USA – Radio and Television News Directors Association (2000)

Code of ethics and professional conduct of the Radio and Television News Directors Association, adopted at RTNDA2000 in Minneapolis 14 September 2000.

The Radio-Television News Directors Association, wishing to foster the highest professional standards of electronic journalism, promote public understanding of and confidence in electronic journalism, and strengthen principles of journalistic freedom to gather and disseminate information, establishes this Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

Professional electronic journalists should operate as trustees of the public, seek the truth, report it fairly and with integrity and independence, and stand accountable for their actions.

Public trust
Professional electronic journalists should recognize that their first obligation is to the public. Professional electronic journalists should:

– Understand that any commitment other than service to the public undermines trust and credibility.
– Recognize that service in the public interest creates an obligation to reflect the diversity of the community and guard against oversimplification of issues or events.
– Provide a full range of information to enable the public to make enlightened decisions.
– Fight to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in public.

Professional electronic journalists should pursue truth aggressively and present the news accurately, in context, and as completely as possible. Professional electronic journalists should:

– Continuously seek the truth.
– Resist distortions that obscure the importance of events.
– Clearly disclose the origin of information and label all material provided by outsiders.

Professional electronic journalists should not:
– Report anything known to be false.
– Manipulate images or sounds in any way that is misleading.
– Plagiarize.
– Present images or sounds that are reenacted without informing the public.

Professional electronic journalists should present the news fairly and impartially, placing primary value on significance and relevance. Professional electronic journalists should:

– Treat all subjects of news coverage with respect and dignity, showing particular compassion to victims of crime or tragedy.
– Exercise special care when children are involved in a story and give children greater privacy protection than adults.
– Seek to understand the diversity of their community and inform the public without bias or stereotype.
– Present a diversity of expressions, opinions, and ideas in context.
– Present analytical reporting based on professional perspective, not personal bias.
– Respect the right to a fair trial.

Professional electronic journalists should present the news with integrity and decency, avoiding real or perceived conflicts of interest, and respect the dignity and intelligence of the audience as well as the subjects of news. Professional electronic journalists should:

– Identify sources whenever possible. Confidential sources should be used only when it is clearly in the public interest to gather or convey important information or when a person providing information might be harmed. Journalists should keep all commitments to protect a confidential source.
– Clearly label opinion and commentary.
– Guard against extended coverage of events or individuals that fails to significantly advance a story, place the event in context, or add to the public knowledge.
– Refrain from contacting participants in violent situations while the situation is in progress.
– Use technological tools with skill and thoughtfulness, avoiding techniques that skew facts, distort reality, or sensationalize events.
– Use surreptitious newsgathering techniques, including hidden cameras or microphones, only if there is no other way to obtain stories of significant public importance and only if the technique is explained to the audience.
– Disseminate the private transmissions of other news organizations only with permission.

Professional electronic journalists should not:
– Pay news sources who have a vested interest in a story.
– Accept gifts, favors, or compensation from those who might seek to influence coverage.
– Engage in activities that may compromise their integrity or independence.

Professional electronic journalists should defend the independence of all journalists from those seeking influence or control over news content. Professional electronic journalists should:

– Gather and report news without fear or favor, and vigorously resist undue influence from any outside forces, including advertisers, sources, story subjects, powerful individuals, and special interest groups.
– Resist those who would seek to buy or politically influence news content or who would seek to intimidate those who gather and disseminate the news.
– Determine news content solely through editorial judgment and not as the result of outside influence.
– Resist any self-interest or peer pressure that might erode journalistic duty and service to the public.
– Recognize that sponsorship of the news will not be used in any way to determine, restrict, or manipulate content.
– Refuse to allow the interests of ownership or management to influence news judgment and content inappropriately.
– Defend the rights of the free press for all journalists, recognizing that any professional or government licensing of journalists is a violation of that freedom.

Professional electronic journalists should recognize that they are accountable for their actions to the public, the profession, and themselves. Professional electronic journalists should:

– Actively encourage adherence to these standards by all journalists and their employers.
– Respond to public concerns. Investigate complaints and correct errors promptly and with as much prominence as the original report.
– Explain journalistic processes to the public, especially when practices spark questions or controversy.
– Recognize that professional electronic journalists are duty-bound to conduct themselves ethically.
– Refrain from ordering or encouraging courses of action that would force employees to commit an unethical act.
– Carefully listen to employees who raise ethical objections and create environments in which such objections and discussions are encouraged.
– Seek support for and provide opportunities to train employees in ethical decision-making.

In meeting its responsibility to the profession of electronic journalism, RTNDA has created this code to identify important issues, to serve as a guide for its members, to facilitate self-scrutiny, and to shape future debate.

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