Personal Ethics Code

Writing without some sort of regulation works for poetry, but not journalism. Below lists important questions that must always be asked.

  1. What’s the point? One must first internally realize why the story is important. If an answer cannot be given then the story is likely not worth writing about.
  2. Is it for the right reasons? One should not publish an article demoralizing an individual simply because they can. If there’s nothing to gain for people outside the individual being talked about, and only seeks to spread negativity on that individual, it is for the wrong reasons. Someone who is running for presidential office is a good example of someone who should have negative articles published on them if it is factually accurate.
  3. Is it factually sound? An article with any incorrect facts immediately loses its credibility. Research is an important part of the journalistic process when writing a piece of news and cannot be skipped due to laziness.
  4. Are there any spelling or grammatical errors? Spelling errors are hard to miss with today’s technology, but names of people is an easy but fatal error to make.  Additionally if the language of the writing is awkward or simply grammatically incorrect then the integrity of the piece is diminished.
  5. Do facts tell the story or does your opinion? Personal opinion should be avoided as much as possible to avoid bias in your story. If opinion is stated, it should be clear to the reader and not perceived as a potential fact. This extends to quotations; for when you are using quotes let the person speaking say his or her part in the light they meant it to be and not you twisting their words to meet your agenda.

Establishing your own ethical code is important because asking these questions only strengthens your articles.


One thought on “Personal Ethics Code

  1. Wolf – I think your guideline “Do facts tell the story or does your opinion?” is not only a very interesting and unique guideline, I think it is incredibly important. Particularly, when you mention using quotes ethically and not twisting a sources words to meet your own agenda. Context is very important and I think the description of the quote as well as the tone of the entire piece can really determine how a reader perceives and interprets what the sources is saying. James Lester detailed the ethical use of sources in Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide ( Although it was reference to writing research papers, I think many of the guidelines apply very much to journalism as well. One that I thought was very interesting was “Do not change the author’s main idea. Although it is not always necessary to quote an entire passage to make your point, make sure that you have not changed the author’s main idea through selective quoting or use of ellipsis.” I think that leaving out information can completely change the idea a source is trying to portray and should be avoided at all costs. This leads to want to look into the use of ellipsis in general in journalism. If you are leaving out a few extraneous words with no mean then I think I think it is ethical, however it it changing the meaning or tone of piece it is completely unethical. I think this leads us to the nitty gritty part of ethical journalism. The tiny specifics that you wouldn’t always thing about. Really enjoyed your insights that led me to this conclusions!


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