Journalism is a tool for the greater public good, but if not held to a high standard of integrity, it flounders. Media channels are being increasingly co-opted by non-journalists to publish self-interested and biased news or outright advertising, and it is not surprising that the public are confused about what to believe or where to place their faith. Journalism needs to rediscover its roots so it may tackle these issues, and those who are genuinely of the industry need to honour integrity and tell the best version of the truth possible.
This code of conduct has been drafted by the NewsX team as a platform on which members may begin the process of rebuilding respect for the media.
The NewsX’s mission is to empower and support independent professional journalists and help them produce strong, ethical and accurate news to rebuild global respect for the profession. It does this by linking journalists with publishers and each other, imposing standards and providing accreditation, and supplying a software service for creating content in virtual newsrooms, distributing it to publishers and managing accounts and invoicing.
Trustworthy reporting makes positive contributions across all aspects of society when it challenges, questions, offers fresh perspectives, and is subject to professional standards and an ethical code. This Code of Practice is a tool to help independent journalists maintain a principled stance and achieve the standards of conduct and professionalism that will drive public respect for their industry and earn acknowledgement from publishers seeking strong, ethical and accurate copy to use. It is a living document that will continually be updated and grown over time. Accredited journalists must remain aware of updates to the code, and should regularly check the NewsX website for updates or subscribe to the NewsX’s mailing list to be kept aware of changes.
Failure to adhere to this code damages you, your brand name, and the entire profession.
Code of practice
Journalists accredited by NewsX must agree to follow these principles and accept NewsX's right to adjudicate on issues of non-adherence to this code:
- Verify information and sources
Modern digital communication systems enable information to flow from many sources, and correctly filtering and testing this information to determine what is real or fake is vitally important.
A byline is a journalist’s confirmation and assurance that the information contained in a report has been carefully examined and is factually correct.
- Maintain a separation between news and marketing
Accredited journalists must agree to independently select the subjects that they write about and only accept payment for that work from publishers. This does not mean that news cannot originate from PR sources or press releases. It means that accredited journalists should avoid accepting PR or marketing contracts.
If they do, this income must be declared and made completely transparent. Only by being open and honest about potentially compromising influences can the work of a journalist remain credible.
- Demonstrate qualifications or experience
Journalists need a professional qualification or a track record of experience in the industry to be accredited by the NewsX.
Accredited journalists must maintain an up-to-date public portfolio with the NewsX that demonstrates their standards and qualifications and provides samples of their work.
This is an essential tool in reassuring the public that the fourth estate that guards their interests is comprised of journalists fit to hold this significant role, and it is an important guide to publishers seeking to utilize the highest standard of independent journalists for their publication.
- Check the facts
Accredited journalists must make every effort to ensure all facts in a story are correct and all available facts are included without suppression. If any fact is later proven incorrect, a correction must be issued as soon as possible.
If a story is found to be in any way deficient, it must be corrected or withdrawn immediately. If it appears in a publication where it is beyond your ability to correct or withdraw you must make every reasonable effort to alert the publisher.
- Balance opinions
Journalists must make every effort to ensure that both sides of an argument are represented by including facts and opinions that represent both sides
Journalists must not place needless emphasis on gender, race, sexual orientation, religious belief, illness or personal disability.
- Use integrity when gathering news
Accredited journalists should always attempt to act with integrity when gathering news.
The NewsX acknowledges there are many grey areas in this, but asserts that in cases where the correct action is unclear, the matter should be discussed carefully among colleagues before acting. The experience and conclusions of members are welcome as additions to this code.
Private grief and personal privacy must be respected and journalists should enforce their right to reject compulsion to intrude on them. Children under the age of 16 must never be interviewed or photographed without prior consent and without a guardian in attendance.
- Declare any interests
Accredited journalists must not allow personal interests to influence them in their professional duties, and all personal interests must be declared.
NewsX profiles include a section where interests can be declared and personal views that may affect impartiality can be listed. In doing so, it allows the journalist to write with passion about subjects that they care about without allegations of partiality.
- Don’t use media privileges for personal gain
It is not acceptable to use journalism for market research, to advise you in investment decisions, or for any other purpose other than the creation of news.
Accredited journalists must never allow professional duties to be influenced by any gift or offered advantage, nor seek payment in any way other than compensation by a publisher for journalistic work. Any offer or gift that is accepted must be disclosed where possible.
- Respect confidentiality
The identity of confidential sources must be preserved. A source who has requested anonymity should only be named by a journalist if ordered to do so by a court of law, and the NewsX supports accredited journalists who would defy such a court order. All other requests must be rejected.
- Avoid pseudonyms
Bylines are a journalist’s brand and should be accurately and honestly included on all work that is produced.
Journalists covering stories involving criminal activity or terrorism, those working in countries where journalists are regularly persecuted, or those with other valid reasons may wish to use a pseudonym, but NewsX must know the real identity of the author in any such case and the reason why. Tolerance for pseudonyms is limited.
Breaches of the code under a pseudonym will not help a journalist avoid investigations and subsequent rulings by the Alliance.
- Share, and strengthen independent journalism
All NewsX members agree to pool data regarding details where content can be published, contribute to discussions on dealing with the changing media landscape, identify challenges and opportunities for the profession, and work together to further independent journalism for example in the development and improvement of this code.
Useful data for sharing includes general contact information for publishers and details on payment rates and markets to aid categorising in terms of profitability or risk.
- Help shape future software versions
Users of NewsX's T4 Hub software agree to cooperate to improve this communal software for the benefit of all.
Individual modifications are possible but such updates will also be made available to the wider community if it is determined that they would benefit all.
- Dealing with breaches
Allegations of a breach of professional standards, in conduct or reporting, must be fully investigated, and both sides given the opportunity to defend their position.
A voluntary panel of NewsX members will adjudicate and rule on each instance and, if deemed applicable, will recommend actions to address wrongdoings.
Details of every ruling will be published.