Journalism is regulated with codes and laws such as the editor’s code of practice, to make sure that some limits are not exceed and to avoid enlarging the already long list of journalistic scandal. Scandals such as phone hacking, made up articles, deformed interviews, unethical behaviours, lie, omission, truth hiding etc., made the front page of newspapers or TV news; but it had a much bigger impact: it broke a part of the trust that is supposed to be between the reader and the journalist. A trust that the security of these codes, laws, regulations is supposed to maintain. But how unethical a journalist can be?
It is true that phone hacking is not an ethical act to do because it means breaking into someone’s privacy and that is exactly what happened in the case that led to the Leveson’s Inquiry. However, in this cased they just discovered that Prince William hurt his knees, but if we changed the case; what about the journalist had found information about something much bigger than that? What if he found proofs of corruption and wrote an article about it? The scandal would not be about the process to find these proofs but the proofs in themselves.
It doesn’t mean that I support the acts of phone hacking, but just to prove that ethics cannot be judged as just bad or good, black or white. Being ethics take a lot in someone, because the decisions that must be made are not easy, they are ones that make you think and make you questioned everything you thought you knew. There are a lot of cases like that were decisions must be taken. Choosing between respecting a victim’s family’s choice but going back to an unsatisfied editor or having a story to tell, a satisfied boss, but the risk to be sued by the victim’s family? Choosing between the protection of your newspaper and writing the truth about a certain brand? Choosing between writing an article or not when confronting with threats? Think about these questions and you will see that being ethical is nothing as an easy job.
Yet, ethics in the context of journalism can also pertain to common sense. For example, accuracy is an important value it means that you have to verify every fact, to check every noun, to tell the truth… However, this is more than being ethical, these are the basic value of a journalist. It is part of common sense to know that you must not invent events, people, places or anything because the role of the journalist is to be a fighter for the truth.
“Get the truth and print it “ – John S. Knight, editor and publisher