Australia – The Age (1998)

Code of Conduct, adopted by the daily newspaper The Age in October 1998.

The Age Code of Conduct is an important statement about how we behave in our professional lives – about how we relate to newsmakers, sources, contacts, colleagues and the public. It gives guidance as to the high ethical standards expected of The Age .

The overriding principles are fairness, integrity, openness, responsibility and a commitment to accuracy and truth. Sustaining the highest editorial standards is essential to us retaining the trust of the community, and the freedoms and responsibilities afforded to us by the community.

The code is issued by the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Age, and applies to all editorial employees. It seeks to uphold the principles of merit, responsible management and professional competence and efficiency within the company. Staff unsure of appropriate action to take in a particular situation should consult with colleagues, senior editors or the Editor.

Our code does not conflict with the Code of Ethics for journalists issued by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (attached to this document), and does not remove any rights our employees have under other agreements or laws.

Professional Practice
1. Staff should seek to act always in the best interests of the public and the maintenance of good faith with the community we serve, rather than for the benefit of sectional interests.

2. The public interest includes investigating and exposing crime, serious misdemeanour and seriously anti-social conduct, and investigating and exposing hypocrisy, falsehoods or double standards of behaviour by public figures or institutions. It also includes protecting public health and safety.

3. Staff should seek to present only fair, balanced and accurate material.

4. Direct quotations should not be changed to alter their context or meaning.

5. Where a significant inaccuracy or distortion has been published, The Age should publish a correction or clarification promptly.

6. Photographs should be a true representation of events. Photographs should be used in context, captions should be fair and accurate, and digitally enhanced images and illustrations must be clearly labelled.

7. Where they relate to The Age, judgements by the Australian Press Council and other such bodies, and the outcome of defamation actions, should be reported promptly.

8. Editorial material should distinguish for the reader between that which is comment, that which is verified fact and that which is speculation.

9. All commentary and analysis should meet the same standards of factual accuracy as news reports.

10. Sources promised confidentiality must be protected at all costs. However, where possible, the sources of information should be identified as specifically as possible.

11. Only fair and honest means should be used to obtain material. Misrepresentation and the use of concealed equipment or surveillance devices should be avoided. The use of deceptive methods or subterfuge may be condoned only where the Editor is convinced that the potential story is of vital public interest and there is no other way of obtaining the story.

In such cases, the journalist has the right to decline an assignment. If the journalist accepts the assignment, the nature of deceptive methods and the reasons for their use must be published with the story. Journalists deployed in this manner will be indemnified by The Age .

12. People’s privacy should be respected and intrusions on privacy should be published only if there is a public interest.

13. Caution should be exercised about reporting and publishing identifying details, such as street names and numbers, that may enable others to intrude on the privacy or safety of people who have become the subject of media coverage.

14. People should be treated with sensitivity during periods of grief and trauma and wherever possible, be approached through an intermediary.

15. Care should be taken when producing and publishing material on the anniversary of traumatic events or crimes not to cause undue distress to the victims or their families.

16. Photographs of victims or grieving people should not be published unless due consideration has been given to issues of sensitivity and privacy. Any restrictions placed on the use of photographs supplied by family or friends should be honoured.

17. Gratuitous references to the state of a victim’s body or body parts should not be published.

18. The Age will not publish individual cases of suicide, unless issues of public safety or the wider public interest justify it. Care should be taken when reporting methods of suicide and, wherever possible, public information on where to gain help must accompany such reports.

19. Extortion threats should not be published, unless issues of public safety or the wider public interest justify it.

20. The Age will not publish details of the manufacture or use of firearms or other weapons, or of illegal drugs, unless issues of public safety or the wider public interest justify them.

21. Special care should be taken when dealing with children (under the age of 16). The Editor must be informed when children have been photographed or interviewed without parental consent.

22. The Age does not condone chequebook journalism. It will disclose any instance when it has paid for information. Payment for information should be avoided, unless an appropriate senior editor believes there is a strong public interest and there is no alternative to payment. In cases where payment is deemed by the Editor to be in the public interest, the fact of payment should be published.

23. The Age does not condone staff breaking laws in the course of performing their duties. Nor is the paper liable for any such action.

Personal Behaviour
1. The Age should ensure that staff have equal opportunity to develop their skills.

2. The company is obliged to provide a healthy and safe working environment. Staff are to have due regard to the health and safety of work colleagues, and observe occupational health and safety laws.

3. The Age values its reputation for independence and integrity. Staff are reminded that some activities outside work hours could have an impact on the standing of The Age.

4. Alcohol should not be consumed while at the work station. Staff members should not be under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol while at work.

5. No one should be harassed or discriminated against on the grounds of gender, sexual preference, race, colour, nationality, religious belief, impairment, age, height, weight, marital status, pregnancy or being childless or having children. The Age supports and adheres to state and Commonwealth equal opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation.

6. Staff should immediately inform the Editor if, as an employee of The Age they intend to:
• give evidence to any court.
• chair public forums or seminars arranged by professional conference organisers.
• take part in interviews or debates for other media organisations.
• undertake any outside employment likely to conflict with their professional duties at The Age .

7. Managers with access to personal information relating to other members of staff are required to treat such information as confidential, and not disclose it to anyone except in the course of discharging formal responsibilities.

Conflict of interest
It is in the best interests of The Age and staff of The Age that real and perceived conflicts of interests be eliminated. Staff should be alert to real and perceived conflict of interest and take all reasonable steps to ameliorate same.

1. Staff should not use their position to obtain private benefit for themselves or others.

2. Staff should not be influenced by family or other personal relationships in fulfilling their editorial responsibilities.

3. Staff should neither buy nor sell shares in John Fairfax Holdings Ltd, or any other company, at a time when they possess information that could, if publicly disclosed, affect the market value of such shares.

4. Staff should be alert to conflicts of interest that may arise and declare to the Editor or an appropriate senior editor any real or perceived conflict of interest that arises or is foreseen.

5. Staff involved in a story who believe they have an interest that could be seen to influence their views on the issue at hand should acknowledge that interest during preparation and at publication of the story.

6. Staff have the right to join any community or political organisation or activity but should be aware that such participation may create, or be seen to create, a conflict of interest and reflect on the credibility of The Age and the staff member. However, staff participation in protests and demonstrations, or in decision-making or fund-raising capacities in organisations that do or could generate news, should be declared where their involvement could be an issue.

7. Staff in doubt as to whether a conflict exists should consult an appropriate senior editor.

8. The Age and its staff will not allow any payment, gift or other advantage to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence. Any attempts to induce favoured editorial treatment through the offer of gifts or favours should be reported to the Editor. Where relevant, The Age will disclose these payments, gifts or other advantages.

9. Only the Editor and appropriate senior editors can accept offers of free or subsidised travel, accommodation or other benefits on behalf of The Age Acceptance of any such offer is conditional on The Age being free to assign and report or not report any resulting story as it sees fit. Any such story so generated should carry an acknowledgement of the free or subsidised benefits.

10. The Age will ensure that material generated as a condition of the placement of an advertisement or advertisements should be labelled as “advertisement” or “advertising feature”. Staff should not be influenced by commercial considerations in the preparation of material.

11. The Age will ensure that stories that specifically relate to an advertiser should, where possible, not be published on the same page as that advertiser’s advertisement.

1. Staff must not reproduce other people’s material without attribution.

2. The source of published material obtained from another organisation should be acknowledged.

3. Bylines should be carried only on material that is substantially the work of the bylined journalist.

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