Sticking by the code

Last updated 13:00 20/02/2014

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OPINION: New Zealand journalists, like those in other comparable countries, follow a simple and unambiguous industry ethical code. Built on such overriding principles as respect for truth and the public's right to information, the code offers clear rules on appropriate behaviour. These serve not only to help individuals stay on the straight and narrow but also to underpin the industry's credibility.

The code is administered by the EMPU on behalf of its 3500 print, commercial, radio and television broadcasting members. Not every journalist belongs to the union, but the code of ethics is universal and applies broadly across the industry. Though some smaller operations might choose to ignore the code and other related industry conventions, such as adhering to the New Zealand Press Council's rules and requirements, these are indispensable to any reputable media business.

Article D of the Journalist Code of Ethics states that reporters shall not allow personal interests to influence them in their professional duties. For old-school journalists, this includes not belonging to political parties or lobby groups, or seeking any form of office which might see them be asked to take advantage of their position with the media to promote a particular cause. Many journalists do not even vote, in order to avoid accusations of bias.

Clearly, all people have personal opinions. Journalists by nature and profession are often strongly opinionated on a wide range of issues. But they must avoid allowing such views to influence the way they approach a story, or quickly risk losing their standing and credibility.

The industry, then, will be perturbed by news that Television New Zealand has launched an inquiry into editorial independence at its Maori and Pacific programming division over links to the Labour party. Former head Shane Taurima has also been accused of bias, and has resigned following revelations of involvement in Labour campaign activities while working for the state broadcaster.

Mr Taurima apologises and "categorically denies" that his actions had any influence on TVNZ reporting. That surely will prove to be the case, for the opposite is barely thinkable. However, damage has been done, not only to Mr Taurima and broadcasting but also to the wider profession. A captain's knock What a stunner. When the Black Caps were looking odds on to lose their poise (and wickets), hand a second test win to India and finish with a drawn test series, up stepped its latest captain courageous with a match-saving, record-setting triple century. In sport, as in politics and much else besides, timing is everything. Brendan McCullum not only became the first New Zealander to top 300 runs, leading his country to a rare second consecutive series win in the process - he also surely has finally silenced his critics. Talkback "experts" once berated McCullum, questioning his courage for giving up wicketkeeping due to a dodgy back in order to focus on his batting. His response could hardly have been more emphatic. All this as the Cricket World Cup countdown begins. And some say cricket is boring!

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- The Nelson Mail

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