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Ethical Guidelines for Campus Journalists

Ethical guidelines for the campus journalist are not different from those for the full-time journalist. In all a campus journalist does, s/he should ensure the following:

  • Objectivity – News reports should not be biased in favour of one of the parties involved in the story being reported. To avoid being biased, campus journalists should seek out the views of all the parties involved in a story. This is called ‘balance’. Balance goes with fairness. Where this is impossible for some reasons, the news report should state that the writer attempted to get the views of all the parties involved but was unable to. The reason for this inability should also be stated. (For instance: “All efforts to reach the Commissioner of Police on this report did not succeed as his phones were switched off throughout the day”).
  • Truth and Accuracy – The campus journalist must be accurate in his/her reports with reference to names of people and places, figures, and quotes. A journalist who publishes inaccurate reports will lose credibility. Connected to this is the point that journalists are therefore not expected to lie or cook up stories or sources of stories.
  • Harm limitation – News reports can cause severe harm to the people involved and even to the journalist. Harm can be physical (when it causes injury or death to a person’s body or property) or psychological (when it causes humiliation, distress or depression). Harm can also be cultural – when it violates the cultural sensibilities of people. A journalist must seek to minimize harm, especially to innocent people.
  • Confidentiality – In most cases, the journalist depends on people as sources of information for their news reports. Unless the person grants the journalist permission to disclose his/her name and identity, the journalist has no right to disclose such.
  • Consideration for Libel and slander – The campus journalist can also be sued for libel (or slander). It is important to understand what constitutes libel and slander. Very often, when journalists adhere to rules of accuracy, confidentiality, objectivity, they are unlikely to be guilty of libel.
  • Avoidance of Plagiarism – Plagiarism is presenting someone’s work or words as if they were one’s own. It is unethical to plagiarize. The campus journalist must always cite sources of information and do so appropriately.
  • Avoidance of blackmail – Campus journalists sometimes write stories to “bog” students. Some campus news outlets were actually used to threaten students. This is an unethical practice. While it is important for the campus journalist to seek to correct or expose immorality, it is also important to do that with a noble motive. Campus journalists should not be agents of blackmail.
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