Codes of Ethics and Conduct of the Johannesburg Star, revised January 1999.
Members of staff subscribe to The Star’s Code of Conduct and Independent Newspapers’ Code of Conduct [q.v.].
These codes specifically spell out the rules by which we gather and present news.
There is also a code for the production of surveys and advertising features.
All journalists on The Star undertake to ensure they comply with these codes at all times.
The Star’s code of ethics
* In its reporting and comment, The Star should be accurate, fair, honest and frank.
* The Star should aim to give all sides of an issue, by means of balanced presentation without bias, distortion, undue emphasis or omission.
* The Star should be independent of government, commerce or any other vested interest.
* The Star should expose wrongdoing, the misuse of power and unnecessary secrecy.
* The Star should encourage racial co-operation and pursue a policy aimed at enhancing the welfare and progress of all sections of the population.
* The Star should endeavour to be positive and constructive but not misleadingly optimistic or bland.
* The Star should not pander to personal or sectional interests, but be solely concerned with the public interest.
* The public’s right to know about matters of importance is paramount. The Star should therefore fight vigorously any measure to conceal facts of public interest, any attempt to prevent public access to the news and any effort further to curtail freedom of speech.
* The Star respects the individual’s right to privacy, except where it conflicts clearly with the public interest.
* Sources of news should be identified unless there is good reason not to.
* Facts should be checked carefully.
* Reports of a technical nature should always be read back to the source. Other reports should be read back to the source for the checking of facts only, except when time does not permit or there is valid reason to believe that the source will endeavour to frustrate publication on grounds other than factual accuracy.
* The Star should not be afraid to admit error, and should publish corrections spontaneously, promptly and with suitable prominence. Where an apology is appropriate, it should be tendered.
* The Star should report issues in an impartial and balanced manner. Every effort should be made to reflect all sides of a controversy, if not simultaneously, then in subsequent editions.
* The Star should report news without regard to its own interests or viewpoint, and without favour to its advertisers.
* No Star journalist should identify the source of information provided under a pledge of confidentiality.
* News and comments should be kept separate, save in exceptional circumstances. Comment should always be clearly identifiable, as should material from non-Star sources.
* Advertising or promotional features should be clearly labelled, so as to leave readers in no doubt about the source and nature of the copy.
* In its comment, The Star should be fair, but outspoken where necessary. It should provide a forum for the exchange of comment, and publish opinions it disagrees with.
* The Star should report matters concerning itself or its staff in the same manner as it reports on other individuals or institutions.
* The Star and its staff should be free of any obligation to news sources and special interests, including political parties. Even the appearance of obligation should be avoided, especially by political and financial journalists.
* Neither The Star nor its staff may accept any gift or service of value, without reference to the editor. No gift, favour or special treatment may be accepted it if puts a member of staff under any obligation to the donor. Staff should distance themselves from excessive entertainment by seekers of publicity.
* No individuals may accept free or reduced-rate travel, without the permission of the editor. Such offers should be made to the newspaper rather than the person. Where a travel or other concession is accepted in order to write a feature, mention of it should be made at the foot of the article.
* No individual may accept the loan of a vehicle, except for test-drive purposes.
* Star journalists should avoid active involvement in public affairs where a conflict of interest, potential or real, is likely to arise. Any financial, social, political or personal interest or activity which could give rise to such conflict should be declared to the editor.
* Staff may only accept outside commissions, part-time employment or freelance work for other publications with the knowledge and consent of the editor.
* Star journalists should be scrupulous in attending functions to which they have accepted invitations. If any appointment cannot be kept, the host or person concerned should be informed beforehand, or an apology tendered immediately afterwards.