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
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
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