Australia – Canberra Times (2008)

Code of Ethics of the Canberra Times, published online on 15 August 2008.



The first and the foremost duty of all journalists at The Canberra Times is to serve the truth. The professional activities of all staff shall be guided by principles of fairness, openness and a commitment to accuracy.

The Canberra Times is a newspaper of record which seeks to bring to the attention of its readers, in a timely, reliable and fair and accurate way, matters they need and want to know about. It is also a forum of ideas by which readers can weigh arguments and form and inform their own opinions by having access to background reports, analysis and opinion from all sides. And it is a package by which we seek to inform, stimulate entertain and engage with readers, and provide them with value for money.

Journalists claim no rights which the ordinary citizen does not enjoy. But they exercise, on behalf of all members of the community, the public right to be informed of matters which affect them. The so-called Freedom of the Press is the right of the public to be informed. For the journalist this is not a freedom but a responsibility, requiring independence of mind, a continuous critical scrutiny of the activities of public figures and institutions and of those whose activities affect the lives of others, and a positive commitment to good faith with the reader.

The responsibility carries privileges as well as duties. Good faith with the reader implies the readers’ understanding that journalism involves professional commitments to fairness and accuracy, to respect for human dignity and adherence to ethical standards, subject to external review, which are justifiable in the public interest. Ethical standards in journalism, and professionalism, are rooted in the public interest.

There are times when the public interest can justify divergence from standards of conduct set out in this policy. The public interest – which is the right of the public to know matters of importance to them and which is something much more than the mere satisfaction of curiosity – is the only test which can be used to justify divergence. That public interest may include:

detecting or exposing crime or serious misdemeanour and anti-social conduct;

protecting public heath and safety; preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of an individual or organisation;

detecting or exposing hypocrisy, falsehoods or double standards of behaviour on the part of public figures or public institutions and in public policy

The policy applies to all editorial staff, whether management or staff, union or non – union members, permanent and casual staff and contributors.

1. Your reports must be fair and they must be accurate. Reports can be unfair, inaccurate, misleading or distorted because of something you have omitted to do as much as by what you have actually written. The duty to find out the truth is a positive obligation. Make every endeavour to get both sides of a story and present them fairly. You can defer, for a follow-up report, your obligation to present both sides of a story only if circumstances make carrying out the obligation impossible. A failure to present both sides, and to treat parties to an issue fairly, is not only unprofessional and unethical, but can put the newspaper in serious legal difficulties.

2. Always verify facts and quotations and corroborate any critical information. There is no excuse for inaccuracy or lack of thoroughness. If you believe that you cannot do an adequate or professional job on a story because of the pressure of other assignments tell your supervisor as soon as this is obvious.

3. Our concern for accuracy is as great with details – names, positions and so on – as it is with global information.

4. If a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report has been published, correct or clarify it promptly. If you become aware of inaccuracy or distortion, whether in your own copy or someone else?s, you must draw it to the attention of a responsible executive and promote its correction or clarification.

5. Fairness implies the following up of stories in which matters have been left hanging. Where fairness demands a follow-up of a story you have written and you cannot do it, tell a supervisor about what needs to be done.

6. Always report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation or a judgment by the Australian Press Council, or other self-regulatory or regulatory body, to which the paper has been a party, and material critical of the paper.

7. Give a fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies to individuals or affected organisations when they have reasonably called for it.

8. In general, do not alter direct quotations. There is, however, some justification for the deletion of offensive and gratuitous language or minor amendments to grammar that makes the statement confusing or the speaker appear foolish, so long as the alternation does not fundamentally alter the meaning and context of the quotation. Use square brackets and/or ellipsis. If in doubt that any such alteration goes beyond minor adjustment, seek advice from your editorial supervisor/s.

9. You must take particular care, scrupulously check, and give fair opportunities for comment to anyone affected if you are casting doubt upon the integrity or honesty of individuals or the stability of financial institutions. You have a positive duty to draw to the attention of supervisors copy likely to create defamation or other legal problems.

10. Sub-editors should take care not to adversely affect the accuracy, context and fairness of a story.

11. Newspaper headings should be fully warranted by the contents of the articles they accompany. Neither the headlines nor any accompanying photograph or graphic should highlight a minor incident out of context.

12. Stories in the news columns of the newspaper are to be judged and compared for their news value and not by any other consideration.

