By: Editorial Staff THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Managing Editors group is asking members to critique a proposed ethics code that is vastly more detailed than others in the business. APME ethics committee chairman David Hawpe, who is editor and vice president of the Louisville Courier-Journal, said a committee will revise the proposal and put its final draft to a vote at the association's convention in Philadelphia later this year. The drafting committee intends to take into account surveys that it is conducting of members and comments from 10 "town meetings" planned with newspapers throughout the country. The meetings will involve academics, readers, newsmakers and journalists. The latest draft, two years in the making, covers nearly five 81/2-by-11-inch pages ? more than quadruple the length of comparable codes. Rather than take a broad brush to ethics, the APME's proposal gets specific. One provision, for example, requires "systematic verification of facts and quotations and corroboration of critical information." Another lists six tests to be met before journalists may use such deceptions as impersonation and hidden recording. Supporters have argued (E&P, Oct. 9, 1993, p. 9) that specifics are required to convince skeptical readers that newspapers are serious about ethics. Critics said details only provide ammunition for libel suits. The more specific the ethics code, they said, the easier it is for plaintiffs to accuse newspapers of "journalistic malpractice" by violating a code that plaintiffs will interpret as the industry's standard operating procedure. The APME's revised code will rejoin codes of other journalism groups, to which adherence is voluntary, and newspapers, which may fire violators. The American Society of Newspaper Editors' one-page "statement of principles," which is like a code of ethics, was adopted in 1922 and revised in 1975. The Society of Professional Journalists' code, which also fits on one page, was adopted in 1926 and revised three times, beginning in 1973.
The latest draft, two years in the making, covers nearly five 81/2-by-11-inch pages ? more than quadruple the length of comparable codes.