THE CANONS OF JOURNALISMThe primary function of newspapers is to communicate to the human race what its members do feel and think. Journalism, therefore, demands of its practitioners the widest range of intelligence of knowledge and of experience as well as natural trained powers of observation and reasoning. To its opportunities as a chronicle are indissolubly linked its obligations as teacher and interpreters.
To the end of finding some means of codifying sound practice and just aspirations of American journalism, these canons are set forth :
1. Responsibility :
The right of a newspaper to attract and hold readers is restricted by nothing but consideration of public welfare. The use of a newspaper makes of the share of public attention it gains, serves to determine its sense of responsibility, which it shares with every member of its staff. A journalist who uses his power for any selfish or otherwise unworthy purpose is faithless to a high trust.
2. Freedom of the Press :
Freedom of the press is to be guarded as a vital right of mankind. It is the unquestionable right to discuss whatever is not explicitly forbidden by law including the wisdom of any restrictive statute.
3. Independence :
Freedom from all obligations except that of fidelity to the public interest is vital, i.e.. Promotion of any private interest contrary to the general welfare, for whatever reasons not compatible with honest journalism. So-called news communications from private sources should not be published without public notice of their source or else substantiation of their claims to value as news, both (i) In form and substance, (ii) Partisanship in editorial comment which knowingly departs from the truth does violence to the best spirit of journalism; in the news columns, it is subversive of a fundamental principle of the profession.
4. Sincerity, Truthfulness, Accuracy :
Good faith with the reader is the foundation of all journalism worthy of the name :
(i) By every consideration of good faith a newspaper is constrained to be truthful. It is not to be excused for lack of thoroughness or accuracy within its control or failure to obtain command of these essential qualities.
(ii) Headlines should be fully warranted by the contents of the articles which they surmount.
5. Impartiality :
Sound practice makes clear distinction between news reports and expressions of opinion. News reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind.
This rule does not apply to so-called special articles unmistakably devoted to advocacy or characterized by a signature authorizing the writer’s own conclusion and interpretations.
6. Fair Play :
A newspaper should not, publish unofficial charges affecting reputation or moral character without opportunity given to the accused to be heard; right practice demands the giving of such opportunity in all cases of serious accusation outside judicial proceedings :
(i) A newspaper should not invade private rights or feelings without sure warrant of public right as distinguished from public curiosity.
(ii) It is the privilege, as it is the duty of a newspaper to make prompt and complete correction of its own serious mistakes of fact or opinion, whatever their origin.
7. Decency :
A newspaper cannot escape conviction of insincerity if, while professing high moral purposes, it supplies incentives to base conduct, such as, are to be found in details of crime and vice. Publication of which is not demonstrably for the general good. Lacking authority to enforce its canons, the journalism here represented can but express the hope that deliberate pondering to vicious instincts will encounter effective public disapproval or yield to the influence of a preponderant professional condemnation.