PRINCIPALS FOR ETHICAL JOURNALISM
Journalists have the duty and privilege to seek and report the truth, encourage civic debate to build our communities, and serve the public interest. We vigorously defend freedom of expression and freedom of the press as guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We return society’s trust by practising our craft responsibly and respecting our fellow-citizens’ rights.
WE STRIVE FOR ACCURACY AND FAIRNESS
We avoid allowing our biases to influence our reporting.
We disclose conflicts of interest.
We give people, companies or organizations that are criticized in our reporting the opportunity to present their points of view prior to publication.
We respect people’s civil rights, including the rights to privacy and a fair trial.
We don’t alter photos, videos or sound in ways that mislead the public.
WE ARE INDEPENDENT AND TRANSPARENT
We don’t give favoured treatment to advertisers and special interests.
We don’t accept or solicit gifts or favours from those we might cover.
We don’t report about subjects in which we have a financial interest.
We don’t participate in movements and activities that we cover.
Editorial boards and columnists or commentators endorse political candidates or causes. Reporters do not.
We generally don’t conceal our identities. When, on rare occasions, a reporter needs to go “undercover” in the public interest, we will clearly explain why.
WE KEEP OUR PROMISES
We identify sources of information, except when there is a clear and pressing reason to protect anonymity.
We explain the need for anonymity when we decide to grant it.
We independently corroborate facts given by unnamed sources.
If we promise to protect a source’s identity, we do so.
WE RESPECT DIVERSITY
We seek to capture in our stories the diverse values, viewpoints and lives of the people in our communities.
We avoid stereotypes of race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, gender identification, disability, physical appearance and social status.
We will not refer to a person’s race, colour or religion unless it is pertinent.
WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE
We will answer to the public for our reporting and conduct.
When we make a mistake, we correct it promptly and ungrudgingly, and in a manner that matches the seriousness of the error.
Last update- February 2016
Approved at 2002 annual General Meeting of the association
It is our privilege and duty to seek and report the truth as we understand it, defend free speech and the right to equal treatment under law, capture the diversity of human experience, speak for the voiceless and encourage civic debate to build our communities and serve the public interest.
Freedom of Speech
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the press. A free flow of information sustains and vitalizes democracy because understanding emerges from vigorous discussion, openly reported. Our legal traditions give media privilege and protection. We must return this trust through the ethical practice of our craft.
Our reporting must be fair, accurate and comprehensive. When we make mistakes we must correct them. We must not ignore or temper the facts in order to curry favour or avoid retribution. We must hold ourselves to the same standards that we set for others.
Our stories will capture the rich and diverse values, viewpoints and lives of the people in our communities. We need to understand how our own beliefs and biases can interfere with our ability to see and report fairly and courageously.
The Right to Privacy
The public has a right to know about its institutions and the people who are elected or hired to serve its interests. People also have a right to privacy and those accused of crimes have a right to a fair trial. There are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy, the public good and the public’s right to be informed. Each situation should be judged in the light of common sense, humanity and the public’s rights to know.
The Public Interest
The right to freedom of expression and of the press must be defended against encroachment from any quarter, public or private, because we serve democracy and the public interest. Journalists must be alert to ensure that the public's business continues to be conducted in public. Journalists who abuse their power betray the public trust.
Members of the Canadian Association of Journalists, in holding to these principles, promote excellence in the practice of their craft.
Canadian Association of Journalists Ethics Guidelines
Approved at 2002 Annual General Meeting
We respect the rights of people involved in the news and will be accountable to the public for the fairness and reliability of our reporting.
We will not allow our own biases to influence fair and accurate reporting.
We respect each person’s right to a fair trial.
We will identify sources of information, except when there is a clear and pressing reason to protect anonymity. When this happens, we will explain the need for anonymity.
We will independently corroborate facts if we get them from a source we do not name.
We will not allow anonymous sources to take cheap shots at individuals or organizations.
