Our society grants journalists and 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 codes 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 and professional journalism standards.
The duty of journalists is to inform the public in ways that promote understanding of past or current or upcoming 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. No student shall manipulate or falsify images or video or audio in a manner that creates false impressions or compromises accuracy.
- Plagiarism and Use of Others’ Content. No student shall knowingly represent the words or ideas or photography or video or audio produced by 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 and professors must be apprised of the use of any material that is not the student’s own independent work. 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 among acceptable research, attribution 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. No student may submit work previously submitted in another course without the knowledge and permission of the instructor.
- 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 Associate Dean before you begin the journalistic assignment.
- Misrepresentation. Students must be forthright and honest about how they identify themselves to subjects and sources and should never represent themselves as anything other than journalists or journalism students. Students must obtain approval in advance in writing from the appropriate faculty member and dean for any proposed “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.
- Social Media. Students must be responsible in their use of social media and should not violate professional journalism standards in their social media activities.
- Obey the Law. No student may break the law, including laws relating to trespassing, theft of information, breaking into email or voicemail, or any other violation of civil or criminal laws. If you believe you have been wrongly excluded from a news scene by law enforcement, please notify your instructor and/or dean to discuss whether legal follow-up is warranted.
- Gifts and Freebies. Students may not accept gifts, free tickets or travel, special meals or favors, or anything of value that could potentially compromise or appear to compromise their independence of their news sources or news subjects. However, it may be acceptable to accept press tickets, with the approval of the professor, to performances and screenings directly related to a class assignment. In delineating between what is compromising and what is within permissible parameters for journalists seeking access to newsworthy information, according to Reuters’ Handbook of Journalism, “In the course of gathering news, journalists are often invited to breakfasts, luncheons or dinners. As long as such occasions are newsworthy, it may be appropriate to accept the hospitality provided it is within reason. We do not accept ‘junkets’ — events that have little if any value to our newsgathering such as . . . an evening’s entertainment or a sporting event at the expense of a news source.” When in doubt, either politely decline or seek ADVANCE permission and guidance from your instructor or CUNY Journalism School dean.
- Paying for Access to News or Sources. Students may not pay sources or provide sources with anything of value in exchange for interviews or access.
No set of rules can possibly address all situations that may arise. The School reserves the right to find that other conduct not specified in this Code, the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity, or the Bylaws constitutes violation of academic or journalistic integrity. If situations arise that seem ambiguous, please talk to the appropriate faculty member and/or the Associate Dean’s office. Your full disclosure is very important in all matters of integrity. Current students please read and sign document here.