The seven canons of journalism are a set of ethical rules that all journalists need to set in their minds as they write, report, and communicate with any part of a community. These set of rules were set so that the profession of the journalism world can be taken protected, and at first were set as a guideline for journalists working at newspaper companies. The canons were founded by the American Society of Newspaper Editors on April 23rd, 1923. Their purpose is to serve as a reminder to journalists as to what their job is all about and keep them from falling into the sensational journalists category, which no journalists wants to fall into. Around the time in which the canons were created, the founding fathers thought of the news world as an unofficial “fourth branch of government”. Radio stations, news stations, and newspaper companies started to stray away quietly from this conspiracy when they found out that the government frowned on the ideas of violence, sex and other scandalous characteristics which brought more viewers, listeners, and readers. Also this principle was lost when vertical and horizontal integration started to emerge. Vertical integration is when a company owns different parts of the same industry thereby controlling production and distribution. Horizontal integration is when a company owns many different types of media. So how can a journalists report without stepping into an uncomfortable zone, or reporting incorrectly? There are times like these and situations where journalists in all fields, broadcast, print, and radio when the professionals need to be aware of the canons of journalism and what the proper action is to take.
The first canon of journalism is “Responsibility”. Responsibility is a must in almost every career choice, but is especially important in the field of journalism. Journalists can not always sugarcoat the truth of an industry that is being reported, the American people deserve to know where exactly their hard working dollars are going in a certain industry. Thus, it is the responsibility of journalists to always consider public’s welfare and money first and foremost. Journalists must also consider the news organization’s stability and reputation, therefore it is important to not report anything for selfish gain. Doing this could even jeopardize the numbers of readers, viewers, and listeners, not everyone is interested in one’s particular hobbies or interest, they are interested on what is popular and upcoming in their communities, state, and country. Journalists are the face of the news organization they are working for; yes, there are all the behind the scene people working hard to maintain organization and peace, but the journalists are the ones going out and interviewing and getting information from the public. Thus, it is the responsibility of a journalists to keep in mind journalism’s central focus, reporting truth and accuracy to the American Public. Journalists do not need to let self gain, greed, or money get in the way of a perfect focus of a story. Responsibility is key in journalists day to day reporting life.
The second canon of journalism is “Freedom of the Press”. This rule or canon refers to the first amendment that is written in our constitution. As stated before the founding fathers of our country saw the news field as a vital part of America, and Freedom of the Press was in their minds as one of the first things that should be protected for this career field and they found it should never be waived. If journalists could never express their opinions and ideals in a reporting fashion where would the field of journalism be today? America is special due to this amendment and lets writers and reporters give a personal vibe without being bias. As journalists, we must keep Freedom of the Press in mind when creative juices are not flowing to allow different opinions for the reader, listener, or viewer.
The third canon of journalism is “Independence”. Independence is what sets different news stations apart, different radio shows apart, and newspapers apart. This ethical canon also sets sources, politics, advertisers. Without independence from these all aspects of journalism would be the same. To be free from all obligations when reporting and writing is vital as a journalist. The best spirit of American Journalism is diminished when libel occurs. When a journalist knowingly prints something they know is false and will hurt someones reputation this is libel and it discredits not only that publication but also the entire art of journalism. If journalists give false information it could turn into a huge mess of accusations and wrong doings that could never be proven due to the amount of those who are upset or hurt. This also would put the news organization under radar and could soon lead to discredit and lead people no where to turn for correct information.
The fourth canon of journalism is “Sincerity, Truthfulness, and Accuracy”. These three qualities are to be the foundation of all journalism ideals. Readers, listeners, and viewers have put their faith and trust in journalists and are depending on the most accurate information on the reported event or issue. We as journalists, are also expected to seek out reliable sources and information. People look to newspapers and news outlets to get the facts. To get the truth about what is really going on in the world. Tabloids and gossip magazines are thrown into an entire different category that many do not believe to be “real journalism.” So if other new outlets started to adopt these same qualities where would the American people go to get real factual news? The craft would be lost forever. Being sincere with people and truthful will get one very far in this career field, and can even gain the most out of an interview or person with just being plain respectful.
