American journalism’s code of ethics

Following a corporate career arm-wrestling with Kentucky media, working with our local paper has been a breath of fresh air.  Over the past 16 years it has been a privilege to be invited to write columns, sit with its editor and meet the publisher.  Likewise, it has been gratifying to submit countless Letters to the Editor for publication.

Compare and contrast what we read daily here in Danville to that which permeates our state and national news.  The perpetual onslaught of biased, often acerbic “reporting” is disturbing at the very least.  At its worst, modern media often run contrary to our Founding Fathers’ design: a First Amendment to assure a properly informed public on vital issues, be they business, cultural or governmental – locally, in Frankfort and Washington!

While a graduate student at UK, then later as an English and American History teacher, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics became a sacred standard.  What we all too often witness today pales against its lofty tenets:

Would most major papers and evening reporting meet this “short list” of measures?

Accuracy from all sources and avoidance of inadvertent errors

Deliberate distortion is never permissible

Seek out subjects of stories to respond to allegations of wrongdoing

Identify sources whenever feasible [to assure] reliability

Always question sources’ motives before assuring anonymity

Make sure that headlines and quotations do not misrepresent

Avoid misleading re-enactments or staged news events

Media should examine their own cultural values

Support the open exchange of views, even when found repugnant

Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting

While this is a summary of significant components of fair and honest journalism, we gain a window into the “ideal” that all professionals should strive to achieve.  For the sake of the Liberty and Freedoms we all cherish, just as we hold officials accountable, it is time to do likewise with all forms of media.

Tom Ellis

Danville