21 October 2014

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Seniors to be offered training in journalistic ethics

Senior journalists are to be offered ethics training in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal in a bid to prevent standards being eroded by “newsroom culture.”

The National Council for the Training of Journalists has told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that it plans to develop courses aimed at the “continuing professional development of journalists.”

It says that although it already attempts to deliver “sound ethical training,” it says this is also shaped by “prevailing newsroom culture and ethical decision-making.”

In a submission to the inquiry,  NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher says ongoing training for already-qualified seniors will help embed a “strong culture of responsible, ethical journalism” into newsrooms.

Said Joanne:  “Partly as a result of issues identified by the Inquiry, we have commissioned an independent report on the current approach to ethics training and its assessment. Even greater emphasis will be placed on its importance for all journalists.

“The NCTJ can deliver journalists with sound ethical training to the newsroom but we are very conscious that ethical behaviour can be shaped by the prevailing newsroom culture and by editorial decision-making.

“For that reason, we are developing courses for the continuing professional development of journalists so that seniors continue to be reminded about their responsibilities.

“We recognise there must be more on-going training to enhance, support and reinforce codes of conduct for professional journalists.

“The development of senior journalists needs to be incremental so that a strong culture of responsible, ethical journalism is embedded into newsrooms.

“Management and leadership skills are as essential as the traditional editorial ‘craft’ skills for future leaders of our newsrooms.”

The inquiry, being chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, was set up to investigate the role of press and police in the phone-hacking scandal and to make recommendations on the future of press regulation.

Regional editors have already told the inquiry their papers are generally more ethical than those in national press.

Last January, Ipswich Star editor Nigel Pickover contrasted the behaviour of his own title during the spate of Ipswich murders in 2006 with that of national newspapers.

And Yorkshire Post editor Peter Charlton said national newspapers had widely used photos of Colonel Gadaffi’s corpse but his paper decided against their use.

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  • 2 Comments

    1. Curious

      Following the Code of Conduct isn’t rocket science although whether it should be followed slavishly is another matter. There’s no debate when dealing with an ordinary citizen in Blighty but world events – like Gadaffi’s pic – is another matter. Should we censor Holocaust pics on grounds of taste and decency or is there an historical ‘get out’ clause? Perhaps I need to go on the course after all – or someone could enlighten me here.

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    2. Dr Isah Emmanuel Momoh, School of Media and communication, Pan African University, Lagos, Nigeria

      I had made a similar suggestion during the symposium in Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire on Wednesday June 20,2012 when Professor Chris Frost tried to blame the editors of the national newspapers for the unethical phone hacking and other malpractices especially in the big newspapers. I had held that since editors are senior journalists who now have more than journalistic responsibilities, they should be schooled and retrained in professional journalism and ethics periodically.
      I also suggested, in agreement with him that “Truth” be now emphasized as a leading news value; rather the current practice where timeliness and factualness are the leading taught journalistic considerations.
      I have usually taken pains to explain that though facts may equate truth often, they are not synonymous all the time. So thruth should stand out as the number one news value and consideration in news pursuit and assessments.
      I repeated the point that ethics will take the front burner in journalism practice only when truth is taught by Journalism educators as the prime driving value of professional journlism. This was at the AJE conference at the same UcLan on Friday 22 June.
      Ethics cannot be divorced from journalism and there can be no professional journlism if the rank and file journlists (among whom are the editors and publishers) are not frequently retrained and developed in Ethics and the Public Interest.
      I urge that timeliness and the need to break news which hamper the reportage of truth which is still unfolding should not be accepted as the excuse to publish without confirming the “veracity” not the “factualness” of a matter, situation or development. A developing story whose truth is still unfolding should not be abandoned or downplayed in favour of newer developing stories if most of the truth has not been reported. therein lies the dilemma for editors.

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