The fifth canon of journalism is “Impartiality”. Journalists are not to report their own opinion or be bias in any way. Sound practice of this idea makes clear distinction between news reports and expressions of opinion. Although this rule is extremely important to journalism it does not apply to certain articles that are specified to be opinion articles. As long as it is clearly stated that that is what the article in intended to be. These type of articles are like advice columns articles where people are clearly seeking out someone else’s opinion. When journalists start reporting their own opinions and not the actual facts the news starts to lose its credibility. If the news no longer has credibility with the people then where would we turn to as the American public to get the truth?
The sixth canon and maybe the most important ethical rule is “Fair Play”. This canon refers to that opposing views should be solicited on public issues, views, and accusations. This rule of journalism also states that any mistakes or false information should be corrected professionally, promptly, and smoothly, regardless of fact or opinion. According to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, fair play also states that journalists should not report unofficial accusations or charges that could cause the deformation of someone’s character and or reputation, without the accused having a chance to be heard. A true journalist will take this rule to heart and recognize the accused in a special way. A journalist must hear their opinion and should not invade their rights of feelings they may feel with the proper questioning and approval, as well as being sure it is in the best interest and plausible for the public to know. A newspaper should not publish unofficial charges affecting reputation or moral character without opportunity given to the accused to be heard: right practice demands the giving of such opportunity in all cases of serious accusation outside judicial proceedings. With this canon being ignored can really affect the outcome, the profession, and the journalism world of a journalist. The public can come back with accusations and show that the journalist under document was false and did not ever correct themselves.
And last but not least we have decency as our seventh and final canon of Journalism. Newspapers and journalist should avoid deliberate pandering to vicious instincts. This would include such cases as reporting details of crime and violence. If journalist and newspapers wish to obtain a high moral value they must not publish articles containing such information, unless it is for the benefit of the general good. If journalist start to do such things it will degrade their status and will put them in the category of “Yellow Journalism.” Yellow journalism feeds off sensationalism to gain readership. They focus on things that will entertain the public without a care in the world as to how it will affect the people they are reporting about. If this canon is not enforced public disapproval typically backs it up.
In conclusion, the seven canons of the broadcast, print, and radio journalistic world can make or break a journalist’s endeavors and interviewing experiences, whether it be with a person at the scene of a crime, a representative from a company, or just a past recording from a speech given. In the first canon journalists should keep responsibility in mind will out gaining information from people they are interviewing. The responsibility of a journalist should not be just to sugarcoat the information, but to tell the American people what exactly the journalist has learned, they deserve to know the correct and most accurate information. The second canon is, freedom of the press, this canon is the creative branch and law that give journalists all around an interesting way to look at their jobs. Our founding fathers have gave journalist the approval and have granted that news should be a “fourth branch of government”. If journalists cannot express their opinions and ideals the journalism world would be bland and boring with nothing new and interesting to give the public. The third ethical rule of journalism is independence, this gives the journalist voice of reason with no limits and no rules besides the canons given. Independence allows journalists to branch out and be creative and stand out in their company and the rest of the journalism world. The fourth branch of journalism is, sincerity, truthfulness, and accuracy. This canon refers to the moral values journalists should keep in mind while reporting, giving the person that is being interviewed their voice of reason and being respectful during the process even if it is not what the journalist wants to hear. The fifth canon of journalism is, impartiality. This rule is in place for journalists not to become bias or let their opinion show too much while reporting on touchy topics of interest. Although the confusion may arise that the rule is not in effect when reporting on an opinion article is true, but the consciousness of being respectful still needs to be in the back of journalist’s minds and drive. If the news no longer has credibility with the people then where would we turn to as the American public to get the truth? The sixth canon and maybe the most important rule that journalists should keep in mind is fair play. Journalist need be respectful during their endeavors and experiences while reporting, whether it be to the public or other reporters. The last canon of journalism is decency, this rule applies to the rule of “yellow journalism” and this is what journalists do NOT need to feed on. The facts that are surfing through the air from other journalists are not always correct and could lead to false accusations. A journalist can avoid this by, exploring different focuses and drives. If this canon is not enforced public disapproval typically backs it up. As journalist it was important that all of these ethical rules are placed in my mind where I can remember them when the act of reporting calls. Journalists everywhere need to be aware of these rules and they can save them from false accusations and can save a journalist from finding a different career field.