Excerpts from proposed code p.

By: Mark Fitzgerald Excerpts from proposed code p.
THE PROPOSED ASSOCIATED Press Managing Editors Declaration of Ethics goes into considerable detail about a wide range of journalism practices in its effort "to define professional standards by which newspapers build and maintain the public trust."
Here are excerpts from the draft code:
? Accuracy. Newspapers should develop and use safeguards to avoid error. These should include systematic verification of facts and quotations and corroboration of critical information.
? Alteration (of quotations). While some newspapers may impose a stricter standard, there may be little or no actual harm in altering quotes in the following limited circumstances: (1) Correcting grammar that could make the statement confusing or would make the speaker appear foolish; (2) Avoiding dialect that is not essential to the story.
? Honesty. Deceptive practices such as misrepresentation, trickery, impersonation and use of hidden tape recorders or cameras in news gathering can seriously undermine a newspaper's credibility and trustworthiness. These practices are outside the bounds of generally accepted journalistic behavior.
An editor confronted with a decision to exceed those bounds should meet the following minimum conditions:
(1) Public importance: The expected news story must be of such vital public interest that its news value clearly outweighs the damage to trust and credibility that might result from the use of deception.
(2) Alternatives: The story cannot reasonably be recast to avoid the need to deceive.
(3) Last resort: All other means of getting the story must have been exhausted.
(4) Editorial approval: The decision to use deception must be approved at the highest level of the newsroom after thorough discussion.
(5) Disclosure: The deceptive practices and the reason they were used must be disclosed in print at the time the story is published.
In addition to meeting these conditions, as a final caution, an editor should ask these questions: (A) Was the decision to deceive discussed as thoroughly and broadly as feasible and do other staffers generally accept the decision? (B) Will readers and staff members tend to agree that the story justified the deception?
? Conflicts of interest. Journalists should avoid activities that could compromise their newspaper, even in situations where they are not directly involved in coverage. For example, they should avoid signing petitions or participating in demonstrations (or) serving outside the newspaper in a decision-making capacity or as a fund-raiser in organizations that can be expected to, or actually do, generate significant news.
(1) Gifts and gratuities: Journalists should not accept favors or gifts, subsidized or free travel, accommodations, special discounts, tickets to sports or entertainment events, or other benefits from news sources or organizations that the newspaper may cover.
(2) Relationships with newsmakers: Journalists should avoid any financial interests that could raise questions about their impartiality, such as co-authoring a book . . . with newsmakers they cover.
(3) Contests: Stories, photographs and illustrations should not be published for the purpose of winning awards or prizes . . . .
? Fairness.
(1) Opportunity to reply: In reporting any statements that could injure the reputation of an individual or group, those affected must be given the earliest opportunity to reply.
(2) Courtesy and compassion: Special care should be taken to treat sensitively those who are unaccustomed to dealing with the press.
? Diversity. Diversity is an issue with respect to age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation and disability.
(1) Staffing: Editors must make concerted, sustained efforts to recruit, retain and develop staffs that reflect the variety of the communities they serve.
(2) Professional conduct: Journalists should conduct themselves in a way that underscores a commitment to fair treatment for all people. Membership in discriminatory clubs undermines a journalist's credibility.


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