
• Have you followed the newsrooms's
rules? If not, have you consulted your
higher ups or colleagues to discuss
your actions?
intention of serving the public?
• Think hard about the consequences
You must think about all of
the issues at stake
• Is everything absolutely accurate?
• Have your protected your sources?
• Are your actions done with the
There is a lot to consider
. As a journalist, you must be responsible and really consider your actions and really consider the consequences of your actions.

Think about fairness.
Are you too close to the source? Have your been compromised in any way? Are you too enamored with the newsmaker? Have you double checked all of your facts? Have you considered that you may have been led astray or used in any way?

Have you followed the ethical codes and the law?
Have you received gifts? Used unethical means to obtain information? Sometimes, in certain situations, rules may be relaxed if a story is compelling enough but this decision should be made by a news organization and you should make appropriate disclosures
A list of different news
organizations' codes of ethics
The "First Amendment Handbook"
Your reputation will be damaged.
In the extreme, people may die or chaos might ensue.
People will not be informed proper


• Always hold accuracy sacrosanct

• Always correct an error openly

• Always strive for balance and freedom from bias

• Always reveal a conflict of interest to a manager

• Always respect privileged information

• Always protect their sources from the authorities

• Always guard against putting their opinion in a news story

• Never fabricate or plagiarise

• Never alter a still or moving image beyond the requirements of normal image enhancement

• Never pay for a story and never accept a bribe
The 10 Absolutes of Reuters Journalism

Sources must be cultivated by being professionally polite and fair. The Reuters Code of Conduct applies when it comes to relationships with sources that involve gifts, travel, and opportunities that result from inside information. The basic rule is that we pay our own way.

We encourage staff to cultivate sources but also expect them to be conscious of the need to maintain a detachment from them. We should not cultivate or associate with sources on one side of an issue to a point where there are grounds to question whether the relationship has exceeded the bounds of proper, professional contact.

While it is appropriate to entertain sources, including outside working hours, regularly spending substantial leisure time with them may raise a potential conflict or a perception of bias. A good measure of the propriety of the relationship is to ask whether you would be comfortable spending as much time with another source on a different side of the issue or your beat. If in doubt, seek guidance from your manager.

A romantic or family attachment with a news source or with a person or persons who might be the subject of a staff member's coverage should be disclosed to the appropriate manager. Journalists may also not report on or quote family members in order to avoid a perception of favouritism or bias.
Dealing with sources
from the Reuters Handbook
When dealing with sources, either in person, by phone, by fax or by e-mail, identify yourself as aReuters journalist and establish on what basis you are talking. Everyone understands on-the-record,but terms such as off-the-record or on background mean different things in different countries andyou must familiarise yourself with the 'ground rules' on the beat or in the country where you work.

It is your responsibility to establish what kind of attribution you may use. Be sure your source is also clear and comfortable about the basis on which the information is given. Negotiate the clearest possible form of attribution and always stick to the agreed sourcing. We must also make clear the circumstances in which the source is speaking e.g. "said in a statement", "told reporters in answer to questions", "told Reuters in a telephone interview" or "told a briefing for journalists" (including if the source is anonymous). Do not use passive sourcing as in "it was announced" or "it was learned".
More on Sources
Sometimes sources go out on a limb for you an you must protect them at all costs
You must build trust and have must patience and have a compelling reason why the source should work with you and give you information.
Do as you say you are going to do, do not deceive your sources.

Accuracy entails honesty in sourcing. Our reputation for that accuracy, and for freedom from bias, rests on the credibility of our sources.

A Reuters journalist or camera is always the best source on a witnessed event. A named source is always preferable to an unnamed source. We should never deliberately mislead in our sourcing, quote a source saying one thing on the record and something contradictory on background, or cite sources in the plural when we have only one.

Anonymous sources are the weakest sources. All journalists should be familiar with the detailed guidance in The Essentials of Reuters sourcing.
Here are some handy tips:

Use named sources wherever possible because they are responsible for the information they provide, even though we remain liable for accuracy, balance and legal dangers. Press your sources to go on the record.

Reuters will use unnamed sources where necessary when they provide information of market or public interest that is not available on the record. We alone are responsible for the accuracy of such information.

When talking to sources, always make sure the ground rules are clear. Take notes and record interviews.

Cross-check information wherever possible. Two or more sources are better than one. In assessing information from unnamed sources, weigh the source's track record, position and motive. Use your common sense. If it sounds wrong, check further.

Talk to sources on all sides of a deal, dispute, negotiation or conflict.
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