Journalists are accountable to a code of professional conduct just like judges, bankers, engineers, doctors and any other profession.The Society of Professional Journalists, a reporters organization, is quite specific about opinion’s place in journalism. Not only is Opinion to be quarantined from news reporting by labels…it must not, in the interest of arguing a side of a debate, misrepresent facts or the context that helps people make sense of facts.
Here are some excerpts from that code:
- Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting.
- Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.
- Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
- Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
It’s still about V.I.A
- Verification: “Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.”
- Independence: “Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests…(and) remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.”
- Accountability: “Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.”
The point of those ethics guidelines is to preserve the essence of journalism: Verification…Independence…Accountability If a person is trying to help you make up your mind, trying to foster democratic debate about how we govern ourselves, they fight fair. They verify the facts they use to support an argument. They aren’t allowed to pose as an opinion journalist if they are on the payroll of one interest group or another. And they are accountable for their opinion, labeling it as opinion so that a viewer or reader is not misled into thinking it is reporting.