13. You are responsible for maintaining evidence which will prove, if needs be in court in a defamation case, the accuracy of reports you have written. You should use notebooks, and not loose-leaf sheets or tear-off pads. You should date them and archive them. Tapes and other records of conversations, or documents used in preparing a report, should be retained (and not wiped over) so long as there is any possibility of the report’s being challenged. Documents and other materials used in the preparation of reports which are likely to be of lasting value, or which may be referred to again by other reporters, should be sent to the library.

14. The Canberra Times favours brightness. We want clear, and usually short, sentences, a drawing to the front of the most newsworthy aspect of a story, summarisation, and the proper simplification of complex ideas. This assists in the flow of news and ideas because more people will be brought into a story. The craft of journalism intrinsically involves bearing in mind the needs of the reader. But The Canberra Times does not want the search for easy expression to lead to distortion, or to the overblowing of stories beyond their news value.

15. The Canberra Times does not favour the throwaway line, the snide aside or the participial summarisation of a person’s life and achievements, and most particularly, it does not favour them as interpolations of the reporter’s own views or cleverness in news reports.

Comment and fact
1. A general neutrality does not require our paper to be unquestioning or to refrain from the expression of opinion. But editorial material should distinguish clearly between comment, verified fact and speculation.

2. It is of the essence of professionalism that where the words or actions of people are subjected to critical comment these are fairly represented so that readers can draw their own, possibly different, conclusions. You should not assume that readers are familiar with the facts simply because they have been reported before.

3. Editorials, analytical articles and commentaries are subject to the same standards of factual accuracy as news reports.

1. Show respect at all times for the dignity, privacy, rights and well-being of people encountered in the course of gathering and presenting the news.

2. Those who from their public positions can be said to be willingly in the spotlight necessarily sacrifice some of those rights, but they do not forfeit them altogether. If you intrude into their rights of privacy, you must be able to relate it to issues of how they carry out their public duties. With ordinary citizens who have become unwittingly involve in the news, you can intrude on their privacy only to the extent necessary to serve our duty to present to the broader public events of public importance.

3. If we make an allegation about someone?s reputation or character, they are to be given a right of reply.

4. You should avoid identifying relatives or friends of people convicted or accused of crime unless the reference to them is necessary for the full, fair and accurate reporting of the crime or subsequent legal proceedings, or is of direct relevance to the story.

5. Be aware that using identifying details, such as street names and numbers etc., may serve to enable others to intrude on the privacy of individuals who have become the subject of news coverage, and their families.

Grief and trauma
1. Treat all people, including public figures, with sensitivity and courtesy during times of grief and trauma.

2. Ordinary citizens caught up in newsworthy events are ignorant of journalistic practice. Do not exploit that ignorance. When you ask to interview a victim or a bereaved person, try to make every effort to make the initial approach through an intermediary, such as a family member, friend, or counsellor. Make a direct approach only if no intermediary is available. If permission is refused, do not persist. (You may, however, leave a contact number or card so the person may reconsider the request at a less stressful time).

3. Do not enter non-public areas of any institution charged with caring for, and counselling, victims and their families (such as hospitals, welfare institutions, funeral parlours or chapels, churches etc.) without identifying yourself to a responsible official or without the express permission of the affected people, their intermediaries or their medical/welfare/legal advisor or guardian.

4. A victim or bereaved person has the right to terminate an interview and/or photographic session at any time and should be made aware of this right before the interview/photographic session begins. If a subject breaks down during an interview, offer to terminate the interview.

5. Conduct all interviews with the utmost sensitivity to both the distress likely to be caused by the interview itself and the possible impact on the interviewee that publication of information given in times of stress may have. If you feel at any time that ordinary citizens may not be aware of the import of what they are saying, discuss this with them and give them the opportunity to withdraw any such remarks. Draw your editorial supervisor’s attention to any material or image that may be particularly sensitive or to any circumstance that may have led you to omit material from your copy.

6. Photographs of victims or grieving people should be published only following after due consideration of sensitivity and privacy. Any restrictions placed on the use of photographs supplied by the immediate family or an intermediary must be honoured.

7. Do not make distressing or gratuitous reference to the state of a victim’s body or to body parts.

8. Take care when republishing any material on the anniversary of a trauma or crime not to cause undue distress to victims or their families.

1. Do not obtain information, documents or pictures through intimidation or harassment.

2. Do not photograph individuals on private property without their consent, unless the editor is convinced there is justifiable public interest.

