RECOMMENDED REVISED JOURNALIST CODE OF ETHICS
(IT JOURNALISTS EDITION)
With apologies to the MEAA
IT journalists describe the IT industry to itself. They seek exclusives, page 1 bylines and the occasional payrise.
They convey press releases, vague ideas and half-baked opinions, a privileged role if your idea of privilege is spending Friday afternoon slurring around the office in a drunken stupor.
They search, disclose, record, question, entertain, suggest and remember. As long as all the information is in their in-tray and there's a lunch in it somewhere.
They inform IT marketing executives and animate their screens with Simpsons screen savers.
They give a practical form to the art of the press release.
Many journalists works in private enterprise, but none of them show a commitment to public responsibility.
They scrutinise their navels, and rarely exercise them, except when flirting with production staff or marketing hussies.
Accountability endangers the future of the magazine. Without a trust fund, journalists may suffer from poverty in retirement.
MEAA members engaged in journalism commit themselves to honesty, fairness, independence and respect for the rights of others. IT journalists can't afford union fees and commit themselves to regular drinking sessions.
In consultation with colleagues, they will occasionally produce an edition of the magazine.
- Cynicism and negativity do not impress readers. Always try and put a positive spin on any story where possible, unless it's about Windows 95.
- Or Warp.
- Or Novell.
- Or Intel.
- Do not report relevant available facts if they will destroy your distorting emphasis.
- Urge the fair correction of errors. Buried in 6 point text in Classifieds is an option.
- Place all other damaging reports into 'satirical' columns where you will legitimately have the defence of humour. The Editorial can also be used for this purpose.
- Only use concealed equipment for news stories or in the context of a review.
- Plagiarism is stealing. IT companies are very cashed up and are, for the most part, insured, so go for it. Attribute from time to time to give the impression of research.
- Only quote directly what is said by industry sources. These are usually to be found in the office, and will say whatever you want, so this does not present a problem.
- There are many sources close to any given company. The bigger the company, the greater the possibility that a given fabrication will be the opinion of someone close to it.
- Disclose only direct payment for interviews, and then only to your accountant.
- Do not improperly use a journalistic position for personal gain. A discount of 50% on hardware still means that you are forced to pay the remaining 50%, so count this as a personal loss. Free software is stuff you wouldn't have bought anyway, so there is no gain there either. Overseas trips are a significant imposition on your personal time, so the frequent flier points gained are barely compensation.
- Do not allow personal beliefs or commitments to form the entire substance of a story. Aim to include at least one fact and you will be safe from most editorial intervention. In this context, your byline may count as a fact.
- Guard against advertising or commercial considerations upsetting your advertisers unless you stand to substantially improve your personal reputation as a journalist. Where it occurs, organise a big lunch and crawling session for everyone concerned at the advertiser's expense.
- Accept the right to privacy of every person not working for an IT company or otherwise connected to your story. Relatives and friends of those in the public eye should be considered as collateral damage.
- At times of grief and trauma, get in early, go in hard and get plenty of pictures of the women crying. Never exploit a person's vulnerability or ignorance of media practice, unless they earn more than you do. Interview only with a tape recorder plugged into your phone.
- Do not place unnecessary emphasis on personal characteristics other than race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual orientation, family relationships, religious beliefs, physical or mental disability or the fact that someone believes Warp to be a viable option. Stupidity can be emphasised with the use of the word 'sic' if it isn't obvious enough.
- Never knowingly endanger the life or safety of a person without informed consent. This is highly unlikely on an IT magazine, so you can get away with the occasional lapse.
- Exercise particular care for the welfare of children in reports involving them. Remember that children can't be called upon as witnesses so it is probably easier to just make it all up.
- Respect every person's right to a fair trial. The IT press is not part of the judicial process and as such can say what it likes without evidence.
- Aim to attribute as precisely as possible all information to its source. Most information will have no source, and for this catch-all phrases like "sources close to the company", "analysts", "industry observers", "corporate customers" and "our layout artist" can be used. Keep confidences until the news meeting so you can impress your fellow journalists.
- Educate yourself about ethics and help to enforce this code. Remember: rules were made to be broken.
Basic values sometimes clash and your own personal preferences are all you really have to go on. Only substantial considerations of public interest, a need to crawl to the editor or the chance of a free trip to Bali should allow any standard to be overridden.
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