Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Blogger’s Code of Ethics

The following content is excerpted and modified from the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which you can find by clicking here. The adaptations I’ve made were necessary to reflect the reality of the medium in which I publish. I am not a print journalist, nor do I write for an organization that purports to be an unbiased source of news and information.

I am a blogger. You know where IBCR stands, whether the subject matter is sports or politics.

But I still have a responsibility to tell the truth and I don’t take it lightly.

As you read the following, consider some of the garbage you’ve seen from both gossip blogs and those presenting themselves as journalists. Hold them up to the standards below and see how well they measure.

Blogger’s Code of Ethics

Seek Truth and Report It

Bloggers should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

Bloggers should:

  • Recognize that getting it wrong is much worse than not getting it first.
  • Test the accuracy of information from your sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
  • Diligently seek out the subjects of your work and allow them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
  • Identify sources whenever possible. Readers are entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability. Remember that continual use of unnamed sources harms your credibility.
  • Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity. Clarify conditions attached to any promise made in exchange for information. Keep promises.
  • Remember that as a blogger, you do not enjoy the legal protections afforded to professional journalists in protecting your sources. Shame on the fool who makes stuff up, attributes it to “sources” and is forced by a court to admit as much.
  • Be able to answer the following question in the affirmative: “Have I gotten all of the information I need to be confident that what I am about to publish is truthful?”
  • Be able to answer the following question in the negative: “Is there anything I have missed,  misinterpreted or should have known about that would cause me to spike the story?
  • Never let your headlines tease or misrepresent the content you are providing.
  • Never distort the content of news photos or video, unless your purpose is clearly satirical or comedic in nature. Farking is Ok. Deliberately altering imagery to misrepresent or mislead is a breach of the most serious nature.
  • Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information. You are not an investigative journalist.
  • Never plagiarize.
  • Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be clearly distinguished from news reporting and not misrepresented as fact.
  • Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

Minimize Harm

Ethical bloggers treat sources, subjects, colleagues and readers as human beings deserving of respect.

Bloggers should:

  • Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by your work. Use special sensitivity when dealing with younger people and inexperienced sources or subjects.
  • Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews of or content from those affected by tragedy or grief. When in doubt, don’t publish it.
  • Never speak ill of the dead.
  • Never stereotype. Always take people at face value.
  • Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the truth and reporting news is not a license for arrogance.
  • Recognize that private citizens have an absolute right to control information about themselves. Public figures or officials and others who wield power or influence do not.
  • Respect the privacy of all subjects and sources.
  • Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
  • Never name criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
  • Never attack or humiliate innocent family members for their association with the subjects of your work. A coach is fair game. His wife is not. A politician is fair game. Her husband and children are not.

Act Independently

Bloggers should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.

Bloggers should:

  • Disclose any bias or conflicts of interest. Recognize that bias in any medium is inevitable.
  • Disclose associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
  • Recognize that readers have an absolute right to know where you’re coming from, who you represent and why you are doing what you’re doing. Bias is inevitable and so should be your transparency.
  • Refuse any gifts, favors, fees that would compromise your integrity.
  • Be vigilant and courageous about holding those with power accountable.
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence your work.
  • Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money.

Be Accountable

Bloggers are accountable to their readers, podcast listeners, multimedia viewers and each other.

Bloggers should:

  • Own their content. You wrote it, you edited it and you published it. It’s yours.
  • Invite dialogue with their readers over bloggers, journalists and mass media conduct.
  • Encourage readers and consumers to air their grievances against you, your colleagues and the news media.
  • Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
  • Expose unethical practices of other bloggers, journalists and the news media.
  • Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.
  • Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

Entertain Responsibly

Bloggers are entertainers at the same time they are content providers and serve both responsibly.

Bloggers should:

  • Never exploit grief.
  • Troll conspicuously.
  • Ensure that farks and photoshops are clearly identified.
  • Sip, not chug, the nectar of Schadenfreude. 
  • If you’re in the business of being tasteless, don’t call yourself anything other than tasteless.
  • Never let snark or satire be misinterpreted as legitimate news or honest analysis.


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