In 2002, the largest collection of press codes of conduct in the world was donated to University of Missouri by French journalist Claude-Jean Bertrand. Fast-forward to 2015, where the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Ethical Journalism Network have revamped the website at accountablejournalism.org.
According to Randy Picht, RJI executive director, so far, RJI and EJN have put together 769 entries that include codes of ethics, Press Council guidelines and related documents from 250 countries around the globe.
Using the database is simple. Just type a word into the search bar and codes relating to the word will come up.
While the mechanics of the website may be easy to use, Picht and Aidan White, director of EJN, agree Accountable Journalism Network is an important website to have in today’s overpowering media landscape.
“In the world of open information, when we are overwhelmed by information on all sides, and when much of that information is unreliable and sometimes toxic, we think that ethical journalism is essential to help people get access to information they can trust,” White said.
He continued, “When you see how the public information landscape is being swamped by political propaganda, corporate spin and the often abusive communications through social networks, there is clearly a crisis of quality in public discourse. We believe ethical journalism is necessary to counter this drift towards unreliability. We need to build trust in public information and we think self-restraint through voluntary codes of ethics are an important tool to help us in that task.”
Moving forward, Picht said they plan to add codes focused on how to deal with the digital age, which would include topics such as virtual reality, automated reporting and drones. The site is currently maintained by the RJI communications team, but Pichtr said they hope to receive external funding to hire staff dedicated to the site. Currently, they are collecting press codes through crowdsourcing.
“The digital environment brought a lot of new issues to the table in terms of things we never had to think about before,” he said. “There’s more opportunity for perplexing issues to come up and it’s important to have a place to answer (those questions).”
While the new website has already been published, RJI and ENJ continue to improve functionality of the site and are seeking additional press codes and site testing from audiences.
The media is invited to send any updated information to [email protected]