3. Do not persist in telephoning, following or questioning in individuals after you have been asked to stop.

4. Do not stay on a person’s private property after having been asked to leave.

Reporting destructive and self-destructive behaviour
1. When reporting individual suicide cases, do not refer to them as suicides unless there are good public interest reasons for doing so or they are public figures.

2. Avoid reporting details of suicide methods.

3. Take particular care when reporting youth suicide trends not to imply that suicide is an acceptable means of resolving problems.

4. Avoid reports of extortion threats, such as bombs, poisoned food etc. except – when justified by public safety or the public interest.

Victims and court orders
1. We do not publish the names of victims of sexual assault.

2. In cases where the reporting of a person’s name or position makes it likely that a victim will be identified, err on the side of caution even if the effect is, say, that we do not publish the name of a person convicted of incest.

3. The Canberra Times obeys, in both letter and spirit court orders suppressing the identity or other details of people before the courts. If, as we often do, we think the order unjustified, we will challenge it at law; in the meantime, however, we will obey it.

1. Do not interview or photograph children under the age of 16 on subjects involving the personal welfare of the child in the absence of and without the consent of a parent, teacher or other adult responsible for the child. If there is some exceptional circumstances justifying doing so in the public interest, you can do so, but you may have to offer, in your report, an explanation for your deviation from the rule.

2. Do not ask children questions about their parents or siblings when the parents or siblings are the subject of any story except in the presence of, and with the consent of, a parent or other adult responsible for the child.

3. Do not offer a child any inducement to co-operate in an interview.

4. Do not approach or photograph any child or children while they are at school without the permission of the principal or principal’s delegated representative.

Misrepresentation and deceptive or illegal practices
1. Do not obtain or seek to obtain information or pictures through misrepresentation, subterfuge or breach of the law. Do not remove documents or photographs except with the express permission of the owner. Use, on its news merits, material which has been leaked, but do not connive at any improper or illegal removal of it.

2. Identify yourself and your association with The Canberra Times before obtaining any interview for publication. If you get information as an ordinary member of the public, but comes to feel that there is a newsworthy angle to be followed, make your identity known as soon as possible. Do not use false names, either orally or in writing, when seeking information for publication or gaining entry to any private or public institution in pursuit of information.

3. Do not use long range recording devices or cameras, or surveillance or bugging devices. You may tape record (with or without the subject’s knowledge) your own conversations with others, including over the telephone. But it is illegal to record the conversations of two other people without both of them being aware they are being recorded.

4. There may be cases where it can be argued that the public interest justifies some subterfuge by you. The Editor, or another editorial executive must approve the use of any deceptive practice, and it will be approved only after thorough discussion. An executive confronted with a decision to authorise deceptive methods or subterfuge will do so only if the expected news story is 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. It must be considered that the story cannot reasonably be recast to avoid the need to deceive; and that all other means of getting the story have been exhausted. Those involved in the decision should ask themselves whether the decision to deceive has been discussed as thoroughly and broadly as feasible and whether readers and staff members will tend to agree that the story justified the deception. The nature of any deceptive practices and the reasons for their use must be disclosed to readers at the time of publication.

5. As a general principle, The Canberra Times does not condone the breaking of any laws by employees acting on behalf of the company. It will not accept liability for any such action.

1. Unless there is a clear and pressing need to maintain a confidence, you should identify your sources of information to the reader. should be identified. If there is a good reason to protect the source, you should still give the reader as much information as possible about the source’s capacity to give information.

2. Do not promise confidentiality or imply protection unless you are convinced that the information is in the public interest and the source is neither malicious nor mischievous.

3. If you promise confidentiality, you have an obligation to protect your confidential sources of information at all costs.

4. Make every effort to verify independently any material gained from confidential sources.

5. Tell your editorial supervisor/s whenever you have made a promise of confidentiality.

The record
1. The meaning of words and phrases such as ”off the record”, ”background”, and ”deep background” is not always understood. You should check with your contacts, even experienced ones, their understanding of the meaning of such expressions, and in particular, whether information they have been given can be used at all, or in a non-attributed form or in some other way.

2. Contacts who have given information without any prior undertakings about its being off-the-record are not entitled to place subsequent conditions on the use which may be made of such information. This is particularly so when you are dealing with people who might reasonably be expected to be aware of journalistic practices. When dealing with people with little experience in dealing with the media, however, you should usually indicate in a clear manner when you are placing material upon the record and you should exercise some discretion in the way in which you highlight any error or confusion in the mind of the person concerned.

