Keeping ethics alive
THERE ARE numerous stirring examples of good - and bad - practice in the ethics of journalism in To Tell You the Truth - The Ethical Journalism Initiative by Aidan White of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) - the federation of journalists’ unions to which the NUJ is affiliated.
To Tell You the Truth documents many incidents in which reporters in conflict zones put down their cameras or microphones to help people who were critically injured, and who always ensured - sometimes at the cost of their own lives - that “the story never came before the people”. Less dramatic, but closer to home, are examples of good practice such as the photographer who still works at the Oxford Mail, despite being briefly sacked in the 1980s for refusing to “snatch” a picture of a disabled boy with artificial legs being dropped of at school, after his mother had approached the paper to say she wanted the publicity around her son to stop. A one-day strike by the photographer’s colleagues forced his re-instatement.
The book also sets out clearly and concisely the financial pressures, “working conditions that crush the spirit of journalism” around the world and statistics on global advertising markets. (You'll have to read the book to find out which corporation regularly has its product - branded cups of iced coffee - prominently displayed in front of the presenters during news programmes broadcast from Las Vegas.) As well as presenting cases from countries where press freedom is in a much worse state than in the UK and Ireland, there are also fascinating case studies from the few countries in the world - mostly in Europe - where journalists have more rights than here.
You can download the book as a pdf file. The Freelance has seen a hard copy, so watch this space for details of how and where to get a hard copy of To Tell You the Truth.