Mass Comm 72: Prof. Craig: 10 Commandments of News


An informal code of ethics governs journalists. Informal is a key word here. No single uniform code of behavior regulates the profession. Several journalism associations as well as individual newspapers and newspaper groups have their own list of "don'ts." None has the force of law. But they are remarkably similar, signaling at least consensus on right and wrong.

Here are ten things most journalists would say they are not supposed to do:

1. Lie in print or on the air (this also means not using new technology to alter photos).

2. Lie to or threaten a source.

3. Report rumors or other unverified information.

4. Suppress or omit opinion with which one disagrees.

5. Show favoritism or personal bias in one's reporting or writing.

6. Misrepresent oneself or use deception to get a story (without having very powerful reasons to do so).

7. Plagiarize words or ideas (journalists can use the words with attribution).

8. Tap or tape telephone conversations without permission.

9. Use one's position for personal gain (e.g., accepting gifts from sources).

10. Do anything that may be construed as a "conflict of interest" (e.g., write political speeches for the candidate being covered in an election).

From John Maxwell Hamilton and George A. Krimsky, Hold the Press: The Inside Story on Newspapers (1996, Louisiana State University Press).