3. You are encouraged to recontact and check material, including quotations, with people with whom you have dealt. You must carefully avoid, however, giving any undertakings about doing so, about not publishing before doing so, about subjecting copy to some right of veto or about presenting material in a particular way. This is in part because the significance of material, considered in the light of other material or events, can change between interview and publication.


1. Do not make prejudicial or pejorative references to a person’s race, colour, religion, marital status, sex or sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or incapacity.

2. Do not publish details of a person’s race, colour, religion, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or incapacity except when those details are directly relevant to the story. However, ”who, when, where and what” rules still apply: where details such as this are relevant, they should be included.

3. Do not join or participate in clubs and associations which have discriminatory membership policies. If there is any doubt, make any such membership known to your supervisors.

4. Subjective words, such as ”elderly” or ”middle-aged” – which tell more about the writer than the subject, are to be avoided.

Payment for information
1. As a general principle, payment or offers of payment or any other inducement for stories, pictures or information should be avoided unless publication is demonstrably in the public interest and there is no alternative to payment.

2. Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information should not be made to witnesses or potential witnesses in current criminal proceedings or to people engaged in crime or to their associates (including family, friends, neighbours and colleagues). The only exception is where the material concerned ought to be published in the public interest and where there is no alternative to payment.

3. When payment for any story, picture or information has been made, the readers should ideally be told of the fact of payment, but the disclosure is at the discretion of the Editor.

4. Any payment must be authorised by the Editor.

Conflict of interest
1. You have the right to join and participate in any political or community organisation and activity. But you should be aware that such participation may create a conflict of interest and reflect on the credibility of the paper and yourself. If the editor or a supervisor think that such a membership can be seen to have such an effect, you may find that you are not assigned to work in particular areas. In this sense, such memberships can affect your career development.

2. With conflicts of interest, the test is an objective one: would a reasonable outsider might perceive a potential conflict? The test is not whether there is an actual conflict or whether, implicitly, you are being unprofessional. It is not necessarily a personal test: in some cases there is a conflict of interest between the newspaper generally, rather than the journalist individually, and an outside organisation. If you are writing only on sport, for example, you might think that there was no personal conflict about your giving public relations advice (including advice about getting material into The Canberra Times) in a field in which you do not write. But any reasonable outsider would perceive that the newspaper was potentially compromised by such a relationship.

3. A conflict of interest is not necessarily a financial one. It can be a set of firmly held beliefs, affections or animosities which might lead a fair-minded outsider to wonder whether you are capable of writing an objective report on a particular subject.

4. If you sign petitions, participate in demonstrations, or serve in decision-making or fund-raising capacities in organisations that do, or potentially can, generate news, you must inform your supervisors.

5. You should always inform your supervisors in advance of any real or potential conflict of interest that may affect your impartiality or be seen to affect your impartiality when covering a story directly or indirectly connected to an individual or organisation with which you, your close friends or family have personal dealings.

6. You should tell your editorial supervisors, in advance, of any paid or unpaid work that you undertake for any individual or organisation that may constitute a real or perceived conflict of interest.

7. Editorial supervisors have the right to assign you to cover a story in which you have a real or potential conflict of interest, but, in such a case, the conflict must be drawn to the attention of readers.

8. You should not contribute to outside publications/companies, either by name or nom-de-plume, without prior and express approval of the Editor. You should not participate in interviews or debates for other media outlets without the prior approval of a supervisor or the Editor. Generally, permission will not be refused if there is no perceived conflict with the interests of The Canberra Times – indeed often such work can reflect to the credit or standing of this newspaper. But no person has a right to expect approval. It is discretionary, and, at a crunch, this company has the right to insist that no such conflict, real or apparent, exists. The company accepts no obligation to compensate for any lost opportunities that causes.

9. You owe The Canberra Times a duty of fidelity which involves your doing nothing which promotes the interests of our competitors or in any way diminishes the commercial position of this newspaper. Our front-line competitors are, in particular, newspapers published in Sydney or Canberra.

10. If you do nonjournalistic paid work for outsiders, or write, sub-edit or do production work for non-competing outsiders, you have the onus of establishing that no conflict of interest is involved. It would be a serious breach of ethics and company policy were you to become financially dependent on a source, if you used any privileged information obtained from working here, used the facilities and resources of the paper for such outside activities.

