Journalism ethics and standards comprise are adhered to by journalists. This division of media ethics is commonly called by journalists as their professional “code of ethics” The basic codes commonly appear in statements drafted by both professional journalism associations and individual print, broadcast, and online news organizations. While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of truthfulness accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability—as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public. There are also some wider concerns, as the media continue to change, for example, that the brevity of news reports has reduced loyalty to the truth, and may contribute to a lack of needed context for public understanding.
Like many broader ethical systems, journalism ethics include the principle of “restriction of damage.” This means not revealing harmful details from reports such as the names of minor children, crime victims’ names or information not materially related to particular news reports release of which might harm someone’s reputation or endanger someone’s life. Some journalistic codes of ethics, also include concerns with discrimination regarding news of race, religion, sexual orientation, and physical or mental disabilities. An alternative is a news commission, which would be an industry-wide self-regulation body, such as the Press Complaints Commission, set up by UK newspapers and magazines. Such a body is capable of applying fairly consistent standards, and of dealing with a higher volume of complaints, but may not escape criticisms of being powerless.
While journalists in the United States and European countries have always been the leaders in the creation and implementation of these standards, such codes can be found in news reporting organizations in most countries that have a free press. The codes and standards may be different somewhat from country to country and from organization to organization, but there are extensive similarities among major publications and societies. Besides the codes of ethics, many news organizations maintain an in-house Ombudsman whose role is to keep news organizations truthful and answerable to the general public.
The ombudsman is intervened in conflicts arising from internal or external pressures, to remain answerable to the public for news reported, and to promote self-criticism and to support adherence to both codified and uncodified ethics and standards. This position may be the same or similar to the public editor, though editors are also contacted with readers and do not generally become members of the Organization of News Ombudsmen. As with other ethical codes, there is a perennial concern that the standards of journalism are being ignored. One of the most controversial issues in modern reporting is media bias, particularly on political issues, but also with regard to cultural and other issues. Sensationalism is also a common complaint.
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