Code of Ethics Shows Commitment to Highest Standards of Credibility

By Clark, Mike | The Florida Times Union, January 4, 1998 | Go to article overview

Code of Ethics Shows Commitment to Highest Standards of Credibility


Clark, Mike, The Florida Times Union


Once a year, I remind the readers that the news staff abides

by a code of ethics.

This code was first written in the late 1970s. At the same

time, this newspaper appointed its first reader advocate and

began regularly publishing corrections.

The purpose of the ethics code is best expressed by this

section of the preamble: "The integrity we earn by maintaining

our principles is our most valuable asset. That integrity is

seriously eroded by conflicts of interest, as well as

appearances of conflict."

Here are some of the key elements of the ethics code:

Unnamed sources: The use of anonymous sources must be approved

by a top editor. And reasons for granting anonymity must be

listed in the story. A description, if it does not reveal the

source's identity, should be included to establish the source's

credibility.

Privacy: This section, the latest addition to the code, asks

staff to minimize harm from its reporting. For instance, the

Times-Union does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Corrections: Mistakes of substance should be corrected as soon

as possible. If there is some controversy over whether a mistake

occurred or whether it is substantial, this column can be used

to publish the correct information.

Misrepresentation: Reporters and photographers should identify

themselves as staff members. Only the executive editor can

approve exceptions. In addition, photographs that are set up

should be identified as illustrations and not as news photos.

Inside information: News employees are prohibited from

profiting financially from information gathered during their

work.

Connections: Staff members must never use their positions with

the newspaper to gain advantage in commercial transactions.

Gifts: No free passes or tickets may be accepted, other than

working press credentials for staffers covering an event. Free

travel is prohibited.

Volunteer activities: Though staffers are encouraged to

volunteer, they may not handle public relations for outside

agencies.

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Code of Ethics Shows Commitment to Highest Standards of Credibility
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