11. Do not give public-relations advice to any for-profit organisation, or to any organisation seeking entree into our editorial columns. There is no problem – indeed there is encouragement – about giving general how-to-get-your-point-across speeches to schools, departments, and worthy groups.

12. You cannot hide your personal or professional obligations behind business names and company structures. If you cannot personally do something, then you cannot do so as the agent of someone or something else.

Gifts, offers, travel and inducements
1. Tell your editorial supervisors when you are offered, or given, any inducement such as money, products, subsidised or free travel, accommodation, tickets and special discounts.

2. If a supervisor believes any gift may put at risk your integrity or the paper?s integrity, you should return the gift with a polite explanatory note.

3. The Editor, section editors or other supervising staff are the only people authorised to accept offers of free or subsidised travel, accommodation, or tickets on behalf of the paper. They have the right to assign staff to cover any resulting story as they see fit, even if the original offer was made directly to an individual journalist. If an offer is expressed as being to a named journalist only, it is not to be accepted without the permission of the Editor.

4. Acceptance of an offer of trip or accommodation is conditional on the paper’s being free to assign staff independently, to publish adverse material or not to publish at all. These conditions should be made in writing to the person or individual making the offer.

5. Any story generated from free travel or other benefit should carry an acknowledgement.

6. Any attempt to breach the spirit of these rules by private arrangements, such as by taking up benefits during leave periods, will be regarded as serious misconduct.

7. Supervising staff have a duty to find out whether any contributor, who has been commissioned or who offers material for publication, has a real or potential pecuniary or general conflict of interest, although this responsibility does not absolve the contributor from declaring any such conflict.

8. Where there is no other suitably qualified person available to contribute material in which conflict of interest may arise, the material may be commissioned and published but readers should be told of the potential conflict either in the body or at the end of the story.

9. Failure to advise a real or potential conflict of interest may result in immediate suspension.

10. Contributors who are not full-time journalists employed by The Canberra Times should make any potential conflicts of interest known to the Editor. Any association or activity which might have, or be deemed to have, a bearing on their views should be identified with the published material.

11. Material you acquire in the course of your work, such as material for review, is the property of The Canberra Times and its disposition is a matter for the discretion of the Editor. This is so regardless of whether the material was given to the newspaper and assigned to you, or whether it was given to you personally. You cannot assume you have a right to keep such items, or to fail to declare them.

Financial reporting
1. Do not use financial information you receive in advance of general publication for your own profit nor may you pass on such information to others in advance of publication.

2. Do not about shares, securities or companies in whose performance you know that you, your close friends or your immediate family have a significant financial interest without disclosing that interest to the Editor and to readers.

3. Do not buy or sell, either directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which you have written recently or about which you intend to write in the near future.

1. Any editorial material that is generated as a condition of the placement of an advertisement must be labelled as an advertising feature.

2. Wherever possible stories that are critical of, or adversely affect, an advertiser should not be carried on the same page as that advertiser’s advertisement.

1. Plagiarism or the unacknowledged reproduction of other people’s work, including the work of public-relations and publicity officers, is unacceptable.

2. All material for publication that is supplied by an external source should be fully acknowledged, either in the body of the story or in a tag statement. You may make reasonable use of purely factual material wire service copy, or from press statements, without express acknowledgement (for example, extracting some quotes from an impromptu press conference which the writer has not attended) but only when the report, taken as a whole, remains substantially your work. No report is ever diminished by the acknowledgment of sources.

3. No story or illustration should carry the by-line of staff journalists or contributors unless it is substantially their own work.

4. Reporters and contributors have a responsibility to identify to their supervisor/s any stories which are ostensibly retyping of publicity material.

Other principles
1. We encourage you to be generally helpful in inquiries by police and other authorities. But if you are asked to give information or to be interviewed in any matter relating to your profession or your employment, you should refer the request to the Editor or your supervisor.

2. Do not give any undertaking to anyone, whether a complainant or subject of an article, that commits you or the company to treating, writing or placing an article or photograph in any particular way. This applies particularly in relation to corrections, apologies etc, without reference to an Editor or your supervisor.

3. If you are given documents or photographs or other material on undertakings that it will be returned, you are personally responsible for ensuring that it is.

4. Material which is likely to cause offence to some readers, including the use of four-letter words, is to be cleared with the Editor before publication.

