Australia/Oceania: Australia

Sydney Morning Herald Code of Ethics

Current Status: active

The Sydney Morning Herald Code of Ethics      

(Published in July, 2003)


"Our editorial management shall be conducted upon principles of candour, honesty and honour. We have no wish to mislead; no in-terest to gratify by unsparing abuse - or indiscriminate approbation. " The Sydney Morning Herald, April 18, 1831

These values, set out in the Herald's first editorial, have guided the paper for more than 170 years. Our most valuable asset is our in-tegrity, and it is this that the code is designed to protect.

The code reflects the Fairfax group's corporate values statement and incorporates the code of ethics of the Australian Journalists As-sociation.

It is to apply to the editorial staff of The Sydney Morning Herald and, where relevant, its casual employees, freelancers and contributors. In interpreting and applying the code, the interests that shall always be paramount are those of the public. Community values evolve, and the code will be reviewed from time to time to ensure it reflects what our readers expect of us.


Herald staff will report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. They will not suppress or distort relevant facts. They will do their utmost to offer the right of reply, and they will separate comment from news.


Staff will not allow personal interest, or any belief or commitment, to undermine their accuracy, fairness or independence.


Staff will use fair, honest and responsible means to obtain material. They will identify themselves and the newspaper before obtaining interviews or images.


Staff will not allow advertising or other commercial considerations to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence, or to influence the nature of the Herald's coverage. Advertising copy which could be confused for editorial should be marked "special promotion." 


Staff will strike a balance between the right of the public to information and the right of individuals to privacy. They will recognise that private individuals have a greater right to protect information about themselves than do public officials and others who hold or seek power, influence or attention. They shall not exploit the vulnerable or those ignorant of media practices.


Staff will respect private grief. They have the right to resist pressure to intrude.


Staff will not place unnecessary emphasis on personal characterist-ics, including race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual orienta-tion, family relationships, religious belief or physical disability.


Staff will not plagiarise. 


Staff will seek to attribute information to its source. They will always declare the use of pseudonyms in their work. They will seek to avoid being compromised by a source and to use multiple sources wherever possible. Where a source seeks anonymity, the journalist shall first consider the source's motives and seek alternative attributable sources. Quotes not attributed to a named source will be used only with a section editor's approval. Where confidences are accepted the journalist will respect and protect them in all appropriate circum-stances. 

Honest Presentation

Staff will present pictures and sound that are true and accurate. They will disclose manipulation that could mislead.

Complaints and Corrections

Complaints shall be dealt with promptly and respectfully. Material errors in the paper and its related publications will be corrected or clarified publicly as soon as is practicable. Findings by the Australian Press Council or the defamation courts involving the Herald will be reported promptly.

Public Activities

Herald staff shall avoid any prominent activity in partisan public causes that compromises, or appears to compromise, the journalist or the newspaper. Membership of organisations or activity that may compromise the journalist's or the paper's reputation shall be de-clared to their section editor. Those responsible for coverage of news, current issues and opinion shall not be members of a political party nor stand as a candidate in an election for public office.

Staff shall not produce material for use in the paper or its related publications when they are a member of an organisation with an ac-tive interest in that issue.

Columnists and contributors writing on an issue where they have a direct or indirect interest are to declare that interest to readers after receiving approval from their section editor to write on that topic.

If it is possible that the activities of a member of a journalist's im-mediate family may compromise the journalist or the Herald, the staff member shall inform their section editor.

Financial Interests

Herald staff shall avoid taking a specific financial interest, or partici-pating in financial activities and arrangements, that could conflict with their obligations of fairness and integrity, or that could be per-ceived to do so.

They will avoid writing about issues in which they have a financial interest, either directly or through their immediate family. If they do write about such issues they shall first obtain permission from their section editor, and that interest will be declared where their section editor deems it necessary.

Staff shall maintain an up-to-date file of their interest in any securi-ties. A register of such files will be maintained by the editor-in-chief.

In addition, the Corporations Act 2001 requires financial journalists to maintain a more detailed register and to disclose their register to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and it is the journalists' responsibility for doing so.

Staff responsible for stories about securities of public companies shall not trade shares or other financial products within three months of acquiring them, except with the permission of their section editor.


Staff shall not give paid endorsements for any product, service, po-litical party or other lobby, nor shall they provide advertising copy, public relations services or media training on a commercial basis.


Staff will submit work only to contests whose central purpose is to recognise journalistic excellence, and not to competitions designed primarily to promote a product, an industry or a lobby. The decision on which competitions are entered will be made by the editor or the editor-in-chief.

Cheque Book Journalism

No payment shall be proffered to sources for interviews or access.

Personal Advantage

Those working for the Herald shall not use their position with it to seek any benefit or advantage not afforded to the public. Such advantages include discounts, priority bookings, access to venues, retail or wholesale sales, restaurant bookings, real estate queues and upgradings.


Gifts shall not be accepted, other than those of a small and inconse-quential nature. Those known or estimated to be worth more than $10 will be donated to charity.


Staff shall ensure that accepting hospitality does not oblige them or the Herald to their hosts. Invitations to attend a lunch or dinner should be repaid where possible. Accepting invitations for corporate hospitality where the purpose of the visit or the event is to develop contacts will be permitted, but staff shall inform their section editor before accepting such invitations.

Travel Accommodation

The Herald shall pay its own way. It will not accept free or materially subsidised travel and accommodation. However, in exceptional cir-cumstances the editor may approve subsidised travel. Travel will be accepted when it is included in a recognised education scholarship, where the editor is satisfied that neither the journalist nor the Herald will be compromised. Where it is not possible to buy tickets on commercial services the unpaid portion of the travel shall be de-clared.

Tickets and Events

Staff shall not solicit tickets. Complimentary tickets may only be ac-cepted by a staff member who is covering or reviewing that event. Sports journalists may also accept tickets for events for which they are accredited, as may reviewers for events that are designated as media only (for example, media screenings of films). All other tickets will be paid for.

Working for Others

Staff journalists wishing to undertake outside work shall first seek the approval of their section editor. They shall not work for direct competitors. Staff offering work to other publications, or seeking, or being offered, commissions from them, will first ascertain that the Herald does not wish to publish the work.

Staff having their work published elsewhere shall require an ac-knowledgment that they work for the Herald, if it so wishes. Where the Herald does not want such acknowledgment, the journalist shall ensure its wish is met. Such work must not compromise this code, or other Herald standards.

Staff shall provide the editor or the editor-in-chief with an annual reg-ister of their regular paid outside work.

Staff wishing to accept or undertake speaking engagements, or to represent the paper in other media outlets, shall first seek approval from their section editor. Before undertaking such activities, staff shall satisfy themselves that in doing so they are not compromising themselves or the Herald.

Casual Employees, Freelancers and Contributors

All casual employees, freelancers and contributors shall abide by this code when on assignment for the Herald and should avoid any conflict of interest which would harm the integrity of the Herald.

They shall declare to the Herald all relevant circumstances under which a story has been written or edited or any other conflicts which should be disclosed.

For Herald commissions they shall not accept materially subsidised travel or accommodation.

No casual employee, freelancer or contributor shall represent them-selves as working for the Herald without an express commission from it.