In 1923, the American Society of Newspaper Editors adopted an ethical code known as the Canons of Journalism in response to the growing amount of sensationalism in newspapers. There are seven Canons of Journalism: Responsibility, Freedom of the press, Independence, Sincerity, truthfulness, accuracy, Impartiality, Fair play, and Decency. These seven canons still play a major role in journalism and media today. They let the world of the press have their wide range of journalistic freedom, but they help to set limits and regulations more along the lines of what is right and what is wrong.
The first canon is responsibility. This canon is meant for journalists to always consider the public’s welfare. This means that journalists must use great care when publishing information. They can ultimately say anything about anyone and put it in the press. By considering the public’s welfare, journalists must maintain accuracy with what information they are given. This is the responsibility of the journalist to only publish what is true, which will also keep the public’s trust.
The second canon is freedom of the press. Freedom of the press is in the Constitution as our First Amendment. Journalist are supposed to guard this canon as vital and unquestionable. Freedom of the press guarantees you the right to say whatever you want, by any means necessary. The only problem is that not everyone will agree or listen to what you have to say. This goes back to the first canon of responsibility. Journalists must be wise in what they say. They can say it however they want to, but they must also consider the public’s welfare and filter certain things.
The third canon is independence. Journalists are supposed to be independent from sources, politics, and advertisers. Being independent means no one can tell you how to write something, when to write it, or what to write about. There are a lot of companies and advertisers that want journalists to write propaganda to either make them look good or make their opponents look bad. A true journalist will not give in to these types of people, and they will ensure that the truth is told about everyone. There are journalists that do give in. They will write whatever is needed to make someone look good or bad, even though it is not always the truth. I think this canon is more overlooked than others.
The fourth canon is sincerity, truthfulness, accuracy. This canon, with its three separate qualities, is supposed to be the foundation for all journalism. Again, this canon can tie into the first canon, responsibility. To be sincere, journalists must mean what they write. They should not write something just to slander another or hurt someone’s feelings. When being truthful, journalists need to always produce the truth in everything they write. Being known as a journalist who only lies about one’s works does not give a good reputation. Also, being known for publishing the truth will make readers trust that journalist and want to read his or her works. Journalists must be accurate, too. When getting information, a journalist needs to confirm one’s sources and make sure everything that is written is correct. No one is perfect, though, and there will always be some mistakes. That is why it is good to learn from them and move on.
The fifth canon is impartiality. This canon requires that journalists write everything free from bias or opinion of any kind. There are always two sides to every story. It is the job of a journalist to publish the full story, with both sides, so the public can read it and make a fair opinion for themselves. Everyone has an opinion, but when it comes to being a journalist it is not right to express one’s opinion in a news story. It would not be fair to whoever was a part of the story or the readers to read the story with someone’s opinion over the issue.
The sixth canon is fair play. This canon says that journalists should not write any slander or negativity towards anyone without them having a chance to state their side as well. Also, any errors should be promptly corrected. Fair play goes along with impartiality. As mentioned earlier, there are two sides to every story. It would not be fair to the side that is getting accused if the public believes any slander or negativity without knowing both sides of the story. If a journalist makes an error, it is that person’s responsibility to correct the error at once to avoid conflicts.
The last canon is decency. Decency says that journalists should avoid “deliberate pandering to vicious instincts.” This means that journalists should not write something just because they do not like someone or something, and everyone deserves equal treatment. Decency applies to everyone in general, not just journalists. This canon is more along the lines of following morals and what is right and wrong. It is not right to write or say something negative about another just because a journalist’s opinion of that person might not be positive. An example of this would be when writing about politics. Everyone has a different view of the people involved with politics, like the president, but that does not mean a journalist should write badly about that person, which in turn will sway readers’ opinions without knowing both sides of the story about that person.
These are the seven Canons of Journalism. Each plays a huge part in the world of journalism when it comes down to morals and ethics. Without these canons, especially freedom of the press, journalism and tabloids would not be what they are today. They help keep the wide range of freedom that tabloids and journalists use every day. As a nation, we are lucky to be able to live in a country where we can publish and say whatever we want without the government interfering. As a journalist myself, I live by these ethics stand up for them in every way possible.