The seven canons of Journalism were founded by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The canons were a way to protect not only Journalist but what they stand for. The canons were written in response to an overabundance of sensationalism. The seven canons are Responsibility, Freedom of the Press, Independence, Sincerity Truthfulness and Accuracy, Impartiality, Fair Play, and Decency.
The first canon Responsibility is so that the Journalist always pay attention to what they write and what they print. They have a responsibility to themselves and to their readers to consider the public’s welfare before they print anything. Journalist should always consider the readers when they are about to put something out there. This goes in part a lot with the sensationalism that the canons where put in place to stop. If a journalist just puts information out there without taking into consideration the readers than they can egg on the sensationalism that is present in many news outlets. Journalist must always also take responsibility for what they put out there. If they put something that is offensive or just play incorrect they need to be able to say they made a mistake and fix it. An instance of a journalism not taking responsibility for their words would be a journalist that puts out very offensive content. Maybe they didn’t realize they put such offensive content out there due to the way they were raised. Maybe they said it without really thinking about what they said before they said it. Or maybe they just did something that they shouldn’t have done and didn’t feel obligated to actually taking responsibility for their own actions.
The second canon of journalism is Freedom of the Press. This means that the journalists are the gatekeepers to the information that is being given to the public. Journalist must know when they have shared too much information and need to protect the sources that give them their information. Persons First Amendment Rights are to always be looked at as vital and never to be questioned. All Journalists have an obligation to their sources to never let them out, and to protect them. If someone is giving journalist information they want to know that they will not be ousted in a time of desperation. A great example of this was during The Watergate investigation during the 1970s. A break-in occurred at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. During this investigation by The Washington Post’s two journalist Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein, many different shocking things came out about who was behind the break-in and what led up to it. President Richard Nixon resigned due to his involvement and his staffs (and former staff’s involvement.) Bernstein and Woodard had a source that was said to be high up and very connected. The source was protected the whole time throughout the investigation and the two post staffers never let it out which their source was known as Deep Throat until he actually came out many years later. This is a great example of protecting your sources especially due to such the high amount of media coverage that went into the story.
The third canon of Journalism is Independence. Journalist cannot be look upon as being affiliated with any groups. They can’t have political associations. Journalist cannot take gifts from advertisers and must always be independent from their sources. If a journalist is seen getting a free meal from a restaurant than they people that see that are going to think they have a bias towards that restaurant and against others. Journalists are supposed to be the freeman that can talk and relate to anyone. If they are caught up in a political agenda where they are clearly being associated with a political party, they can easily lose their readers and viewers trust. This is something that new sources do not want. They want their journalist to be free from any distractions that will hold the news back from being given to the readers. An example of this would be that a journalist wouldn’t take a pin or anything that had a political group’s propaganda on it. If a journalist was out in town they should take free meals or free items from different companies and people. Journalist must always make the community feel as if they are free from judgment. Members of the community could easily feel as if they are being judge if they go to a journalist and the journalist has a political campaign add on their shirt or bag. Then the members of the community might feel as if no matter what they say it won’t be heard with open ears.
The fourth canon of Journalism is made up of Sincerity, truthfulness and accuracy. These are three things that are needed for all journalists to survive in the news world. Nobody wants to watch or read a horrible story from an insincere journalist. I know that I personally want to be able to connect with my writer or reporter. I want them to offer me a sense of sincerity. I want them to always give out truthful information. And most importantly I want the information that I am given to be as accurate as it can possibly be. When you are reading a story the accuracy really does count. If a story happened last Monday and it says it happened this Monday there is a big difference. If a child was abducted from Dover, Arkansas and the story says Dover, Delaware that is a very inaccurate piece of information that is given. If a journalist cannot give the readers accurate information they will quickly lose their readers. A great example of this would be when a journalist is covering a story that they do not know all of the facts to, they decide to put their sense into the story without really know what’s going on and end up delivering a lot of inaccurate information to the viewers. Also, you aren’t going to be a good journalist if you are very insincere about your stories. You have to connect to the people that you are telling your stories to and if you can’t do that than you probably should have a job in the journalism field. People want to hear nice things even during the worst of times, and they want to be consulted when they are experiencing a tragedy. Nobody wants to watch somebody get in front of them on the TV, or read an article that is hateful, and rude.
The fifth canon of Journalism is Impartiality. All of the news reports should always be free from any sort of opinion and bias at all times. Just like how a Journalist should always be Independent in the third canon, new sources should do the same. It is very easy to fall into a way of thinking (either for or against a certain party or affiliation.) New sources should always just offer the information without any sort of opinion towards or against the people that are in the news. There are many well-known news reporters that take one side or another in a story and report on it. Nancy Grace is someone that stands out when I think of being bias. She will latch onto a story and just tear up the person that is in the story. Most of the time, I do think she is correct in the things that she says on the air but, sometimes she seems to just take it overboard. I have found that a lot of the time she will just become so entrapped in a story that she will just start putting out very inaccurate information. Almost like the game telephone that children play. She gets a piece of information and just sort of runs with it regardless if it is true or how accurate it really is. I think that it is very important for the viewers and readers to get a sense of just getting the news. I don’t want to watch news show that is geared just towards one person’s small opinion. A lot of the time that person’s opinion is just a small amount of what really goes into a story or segment. Journalist should always remain impartial when they are reporting the news.
The sixth canon of Journalism is Fair Play. Fair play in the news means that both side of an issue or topic should get the chance to tell their story. Opposing views should be able to have the same amount of time to discuss why they think or feel they do about the topic that is being brought up. This gives all sides to a problem a chance to speak up and speak out on the topic without getting shut down or never getting the chance at all to express their opinions. I think this is great because it allows people to be shown both sides. It allows people that wouldn’t necessarily have the opportunity to see what the “other side,” was thinking, now access to that information. I have to say that this is almost never the case though. I know huge media outlets such as ABC, NBC, and CNN that will run with a story and not get both sides from it. I know my small town newspaper on multiple occasions has run something that is so unbelievably one sided that I am almost shocked every time I read it. But, I am never actually shocked because I am so used to getting only one side of the story from media outlets. I think that as a journalist it is important to give the people their own opportunity to decide what is right and what is wrong. This also goes with the fifth canon to be impartial to the stories.
The seventh and last canon of Journalism is Decency. Decency should always be used when reporting on news that has happened. News sources should be aware of what they are reporting on and use decency when doing it. All ages, races, religions, and various other backgrounds of people read and watch the news. Journalist should know that before they write stories and should know that there are certain things that just shouldn’t be put in the news. When a tragedy has occurred it wouldn’t be decent to put all of the graphic details in the newspaper or on the news. I think that decency is one of the most important of the seven cannons of journalism. I think that it will always be important to know your limits when reporting certain subjects and to not allow yourself to get caught up in what everyone else is doing and do what you think is best for your audience. I do not want to see people on the news that have foul mouths, dress inappropriately, and have no decent things to say to the public. Decency is very important for journalist to follow when they are reporting the news.
These are the seven canons of Journalism. They make up an ethics code that should be followed by all journalists and that all journalists should understand before they start to report the news. Even though often times this isn’t always the case for all journalists. There are several new sources that often use bias in their news. A lot of times journalist get so caught up in a story, that even if they didn’t mean to they take one side or another. I would think that it would be very easy when reporting of certain stories to get caught up in them. I think that it is important to always follow most of these. At any given time you are going to be challenge to follow all of them. But, it is important to allow the public to get the most accurate, unbiased information that they can from you, the journalist. These rules for journalist to live by have been established, almost as guidelines for Journalist to use throughout their careers.