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Ethical Journalism

"The duty of a journalist is the same of that of the historian - to seek out the truth, above all things, and to present his readers the truth as he can attain it."  -- John Thaddeus Delane, editor of the Times in London, February 1852


What does ethical journalism entail?  Journalism has been redefined several times since the 1980s emergence of celebrity media, global news, tabloids and shock value media coverage.  Now there's almost no difference between paparazzi and journalists.  Rupert Murdock's influence has also assisted in the paradigm shift of a reporter's integrity.  So what does ethical journalism include?


The 10 Absolutes of Reuters Journalism

  • Always hold accuracy sacrosanct
  • Always correct an error openly
  • Always strive for balance and freedom from bias
  • Always reveal a conflict of interest to a manager
  • Always respect privileged information
  • Always protect their sources from the authorities
  • Always guard against putting their opinion in a news story
  • Never fabricate or plagiarise
  • Never alter a still or moving image beyond the requirements of normal image enhancement
  • Never pay for a story and never accept a bribe


Use named sources wherever possible because they are responsible for the information they provide, even though we remain liable for accuracy, balance and legal dangers. Press your sources to go on the record.

• Reuters will use unnamed sources where necessary when they provide information of market or public interest that is not available on the record.
We alone are responsible for the accuracy of such information.
When talking to sources, always make sure the ground rules are clear.
Take notes and record interviews.
• Cross-check information wherever possible. Two or more sources are better than one. In assessing information from unnamed sources, weigh the source's track record, position and motive. Use your common sense. If it sounds wrong, check further.
• Talk to sources on all sides of a deal, dispute, negotiation or conflict.
• Be honest in sourcing and in obtaining information. Give as much context and detail as you can about sources, whether named or anonymous, to authenticate information they provide. Be explicit about what you don't know.
• Reuters will publish news from a single, anonymous source in exceptional cases, when it is credible information from a trusted source with direct knowledge of the situation. Single-source stories are subject to a special authorisation procedure.
• A source's compact is with Reuters, not with the reporter. If asked on legitimate editorial grounds, you are expected to disclose your source to your supervisor. Protecting the confidentiality of sources, by both the
reporter and supervisor, is paramount.
• When doing initiative reporting, try to disprove as well as prove your story.
• Accuracy always comes first. It's better to be late than wrong. Before pushing the button, think how you would withstand a challenge or a denial.
• Know your sources well. Consider carefully if the person you are communicating with is an imposter. Sources can provide information by whatever means available - telephone, in person, email, instant messaging, text message. But be aware that any communication can be interfered with.
• Reuters will stand by a reporter who has followed the sourcing guidelines and the proper approval procedures.

Ethical Resources

The Handbook of Journalism Studies
The Ethical Journalism Initiative


What newspapers still practice ethical journalism?

  • Washington Post
  • New York Times

...and several others!  Stay tuned for more!