Thumbs up for new code to govern journalists

June 21st, 2009 - 10:03 am ICT by IANS  

Sensex New Delhi, June 21 (IANS) In the cutthroat news gathering environment of 24 X 7 television channels and newspapers, journalists are no less accountable than politicians, says a new code of conduct drawn up by leading English business daily Economic Times which seeks to make news reportage as objective and accurate as possible.
The Economic Times and ET Now Code of Conduct, posted on the Internet June 17, has placed all journalists in the media organisation’s new business channel ET Now and in the flagship print edition, Economic Times, in the ambit of an ethical code that monitors financial conduct as well.

It requires all journalists to disclose their investment portfolio to a company- appointed external auditor and details a sub-section that attempts to remove any possible conflict of interest and attempts to profit from privileged information that a news organisation is privy to.

It cracks the whip on plagiarism terming it a “sackable offence”. Journalists have to win over the confidence of the audience with unbiased reportage, says the code.

“Financial journalism often courts controversy and such codes can tackle conflicts of interest,” veteran columnist and media watcher Sevanti Ninan told IANS.

A senior editor at the Economic Times said all the journalists in the organisation have signed the code. “Our reporting and analysis is entirely independent of our advertising and investment departments,” said the editor on condition of anonymity.

Earlier, HT Media’s business daily Mint had evolved a code of conduct during its launch in 2007 and The Hindu has an ombudsman or a reader’s editor.

“What makes the ET code of conduct more purposeful and relevant is the fact that a journalist has to disclose his or her investment. In the kind of complex business environment and volatile Sensex we are living in, it is very important to know the anchors’ or the journalists’ business investment portfolio before heeding their advice, especially in a 24X7 news channels,” veteran journalist Shailaja Bajpai told IANS.

“One must know on what basis anchors have been chosen. There have been instances when journalists holding personal trade portfolios have advised on investment trends.”

According to her, the code was a kind of self-regulation and “much better than government monitoring”.

“Personally, I think its a good idea for journalists to disclose his assets so that it is available on the internet. And a voluntary organisation like the Press Council can act as a watchdog and such codes must apply to all television channels, including the news networks,” former editor and columnist Kuldip Nayar, who is also a former MP, told IANS.

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