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Duties & Responsibilities of the Press

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Members of the press have a duty to inform the public about current events and insist on transparency in government activities. In the fulfillment of this duty, every journalist has responsibility to preserve the integrity of the news, respect sources and maintain independence. (See References 1; 3)

Report the Truth

Journalists have a duty to report factual information, and there should be a consistent system for separating facts from opinion. For example, there should be at least two witnesses of an event if it is reported as fact, because a single witness is often unreliable. (See Reference 4) Journalists should be careful to avoid unintended errors by checking facts and only using reliable sources whom they trust. (See References 1; 3) If inaccuracies are realized after publication, the author should correct them as soon as possible. (See References 2 pg. 7; 3)

Preserve Integrity

Members of the press have a responsibility to protect their publication's integrity, which means reporting impartial and honest news stories. (See References 1; 2 pg. 4; 3) It is critical that every journalist's position as an honorable, trustworthy reporter remain intact so the public can count on a reliable news source. Stories labeled as news should be free of the author's personal views (See Reference 1), and no reporter should alter or dismiss parts of the story to protect any group, including their own publication. (See Reference 3)

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Respect Professional Sources

Journalists should treat sources with respect, and should not harass or threaten sources just to get a news story. (See Reference 2, pg. 8) Journalists should avoid favoritism or biased reporting by maintaining a purely professional relationship and avoiding personal connections with sources. (See Reference 2, pg. 8) A reporter also has a duty to disclose sources whenever possible so the public can assess the source's reliability. (See References 1; 3) Before reporting identifying information, journalists should discuss expectations of anonymity with the source. If the source prefers to remain anonymous, the reporter should explain why. (See References 1; 3)

Maintain Independence

Any news organization should diligently guard against conflicts of interest that could influence reporting. Journalists should not accept gifts from news sources (See References 1, 2 pg. 12) and they should not work for the people or groups about whom they write stories, because these activities threaten impartial reporting. (See References 1, 2 pg. 18) If there is a conflict of interest, such as political involvement or community activism, reporters should disclose it as a potential source of bias. (See References 1, 3)

About the Author

A writer since 2006, Lynne Fort has contributed to "The Forest Hills Journal," "The Daily Northwestern" and the "Cape Times." She has served as a general assignment reporter, political blogger and humor columnist. Fort is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Northwestern University.

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