10 Ways to be an Ethical a Journalist

Research and opinion by Valley Lizard

It’s important not only for myself (as a young journalist) but also as a consumer of news to tell the difference between good and bad journalism.

The following is not a complete list. Instead it is a general guide. I have also tried to use relevant examples, however they may not be perfect.

1. Be nice

No matter your job it is important to maintain your humanity.

2. Ask permission

Whether you’re a kid or adult asking for consent is important especially if the information, images, audio etc. will be published publicly.

3. Be open about your objective

Anything is really fair game if you’re open and honest about why you’re doing it.

4. Do your research

While research isn’t an ethical requirement by law it certainly makes people more comfortable and means you’re more likely to get a good quality interview.

Watch this bad example first

Now for a good example

5. Context is very important

Think about where your piece will be published. How will it impact the people in the cultural society where the article will be viewed, read or heard?

It is still okay to take things out of context as long as you then explain what the original context was. Basically if there’s an ethical purpose to taking something out of context then it’s okay, but make sure it’s clear what you’ve done and why.

6. Clear facts need context

Accuracy about factual information is very important to the point where journalists shouldn’t use the word “fact” for anything other than facts.

7. Clarify relevant media laws and ethical codes

Almost every context has its own media laws and ethical standards. Think about the difference between publishing something in a local newspaper vs. on Facebook.

8. Have 2-3 sides represented in your story

I’m sure you’ve heard every story has two sides, but in reality every story has a minimum of two or three sides. I’m working on a article and video about lolita fashion, so lets count the number of sides in that story. Of course there are people who wear lolita fashion and people who don’t, but if we take a deeper look there’s so much more. For example some people may admire lolita fashion, but not necessarily wear it. On the other end of the spectrum there may be people who hate lolita fashion to the point they may ban their children from wearing it. Every news story has an entire spectrum of views and it’s impossible to represent them all in one story. Instead have at least two or three views which demonstrate the variety of viewpoints on the topic in question.

9. Check if your story can be misinterpreted

Even if you represent 100 views in your news story it can still be misunderstood. The best way I believe to avoid this scenario is to include at least 1-2 viewpoints from a person or group which is often misunderstood. Kimonos have gotten varied representation in the media and thus get misrepresented.


10. Find the original source material

Another way to avoid misrepresentation go to the original source material. With the issue of who can wear kimonos the best people to talk to are Japanese people, even better if they’ve had a lot of experience wearing a kimono. I elaborate on this topic in my previous blog posts. If I was to write a professional news article on who can wear kimonos I would interview:

  • Foreigners who have worn some form of kimono such as: Katy Perry
  • Travel vloggers who have been to Japan and worn kimono
  • A Japanese person who lives in Japan and works in the kimono industry
  • A Japanese fashion designer
  • A non-Japanese fashion designer

Now I’m unlikely to easily be able to interview Katy Perry, however other people have done it for me. This means I can still quote her in an article about kimonos.

Let me know if you think it would be interesting if I actually wrote a detailed blog post about kimonos complete with interviews. Hopefully during this social isolation I’ll have time to complete some blog posts about lolita fashion as I don’t think I could explain it all in just one blog post.

Anyway look forward to more content as I learn more about media laws and ethical regulations.

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