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Committee Proposes Ethics Code Changes

INBA's Ethics Code Revision Committee, headed by Amanda Vinicky, has updated the document. The Board will take a look at it this Spring, as will general membership. Please take a look (click on the headline for the full story), and let us know what you think!!

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Here's the link to our CURRENT CODE:



2011 Suggested Version
Members of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association will uphold the following in our journalistic pursuits:
-to check the accuracy of the facts and report them objectively and impartially
-to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, never allow personal beliefs or personal gain to influence coverage
-to mention race, creed, nationality, gender, disability, social status and sexual orientation of individuals only when relevant
-to show sensitivity to victims and witnesses of violent crimes and other personal tragedies
- to remember suspects are innocent until proven guilty
- to avoid interfering with emergency personnel in the performance of their duties
- to credit the source if the information is not one’s own and never plagiarize
-to promptly correct all errors
-to not use covert newsgathering techniques except when traditional methods fail to obtain critical information
-to avoid misleading use of video or audio, and to clearly identify staged video or audio
-to clearly label all opinion and commentary
-to vigorously defend guarantees in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and in the Illinois Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Acts


Jennifer.Fuller's picture
Jennifer Fuller INBA President WSIU Radio


Jim.Gee's picture

Thanks to Amanda and committee for their work on this. It seems the above suggestions largely eliminate the term "broadcast", which is in keeping with the changes to the By-laws last year, and embraces all forms of electronic journalism. That's good. I also think it's fine that we're embracing the "split infinitive" -- "to clearly label" as opposed to the more tradition "to label clearly". Also good.

I am curious as to why the committee chose to eliminate the item on recording telephone conversations. Yes, Illinois' eavesdropping law is a "two-party" affair, but I wonder, isn't making a distinction about when a reporter is recording for the purposes of note-taking and when it's for broadcast still important?

I also think the second to last item, relating to clearly labeling opinion and commentary, should specifically include reference to blogs and online forums. In this case I think specificity is important.

Amanda.Vinicky's picture

As I recall, the elimination of the telephone conversations bit was transferred to the broader "covert newsgathering" as there are technologies beyond the phone that can be used to record.
Is that not clear enough?

Rick.Koshko's picture

I know it's a point of law anyway, but this is in the current version and not in the posted proposal: "To inform sources when telephone conversations are being recorded for use on the air."

And the vow to correct errors ends without "consideration given to the audience that heard the mistake". What are the merits of truncating it to simply correcting errors promptly? I have found the consideration clause to be good guidance.

I worked with someone whose idea of error correction was running the correction once, then carrying on as though the mistake never happened. Subsequent reads didn't mention the error. Then the person would dump the story at its original expiration time. For a story that started in the morning, consideration wasn't given to the morning audience, a good many of whom don't or can't listen in the afternoon and would never have heard the correction.

Rick Koshko
WCMY News Director

Amanda.Vinicky's picture

Hi, Rick! The reason for the ethics code revision was to make the code go beyond TV and radio broadcasting, but to include other mediums. By just leaving it at the correction stage, it's supposed to imply that errors posted on a blog or website should be corrected, just as one those actually read on air.
I totally see your point: keeping in mind if a listener heard the story and/or the error is a particularity of broadcasting. Any suggestions are welcomed!

H.Wayne.Wilson's picture

I made the original suggested change for deleting "with consideration given to the audience that heard the mistake." Three issues were involved.
First, as Amanda pointed out, we have blogs, etc., that don't have time references. Second, the word "heard" would have to be changed to something similar to "heard, seen, or read" if we retained the line. Third, the line could be interpreted to mean to wait until the time when you made the original mistake. For a mistake made in morning radio drive, it might be taken to mean the journalist should wait until the next morning before admitting there was a mistake. Obviously, our goal is to make corrections immediately. I too am open to better phraseology if anyone has a suggestion.