A journalist’s personal code of ethics is his or her guide of morals and objectivity to create a sense of, if anything, personal credibility. Through such a code, the journalist establishes a trust and understanding with the stakeholders.
As a student of the public relations side of the profession, I believe in order to obtain the highest moral standard of excellence; elements of both the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) code of ethics and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) code of ethics must be fused. They are but shadowy reflections of each other and to reach what is best for the stakeholders requires a constant reflection of both standards.
When considering an ethical situation, there are ways to focus your decision making process. First ask yourself how you would feel if the story were written about you. Consult others as well. Co-workers can provide great insight with their own experiences. See what the community thinks. What are their values? Getting the opinions of those outside the workspace is a great way to get perspective. Also, view the editor’s opinion. Whether a journalist agrees or not, it will help better his or her understanding before making the final decision. But most importantly, journalists should listen to their own instincts.
Free Flow of Information, Acting Independently and Seeking the Truth
Free flow of accurate and truthful information is essential to serving the public interest and contributing to informed decision making in a democratic society. As a journalist/agent of PR, it is our duty to always keep the interest of the public our number one goal.
Even when the effects of such coverage may do self harm, the outcome creates higher credibility with the stakeholders. Failing to do so is unethical and leads to overall failure. Newspapers have lost credibility from withholding information and corporations have collapsed.
Minimizing Harm and Competition
A journalist must show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Stories dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects must be held with care. Those involving tragedy must also be handled with sensitivity. Journalists are not in the business of bringing harm to others.
The same aspect goes for public relations. Professionals in PR should promote a healthy and fair competition among its rival entities. Intentionally bringing harm is immoral to the professional and a poor representation of the corporation he or she represents.
A journalist/ agent of PR must always seek to retain and grow in their moral standards. It is important to encourage public critique and to invite open discussion over journalistic and corporation conduct.
They must abide by their standards and expose the unethical standards of others. A newspaper or corporation must know when to admit their mistakes and act positively to correct themselves. Accountability is a direct influence to stakeholder credibility.
Privacy and Safeguarding Confidences
A journalist should respect the boundaries of public and private information if it is not information concerning the community. This especially applies to information that is potentially harmful to the subject. Obtaining information through questionable means is immoral.
As an agent of public relations, it is crucial to safeguard the confidences and privacy rights of present, former and perspective clients and employees. This includes privileged, confidential, or insider information gained from a client or organization. The only exception to this principle is if the information is harmful to the public. Otherwise, leaking such information is an unethical procedure.
Understanding diversity is a key element to any journalist/ Agent of PR when in the field. It is always important to stay in tune with the cultural, racial and gender concerns of others that we work with and write about. By doing this, The professional practitioner creates a stronger sense of trust and respect among his or her peers and stakeholders. Failing to keep these aspects in mind can result in personal harm to the reputation of the individual, the corporation or newspaper, and possibly the community's moral.
As a Rule
As a rule it is important to always retain advocacy, honestly, expertise, independence and fairness.