Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues. Conscientious journalists from all media and specialties strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty. Professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist's credibility.
So reads the preamble to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. All of the clauses within the document, which was crafted after months of study and debate, hold equal weight, but several clauses in the Code of Ethics are worth noting:
Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond ...
Tell the story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience
Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting ...
Support the open exchange of views
Give voice to the voiceless ...
The manifesto also urges journalists to act independently:
Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived
Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility
Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage ...
This Code of Ethics is voluntary. But the duty of any person working in the media is to hold fast to these tenets. It is not just a duty - it is the primary responsibility. Journalism that strays from these guidelines is not journalism - it is propaganda at the bare minimum.
To tell one side of a story is to misrepresent the facts and the issues. It is skewing information and results in distorted public knowledge. And relaying accurate as well as complete information to the public is the foundation of reporting - just as the preamble states: "The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues." To do less is to do a disservice to the profession as well as to the public.
The responsibilities of an editor are many and weighty, for the mere fact that they are accountable for everything that appears in the paper. They are the watchdogs, with burglars coming from many directions.
It is not an easy job and requires much fortitude in the best of circumstances. In the worst of circumstances, in the face of adversity and/or apathy, it is desolate.
All journalists can do is adhere to their responsibilities and do their best - which is never good enough, as truth, essentially, does not exist. This is why journalists must rely on facts and probe all sides of an issue.
In today's world, and in the light of recent journalistic horrific breaches of trust, it is more important than ever for the media to hold up their end of the bargain - even if that bargain is unbidden.