5. Do not publish descriptive details of drug manufacture, distribution and use, except when it is justified by public safety or the public interest. Similarly, do not give descriptive details of the manufacture or use of firearms, crossbows, booby traps or any other life-threatening device.

6. Do not imply that illegal drug use or the misuse of legal drugs is an acceptable means of resolving problems.

7. Material on sensitive national security issues, or potentially covered by D-Notices, is to be referred to the Editor for final decision before publication.

8. By-line files belong to the company, and not to the journalists, and remain the property of the company after a journalist leaves.

Photographs and images presented in The Canberra Times are subject to the same professional and ethical guidelines as work by any other journalist. Events must be presented in a fair, accurate and undistorted way, and must not mislead either by omission or commission.

Fair and accurate representation
1. Photographers should produce work which is a true and accurate representation of the subject or of events. Neither the photograph, nor the caption, shall imply or state that it records something which did not occur, or at a different time, or that persons or items in the photograph are other than what they appear to be.

2. A stock headshot need not be captioned as a file photograph, but it should not be captioned in such a way as to suggest that it is yesterday’s photo either. A theme photograph, a timeless one, or one taken relatively recently but which fairly illustrates an article, may have a neutral caption which does not refer to when the photograph was taken, but it should not suggest that it was taken yesterday.

3. The integrity of a photograph is particularly affected when it is re-used in such a way that it could suggest inappropriate behaviour by the subject. A stock shot of a person with a broad smile would be inappropriately used later in a report of that person’s attendance at a funeral: if there is no choice in using it, the caption should explicitly say that the photograph was taken on a happier occasion, or whatever.

4. A degree of posing, ”staging”, the use of lighting effects, of props, or the organisation of the people or objects being photographed is permissible so long as readers are not given an altered view of reality, or impressions which are not true. Using some actual cases as examples: it was unethical for photographers to pose children in front of the closed gates of a school on strike, when in fact the children in question were not even students at the school; and it was unethical of a photographer to pose a one-legged old man in front of the Cenotaph on Anzac Day in such a way as to suggest he was a wounded veteran, when in fact he was not.

5. If theme photographs are used in the paper, those who select them should take great care not to convey a misleading impression about the actual subject. For example, a photograph of a woman with a baby (with recognisable subjects) taken, say on the winning of some competition, should not be recycled to illustrate a later article about temptations to child abuse.

6. In just the same way as a reporter will select from a host of facts those which are most important, it is quite legitimate and proper for photographers to put emphasis on images which illustrate the story. But that selection must be fair. The use of a high point of contrast should not be allowed to suggest wrongly that it is a typical representation – say the area of dilapidation to suggest that a building actually in fair condition is about to fall down, the casually sick and snotty child of a caring family to suggest general poverty and neglect.

7. Trick shots – the unnatural angle that puts the microphone immediately under the speaker’s nose to suggest a Hitler moustache, the distortion of background to create an impression which is not only misleading but unfair, for example to suggest that two things or persons were closer or further apart than they actually were – can be unethical. If there is any occasion to use them, the caption must explicitly resolve any ambiguity.

Touching up
Touching up photographs to improve reproduction quality, to emphasise particular components of the photograph, to correct colours (so it is a truer image), to harden foreground images or to soften backgrounds and objects which detract from a true representation of the subject is acceptable. What is not acceptable is the creation of a false impression. The greater the possibility of actually misleading in some material way, the more restraint must be shown. It was unethical to ”touch up” an O. J. Simpson photograph to make his skin colour appear more dark; it was the more so in the context of a report which specifically put his case in a context of racial violence.

Cropping and presentation
1. A photograph may be cropped to more sharply focus on the subject or to achieve a better composition, but the final product must not:

(a) create any misleading impression;

(b) omit a material component without which the image is a false one; or

(c) through the way it is cropped, materially affect perspective or give an impression which should not exist about distance or relative positioning of components within the photograph.

2. No photograph shall be reversed so as to produce a mirror image. Rotations or croppings on an angle must be especially watched for misleading impressions.

3. Particular care should be taken in cropping photographs of groups of people that there is no rewriting of history (by omission of persons actually present) or, perhaps implicit suggestion that individuals were privately together when they were in a larger group. Etching shall also not mislead or distort: if it has a tendency to do so but still has some legitimate purpose it shall be described, in a caption as artwork, and the reader not given the impression that it is a true representation of events.

