Our society grants the news media enormous freedom and privilege. With that freedom comes great responsibility. The Graduate School of Journalism expects all members of its community to act according to the highest ethical standards of academia and the journalism profession.
Many news organizations require employees to sign a code of ethics. Because the Journalism School is preparing students to enter the media world and because integrity is so important to our profession, we too shall require all students to read, sign and heed this Code of Ethics. Students who violate this Code may face appropriate sanctions, up to and including expulsion, in accordance with CUNY Bylaws and the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity.
The duty of journalists is to inform the public in ways that promote understanding of past or current events and the workings of a democratic society. To be credible and trustworthy, we seek truth in an unbiased way, always striving for a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.
It is not possible to codify all good behavior. But we should subject everything we do to the twin tests of honesty and fairness – and remain accountable for the results. Some of this is obviously easy to state. For example, we should take great care to avoid errors of any kind. We should admit mistakes and promptly correct them in a manner likely to reach those who read, saw or heard the erroneous piece. We should tap multiple sources for information, identifying them and their motivations whenever feasible. We should be reasonable, judicious, and unbiased in setting forth and interpreting facts. We should distinguish between news reporting and analytic forms of journalism, including opinion pieces and commentary.
Other “best practices” often depend on the circumstances and require prudent judgment and the wise counsel of experienced colleagues. When in doubt, please seek guidance. This is, after all, an educational institution.
What Not To Do
There are certain kinds of behavior that are easily identifiable as unacceptable in an academic community and in the journalistic world. Inevitably, we do need some “thou-shall-not” rules. The following conduct violates the Journalism School’s Code of Ethics:
- Fabrication. No student shall knowingly present false information or invent information, data, quotations, or sources in a journalistic presentation or academic exercise. No student shall show reckless disregard for factual accuracy.
- Plagiarism. No student shall knowingly represent the words or ideas of another person as his or her own. Such information must be fully credited to the original source by attribution, quotation marks, footnotes, and/or other established journalistic practices. Be advised that all student work may be analyzed electronically for violations of this code and may be checked against a database for plagiarized content. Please ask your instructor if you have any questions about how to distinguish between acceptable research and plagiarism.
- Cheating. No student may engage in any form of academic cheating, for example on tests, journalistic exercises or otherwise, or help another student to cheat.
- Conflicts of Interest. All students must avoid any conflicts of interest between their appropriate role as student journalists and any other outside role. Such conflicts include preparing journalistic assignments on subjects or institutions in which the student has a financial, family, or personal involvement. When in doubt, consult with your instructor. You must disclose all potential conflicts to the appropriate faculty member or to the Dean before you begin the journalistic assignment
- Misrepresentation. Students may never represent themselves as anything other than journalism students at CUNY. You must obtain approval in advance in writing from the appropriate faculty member and Dean for any such “undercover” activity.
- Inappropriate Conduct. No student may engage in conduct during class or on assignment that brings discredit to the School or University. Such misconduct includes disruptive behavior, physical abuse, safety threats, property damage, theft, lewd or obscene behavior, or discrimination by word or deed on the basis of race, gender, religion, place of origin, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
No set of rules can possibly address all situations that may arise, and the School reserves the right to find that other conduct not specified in this Code, the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity, or the Bylaws constitute unethical conduct or a violation of academic or journalistic integrity. If situations arise that seem ambiguous, please talk to the appropriate faculty member and/or the Dean’s office. Your full disclosure is very important in all matters of integrity.