Can a journalist write anything they want? Not necessarily. There are certain boundaries to a journalist's writing and responsibilities that they must have in order to not emotionally harm anyone, protect their own well being, and to report the truth. What do I mean by this?
The explanation for this can be found in the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists) CODE OF ETHICS. This Code of Ethics describes the many guidelines that a writer must follow while writing their stories in order to gain a good reputation and credibility from their readers. The many ethics are divided into four categories, Minimize Harm, Seek Truth and Report It, Act Independently, and Be Accountable. A writer must follow each and every one of these ethics and legal responsibilities in order to be successful and accurate in their stories.
Among all of these guidelines, there are certain that I feel are of more importance than others, although all are important. The most important of all, I feel is "Never Plagiarize." Taking someone's work and calling it your own is never acceptable and can result in serious repercussions. Not to mention, who wants to read about something they have already read?? Be creative!
Another ethic that I believe is extremely important to follow is under the Minimize Harm category. It states that the writer should always show compassion for those who may read the article and be unfavorably affected by the news in one way or another. It also says to be careful when reporting to a source that may have children as their audience. An example that we saw in class where the reporter clearly didn't follow this guideline was the incident where the little boy (in Texas?) was hit as he was crossing the street on his bike by a police officer. In this instance, the reporter showed the boy getting hit and clearly if any family member saw this they would be emotionally distraught from it.
Another example where the reporter didn't follow this particular guideline was the picture of the man jumping out of the window of one of the towers on September 11th. In instances such as these, that affected our nation so negatively, it is best to show less graphic material and be more compassionate towards you audience.
The last ethic that I feel is very important is to admit to your own mistakes, own up to them, and fix them in a timely fashion. Especially, if the mistake is a big deal, the public cannot be so misinformed. They need to know the truth, and so it is the responsibility of the writer to report that. Owning up to one's mistakes also helps with the writer's credibility in that if the audience sees that the writer is working to be 100 percent honest, they will be inclined to read that person's works.