Handbook of Independent Journalism (7-End) : Ethics and Law

Reporters and photographers may be told explicitly that they cannot manipulate or “stage” the news by asking people to do something for a story that they would not do ordinarily.

Reporters may not be allowed to conceal their identities to get a story, unless there is a clear and compelling public interest in the information and it cannot be obtained any other way.

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A television station may explicitly forbid the use of hidden cameras or surreptitious recording in gathering the news, unless a manager approves it for public-interest reasons.

With the advent of digital photography, new standards have been added to prohibit altering photographs or video in a way that could mislead the audience.

Several high-profile incidents contributed to these new policies, including a photograph on the cover of National Geographic magazine in the 1980s that digitally moved the famous Pyramids of Giza in Egypt closer together.

Many of the regulations in newsroom codes of conduct address issues of journalistic independence.

To avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, reporters may be forbidden to own stock or have a personal interest in companies they cover.

Journalists may not be allowed to take a public position on a political issue or openly support a candidate for office.

The news organization may prohibit journalists from having a business relationship with any news source, or from doing any outside work for pay unless approved by a manager.

The ethics policy of the Detroit Free Press, an American newspaper in the state of Michigan, clearly spells out what the newspaper will and will not do.

It prohibits paying sources for news and says that sources will not be allowed to review material before publication.

The Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) has a lengthy standards manual that requires employees to refuse any gifts that may appear to influence a CBC decision; only modest gifts of goodwill or hospitality offered during the conduct of normal business may be accepted.

CBC employees may not accept offers of free travel or accommodations in order to cover a story.

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