Image manipulation
1. It is possible with computers to manipulate a photograph to completely remove some of its elements, then to restore a background so that a reader does not know this has occurred. Computer technology also allows an operator to shift elements within the space, to change tones in particular areas either so as to completely remove from the image something which was there or, perhaps so as to place something there. Any of these manipulations poses a grave risk of ethical breach. Do not manipulate an image in such a way that its basic elements are affected, so that any distortion is created, or so that any misleading impression is caused. When in doubt do not.

2. The Editor must always approve any ”enhancement” that affects the composition of the photograph. Minor image manipulation is allowed, with the permission of a senior executive, to remove unimportant and unmisleading minor components of a photograph. It would be wrong and misleading to blur out a microphone in front of a politician in a substantial news shot of his or her activity. If that same photograph were, however, to be used as headshot only, there might be no misleading where the picture to be so cropped as to omit most of the microphone, then to blur it out of what was left.

3. The computer also permits superimposition of photographs on other photographs, or the addition of artwork, the capacity to ”capture” then move about elements of a photograph and so on. There may be times when there is some legitimate artistic effect achieved, but the reader must be left in no doubt from the captioning that image manipulation has taken place and that what has been shown is not a actual representation of what occurred.

4. Any manipulated image which is stored in the library or passed on to another news organisation or to the public must also carry an appropriate credit line making it clear that image manipulation has occurred.

General employment professionalism
1. Though professional judgment will be the determinant of news placement, all journalists have an interest in the commercial success of their newspaper. That success is best guaranteed by the newspaper’s being, and being seen to be, professional, ethical, well regarded for its integrity, and by its independence from outside influences. But those very qualities are protected, and not in the least demeaned, by the newspaper’s being marketed, being drawn to the attention of potential readers, and having its successes promoted. The profitability and success of the newspaper are the essential base upon which the company can develop and expand and better serve its readers and the public interest.

2. When items with some self-promotional aspect are published, they must be of genuine interest to readers, be accurate and not deceptive, and the interest of The Canberra Times shall be clear.

3. Matters affecting the nonjournalistic interests of our shareholders will be reported on their ordinary news value, in the same way we report the activities of other people in business. It shall, however, be drawn to the attention of the Editor before publication.

4. You are an ambassador for the company, and your conduct and appearance shall reflect this.

5. You must treat the people with whom you have to deal fairly, courteously and with respect. Even where there is a difference of opinion, or where you believe you are being or have been dealt with wrongly, and where firmness is necessary, readers and contacts will not be abused or treated disrespectfully.

6. It is an essential part of ordinary professionalism that you honour commitments you have made, keep appointments, return telephone calls, and answer or otherwise deal with correspondence. Similarly, it is a part of your duty to respond helpfully to public inquiries, answer colleagues? calls when they are absent, and take useful messages.

7. It is also a part of the employment duty that you treat company property, including cars with respect, are diligent about completing work, and that you deal honestly with the company in relation to expenses, hours of employment, leave and so on.

8. Although the company has no interest in your private lives, it insists that it has a right to expect that you will not conduct your life in a way which brings the company into disrepute, or which raises issues in the minds of fair-minded people about your integrity, your independence or your professionalism. In particular the abuse of drugs, becoming involved in criminal proceedings in a way which raises concerns about a your honesty or integrity, or abusive or violent conduct to other people can affect your professional standing, even when the conduct in question has occurred outside working hours and away from company property. If your conduct comes to reflect upon the company, or to raise doubts about your capacity to do your job effectively, the company may take action to protect itself.

9. Similarly, the company regards it as a matter of ordinary professionalism that you will treat your fellow employees and your supervisors, and members of the public with whom you have to deal, with respect. The company will not intervene in private quarrels but it will not tolerate harassment, discrimination or abusive behaviour by employees towards each other or towards members of the public.

10. An essential part of the professional commitment is that we deal promptly with complaints and are helpful and straightforward in helping people to make them, that we support in both letter and spirit the various mechanisms for redressing such complaints, including where appropriate drawing to the attention of complainants the existence of bodies able to mediate, such as the Press Council and journalists’ ethical bodies. In particular, however, we are committed to prompt, proper informal mechanisms within the company itself.

This document has been based upon a similar code of conduct originally prepared by Stephen Harris for employees of the Herald and Weekly Times.

Recent Related Posts