We will avoid pseudonyms and not use composites. If either is essential, we will tell our readers, listeners or viewers.
Reporters will not conceal their identities, except in rare cases.
When, on rare occasions, a reporter needs to go "under cover" in the public interest, we will clearly explain the extent of the deception to the reader or listener or viewer.
We will not commit illegal or improper acts.
We will give people, companies or organizations that are publicly accused or criticized prompt opportunity to respond. We will make a genuine and exhaustive effort to contact them. If they decline to comment we will say so.
We will report all relevant facts in coverage of controversies or disputes.
We will clearly identify news and opinion so that readers, viewers and listeners know which is which.
We will be wary of informants who want to be paid for information. The quality of their information and their motives should be questioned.
Reporters are responsible for the accuracy of their work. Editors must confirm the accuracy of stories before publication or broadcast. Editors must know in detail the documentation to support stories and the reliability of the sources. Editors are responsible for the accuracy of any facts they add or changes they make.
We will correct mistakes of fact or context promptly and ungrudgingly. We will publish or broadcast corrections, clarifications or apologies in a consistent way.
We will not mislead the public by suggesting a reporter is some place that he or she isn't.
Photojournalists are responsible for the integrity of their images. We will not alter images so that they mislead the public.
We will explain in the photo caption if a photograph has been staged.
We will label altered images as photo illustrations.
The public has a right to know about its institutions and the people who are elected or hired to serve its interests. Their role is public and in matters concerning these roles they are accountable to the public.
Individuals have a right to privacy except when that right is superseded by the public good.
We will not harass or manipulate people who are thrust into the spotlight because they are victims of crime or are associated with a tragedy.
Relatives of people in the news sometimes become newsworthy, but we will guard against voyeuristic stories.
Newspapers, radio, television and the web are forums for the free interchange of information and opinion. We will encourage our organizations to make room for the interests of all: minorities and majorities; those with power and those without it; disparate and conflicting views.
There are no shield laws protecting journalists in Canada. We may be ordered by a court or judicial inquiry to divulge confidential sources upon threat of jail, so we must understand what we are promising:
- Not for attribution: We may quote statements directly but the source may not be named, although a general description of his or her position may be given (``a government official,'' or ``a party insider'').
- On background: We may use the thrust of statements and generally describe the source, but we may not use direct quotes.
- Off the record: We may not report the information, which can be used solely to help our own understanding or perspective. There is not much point in knowing something if it can't be reported, so this undertaking should be used sparingly, if at all.
We will not refer to a person's race, colour or religion unless it is pertinent to the story. We will exercise particular care in crime stories.
We will avoid thoughtless stereotypes of race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
We should use polls prominently only when we know the full context of the results: the names of the sponsor and the polling agency; the population from which the sample was drawn; the sample size, margin of error, type of interview; the dates when the poll was taken and the exact wording and order of the questions. When possible we should broadcast or publish this information.
Polls commissioned by special interest groups and politically sponsored think tanks and institutes are especially suspect. It is easy to frame questions or choose a sample designed to produce an answer favourable to a point of view.
Copyright and Plagiarism
There is no copyright on news or ideas once a story is in the public domain, but if we can’t match the story, we will credit the originating source.
While news and ideas are there for the taking, the words used to convey them are not. If we borrow a story or even a paragraph from another source we will rewrite it before it is published or broadcast. It we do not rewrite it, we will credit the source because failure to do so is plagiarism.
Using another's analysis or interpretation may constitute plagiarism, even if the words are rewritten, unless it is attributed. This is especially true for columnists.
We serve democracy and the public interest by reporting the truth. This sometimes conflicts with the wishes of various public and private interests, including advertisers, governments, news sources and, on occasion, with our duty and obligation to an employer.
Defending the public’s interest includes promoting the free flow of information; exposing crime or wrongdoing, protecting public health and safety and preventing the public from being misled.
