A social newsgathering ethics code from ONA

Common ground: A social newsgathering ethics code from ONA by Eric Carvin.

From the post:

Today, we’re introducing the ONA Social Newsgathering Ethics Code, a set of best practices that cover everything from verification to rights issues to the health and safety of sources — and of journalists themselves.

We’re launching the code with support from a number of news organizations, including the BBC, CNN, AFP, Storyful and reported.ly. You can see the complete list of supporters at the end of the code.

We’re constantly reminded of the need for best practices such as these. The recent bombings in Brussels, Ankara, Lahore and Yemen, among others, provided yet another stark and tragic reminder of how information and imagery spread, in a matter of moments, from the scene of an unexpected news event to screens around the world.

Moments like these challenge us, as journalists, to tell a fast-moving story in a way that’s informative, detailed and accurate. These days, a big part of that job involves wading through a roiling sea of digital content and making sense out of what we surface.

There is one tenet of this ethics code that should be applied in all cases, not just user-generated content:

Being transparent with the audience about the verification status of UGC.

If you applied that principle to stories based on statements from the FBI would read:

Unconfirmed reports from the FBI say….


How would you confirm a report from the FBI?

Ask another FBI person to repeat what was said by the first one?

Obtain the FBI sources and cross-check with those sources the report of the FBI?

If not the second one, why not?

Cost? Time? Convenience?

Which of those results in your parroting reports from the FBI most often?

Is that an ethical issue or is the truthfulness of the FBI assumed, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding?

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