The Society of Professional Journalists revised their Code of Ethics recently. In its entirety the updated SPJ Code of Ethics serves as a guide for journalists. Aspects of it can be considered by anyone who creates and publishes content. Here are some of the principles from their Code that content creators may share with journalists.
Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work. Verify information before releasing it. Use original sources whenever possible.
Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information. Clearly label illustrations and re-enactments.
Never plagiarize. Always attribute.
Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity, even if others do.
Consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication. Provide updated and more complete information as appropriate.
Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
Prominently label sponsored content.
Respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.
Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently.
These are principles that build trust with an audience whether you are creating content for a news outlet, trade magazine, blog, brand, or vendor.
Companies that are publishing content can establish and follow their own code of ethics or take the advice of other organizations such as The Institute for Advertising Ethics (IAE). Their code was created in partnership with the well-respected Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Missouri School of Journalism.
Principle 1 from IAE states: Advertising, public relations, marketing communications, news and editorial all share a common objective of truth and high ethical standards in serving the public.
Other principles promoted by the IAE are personal responsibility, transparency, fairness, privacy issues, and being lawful.
The Public Relations Society of America Code of Ethics holds its members to a high standard as well: …protecting integrity and the public trust are fundamental to the profession’s role and reputation.
The PRSA Code addresses responsible advocacy, honesty, professional expertise, independence, loyalty, and fairness. The Code also includes Provisions of Conduct concerning the free flow of information, competition, information disclosure, keeping confidences, and conflicts of interest.
While a company’s objectives are clearly different from those of the Society of Professional Journalists, brand and business-owned content should be guided by ethical standards. In doing so, everyone wins. Earning the buyer’s trust requires an ethical approach. Serving the audience well in this way is a vital part of content development.