The Principles of Journalism: Truth, Accuracy, Fairness, Veracity, and Transparency.
5 Principles of Journalism
Truth is at the heart of journalism. Audiences rely on journalists to report accurately verified information.
Journalists must always seek the truth in an unbiased way. This requires commitment to citizens and rejection of pressure from news outlet owners, funders or advertisers. It also requires allegiance to impartiality and a willingness to disclose sources.
Journalism relies on true and accurate information to convey its message. It means not being seduced by sources or intimidated by power; it requires intellectual fairness and open-mindedness that allows a journalist to see beyond their own class, race, gender, religion, or ego.
Accuracy also includes a willingness to acknowledge mistakes and publish corrections. This demonstrates that journalists respect their audience and are committed to providing them with the facts they need for informed democratic citizenship.
Accuracy and balance (or impartiality) requires the presentation of all important facts and viewpoints on an issue, even when they are unpopular. It also requires not merely reinforcing popular beliefs and stereotypes, but challenging them with new information and diverse viewpoints. It requires a commitment to citizens above all other constituencies, including advertisers and shareholders.
Journalists, by the very nature of their job, play a crucial role in shaping how members of a society understand the actions and motives of those around them. This is true for those who report hard-hitting investigative stories of government malfeasance, as well as those who produce cultural criticism or write a sports story or cover their local beat.
One of the most fundamental things that distinguishes journalism is its pursuit of fairness. This principle encompasses a number of ideas and practices, including avoiding bias, keeping events in proportion and presenting a diverse range of viewpoints. It is an important element of the democratic process and serves to empower the public with truth. It also carries with it a moral compass that demands a deep sense of responsibility.
The practice of journalism requires a professional discipline to verify information. This principle aims to ensure that the journalist’s personal and cultural biases do not undermine the accuracy of her or his work. Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much information about sources, and asking various sides for comment are all examples of this discipline.
Journalists must always try to provide a credible, accurate account of facts and events that have relevance for people’s lives. This capacity to convey truth helps inform and enhance public discussion and the quality of citizen decision-making.
This responsibility also carries with it the obligation to present a representative picture of constituent groups in society, so that citizens’ concerns are not overlooked or disenfranchised. This commitment to citizens is an implied covenant with audiences that distinguishes journalism from other forms of information.
Modern reality is permeated with copyrighted material and journalists constantly capture it incidentally in the course of their work. Excluding it or drastically curtailing its use would compromise journalism’s truth-telling mission.
Journalism is a kind of cartography that maps the world for citizens. Keeping events in proportion, not neglecting some communities or stereotyping, makes a more reliable map.
Although news organizations answer to shareholders and advertisers, their journalists maintain allegiance to the public above any other constituency if they are to build credibility and serve the watchdog role that society expects of it. This commitment also means showing compassion for people impacted by their coverage and taking heightened sensitivity when covering vulnerable groups in the community. It also means demonstrating a sense of fairness and responsibility in using information gathered through confidential sources.
Journalism has an incredible responsibility to empower citizens with truth. It must be independent of those whose power and position may affect its audience, to serve as a watchdog against corruption and other forms of misgovernance.
Journalists should be transparent with their audience about their process, and disclose what they know about their sources, so that the public can evaluate their motivations and biases. Transparency also means sharing the sources of critical source documents and recordings – even though this could hurt the reporter’s chance of beating the competition to the story first.
The principle of transparency requires journalists to make reasonable efforts to limit their use of copyrighted works to what is reasonably necessary for their legitimate purpose. For example, they should not repurpose incidentally captured material (such as a popular song sung by musicians at an event) for aesthetic or entertainment purposes.