A Bloggers’ Code of Ethics
Some bloggers recently have been debating what, if any, ethics the Weblog community should follow. Since not all bloggers are journalists and the Weblog form is more casual, they argue they should not be expected to follow the same ethics codes journalists are. But responsible bloggers should recognize that they are publishing words publicly, and therefore have certain ethical obligations to their readers, the people they write about and society in general.
CyberJournalist.net has created a model Bloggers’ Code of Ethics, by modifying the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics for the Weblog world. These are just guidelines — in the end it is up to individual bloggers to choose their own best practices. CyberJournalist.net follows this code and urges other Weblogs to adopt this one or similar practices.
Integrity is the cornerstone of credibility. Bloggers who adopt this code of principles and these standards of practice not only practice ethical publishing, but also convey to their readers that they can be trusted.
Below is my interPRetation of a Bloggers’ Code of Ethics inspired by the SPJ Code of Ethics and the Bloggers’ Code of Ethics created by CyberJournalist.net.
Be Honest and Fair
Bloggers should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
- Research the accuracy of information from all sources; exercise care in order to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never acceptable.
- Invite subjects of content to give them the opportunity to respond, especially to allegations of wrongdoing when applicable.
- Identify sources and credit others when feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.
- Question sources’ motives before promising a favor in exchange for information. If promises are made in exchange, clarify all conditions attached. Keep promises.
- Maker certain that blog posts, headlines, photos, quotations and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
- Never distort the content of photos without disclosing the changes. Image enhancement for technical clarity is always permissible. Label montages and photo illustrations.
- Never, ever, plagiarize.
- Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status.
- Give voice to the voiceless; official and unofficial information can be equally valid.
- Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.
- Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
- Never publish information they know is inaccurate. If publishing questionable information, make it clear it is in doubt.
Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect.
- Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by content of Weblogs. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
- Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
- Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance.
- Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone’s privacy.
- Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
- Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects or victims of sex crimes.
- Be judicious about naming criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
Bloggers are accountable to their readers, viewers and each other.
- Clarify and explain information or content and invite dialogue with public over the bloggers’ conduct.
- Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
- Disclose conflicts of interests, affiliations, activities and personal agendas.
- Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers.
- Expose unethical practices of bloggers.
- Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
I embrace the Bloggers’ Code of Ethics and endeavor to apply them in my own work.