We will not give favoured treatment to advertisers and special interests. We must resist their efforts to influence the news.
Columnists should be free to express their views, even when those views are contrary to the editorial views of their organization, as long as the content meets the generally accepted journalistic standards for fairness and accuracy and does not breach the law.
We should not accept or solicit gifts, passes or favours for personal use.
We must pay our own way to ensure independence. If another organization pays our expenses to an event that we are writing about we should say so, so that the reader, viewer or listener can take this into account. (We will make sure exceptions are understood. For example, it is common practice to accept reviewers' tickets for film previews and theatrical performances.)
We will promptly return unsolicited gifts of more than nominal value. If it is impractical to return the gift, we will give it to an appropriate charity or institution.
Use of merchandise for review: We will not accept the free use or reduced-rate use of valuable goods or services when the offer is extended because of our position. Within narrow limits, it is appropriate to use a product for a short time to test or evaluate it. (A common exception is unsolicited books, music or new food products sent for review.)
Conflict of Interest
Note: There is a tradition in Canada of media organizations that support and advocate particular ideologies and causes. These ideologies and causes should be transparent to the readers, listeners or viewers. Journalists for these organizations sometimes choose to be advocates or are hired to be advocates and this too, should be transparent.
In our role as fair and impartial journalists, we must be free to comment on the activities of any publicly elected body or special interest organization. It is not possible to do this without an apparent conflict of interest if we are active members of a group we are covering.
We lose our credibility as fair observers if we write opinion pieces about subjects that we also cover as reporters.
We will not hold elected political office, work as officials on political campaigns, or write speeches for any political party or official.
Editorial boards and columnists or commentators endorse political candidates or political causes. Reporters do not.
We will not make financial contributions to a political campaign if there is a chance we will be covering the campaign.
We will not hold office in community organizations about which we may report or make editorial judgments. This includes fund-raising or public relations work and active participation in community organizations and pressure groups that take positions on public issues.
We will avoid participation in judicial and other official inquiries into wrongdoing. Such inquiries are often prompted by our stories.
We will not accept payment for speaking or making presentations to groups we report on or comment on. If access to a journalist depends on fees there will be the same appearance of advantage we perceive when businesses buy access to a cabinet minister or the prime minister. If everyone else on a panel is being paid an honorarium, that honorarium can be directed to a charity or worthy cause.
We will not participate in demonstrations or sign petitions if there could be an appearance of conflict with our role as fair and impartial journalists.
We will not report stories about people or organizations if we have asked or applied to work for them.
We will not report about subjects in which we have a financial interest.
We will not use our positions to obtain any benefit or advantage in commercial transactions not available to the general public.
Note: Life does not always conform to guidelines. For example, the only way to subscribe to some publications is to be a member of the group that is publishing. Having a non-journalist in your organization subscribe on your behalf would be one solution. Discussing the exception and subscribing yourself might be the most sensible path.
Police and lawyers try to involve us in the judicial process by asking for tapes, notes and photographs and by calling reporters or photographers as witnesses in criminal and civil cases. In effect, we become a shortcut for outside persons trying to prove a case.
This poses difficulties for two reasons. If we are seen to be a part of the judicial process, it damages our credibility as critics of the system and may limit our access to sources. If we promise confidentiality to a source and we are then summoned as a witness, we may be asked to break that promise upon the penalty of a fine or jail sentence. Accordingly, we will be wary of approaches from the police or lawyers for assistance on a case.
If we know a confidential document was obtained illegally, there may be legal implications for our organization if its contents are published.
We will avoid reporting confidential conversations overheard through eavesdropping or monitoring cellular phone calls, although it is legal to report these. Any exception will be explained publicly.
Criminal Charges Against Journalists
If we are charged with a criminal offense for activities unrelated to work, it may be wise to report the charges. The charge may be one that would go unreported if it happened to somebody else but because we have a public profile, a different standard applies, just as it does for elected officials who are charged.