When you work as a journalist, you will inevitably be required to abide by a code of ethics. Your code of ethics should state: The names of both the journalist and the source; The specific action that you consider to be unethical; A copy of that article or link to the offending article; and, The specific clause(s) in the code which you consider to have been violated. Additionally, your code of ethics should include any recommendations for further reading or research. In addition, your code of ethics should also include a statement that tells the media outlet which is the recipient of this news story that they can contact you for more information.
Generally, a journalist code of ethics complaint will only be filed with the appropriate media entities once the facts of your complaint have been either substantiated through evidence or your written statements appear to have been corroborated. This means that if you file a journalist code of ethics complaint against another freelance journalist, your first step should be to obtain written statements from both journalists that allegedly violate your ethics complaint. The statements that you obtain from the alleged violation of your ethics complaint should then be typed in a.pdf format onto a new Word document. You should save this document as a.txt file on your personal computer. This is because a.txt document is generally more easily read by a computer than a word document.
In addition to obtaining the quotes from the alleged offending journalist(s), you will also need to provide them with a letter addressed to the organization or outlet that you are accusing of unethical behavior. To make things easier on yourself, get a template for this sort of letter and a letterhead that you can make out of your home computer printer. However, you should never use the logo or brand name of your employer to craft your letter. It is advisable not to sign your name. Remember, a journalist code of ethics is not a legal document that protects you from liability but merely serves as a warning to other journalists not to take actions that would damage the work of another reporter.
Once you have gathered all the necessary information, it is time to write a formal complaint. Note down every detail that is relevant to your complaint, from the date you became aware of the violation up to the date when you filed the complaint. You should keep all documentation pertaining to your investigation about the source of your complaint, including telephone numbers, fax numbers, and addresses, in a separate notebook or folder. In your letter to the Federal Council for Broadcasting Standards (FCBS) and the Federal Trade Commission, include a list of all of your contacts and names of any clients that were targeted by the unethical behavior. Include all of your derogatory information, if there was any. You may wish to draw up a spreadsheet to represent your case as a whole.
The final step is to include a formal request for a formal disciplinary action. You should note that many of these requests are denied by the journalists’ association code of ethics. If this happens to you, do not be discouraged; appeal the decision by filing an appeal with the State Bar. You will be required to go through the same process as all other members of the press council, including submission of proof of notice, a statement of damages, and a request for review.
In conclusion, the key to successful defense of your profession is to be aware of and understand the ethics codes of your media council and the broader journalistic community. It is important that you always seek to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to facing unethical reporters and reporting. A strong defense strategy also requires that you carefully research any charges brought against you and prepare your case in a way that it withstands any challenge from the opposing party’s lawyers. If you can do all of these things, there is little reason that your reputation can be harmed by abiding by a journalist’s code of ethics.