Submit to the Code

THE NUJ'S Code of Conduct was one of the first attempts in this country to define professional standards in journalism. It dates back to 1976 in its present form, with some additions and minor changes since. You can find the current code of conduct here.

With considerable changes in journalistic attitudes, public expectations, professional skills and technology, the NUJ's Ethics Council feels it is time for a review, following considerable changes in attitudes, public expectations, professional skills and new technology.

The review needs to be completed by the end of October in order to produce motions for the next year's Annual Delegate Meeting (ADM) preliminary agenda. The Ethics Council wants a full consultation with the members and is open to any ideas about how the code should be changed. Submissions should be made to Chris Frost of the Ethics Council (email: cpfrost@livjm.ac.uk) or Freelance Organiser John Toner (email: JohnT@nuj.org.uk) by "the end of the summer". For advice on making submissions, please contact the Ethics Council's Andrew Bibby - email andrew@andrewbibby.com.

The Ethics Committee is currently working on a consultation document, and this is based on an early draft of that. The current code is divided into 14 clauses on general principles, and 15 clauses on working practices. General questions about the whole code of conduct under consideration include: should it be streamlined into a code which is shorter, and therefore easier to follow? Should the code be prescriptive (it currently uses the word "shall" throughout) or advisory only? Should it refer to "journalists" (as it does now) or to "union members"?

Other questions relate to specific clauses of the present code. Is clause 2's  instruction that journalists "shall strive to eliminate distortion" strong enough?

Can this clause - and others - be combined with clause 12 on manipulating photographic images? Should clause 6's prohibition on intrusion into private lives be extended? How extensive should clause 8's prohibition of "bribes" or "inducements" be - what about those free lunches?

Is clause 10 clear enough? It covers two issues: mentioning a person's age, sex, etc. and "originating or processing material that encourages discrimination." Should these two issues be handled in more detail, and with more clarity, in two separate clauses? Should we expand clause 11 - interviewing or photographing children without parental consent - to include people with mental illnesses and other vulnerable groups? Should we update clause 14, on endorsing products?

The Code of Conduct's working practices have been unchanged for 30 years. The issue of reporters taking photographs was discussed at this year's ADM, with a decision taken to leave the clause unchanged. Should any of the other clauses be changed? Any proposed changes to the code will come before London Freelance Branch as ADM motions to be debated in the new year.

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