Walter Williams wrote The Journalist's Creed, a personal affirmation of journalism ethics, in 1914. The creed has been published in more than 100 languages, and a bronze plaque of The Journalist's Creed hangs at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Williams was the founding dean of the Missouri School of Journalism.
The Journalist's Creed
- I Believe In the profession of journalism.
- I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that all acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust.
- I believe that clear thinking, clear statement, accuracy and fairness are fundamental to good journalism.
- I believe that a journalist should write only what he holds in his heart to be true.
- I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.
- I believe that no one should write as a journalist what he would not say as a gentleman; that bribery by one's own pocket book is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another; that individual responsibility may not be escaped by pleading another's instructions or another's dividends.
- I believe that advertising, news and editorial columns should alike serve the best interests of readers; that a single standard of helpful truth and cleanness should prevail for all; that supreme test of good journalism is the measure of its public service.
- I believe that the journalism which succeeds the best-and best deserves success-fears God and honors man; is stoutly independent; unmoved by pride of opinion or greed of power; constructive, tolerant but never careless, self-controlled, patient, always respectful of its readers but always unafraid, is quickly indignant at injustice; is unswayed by the appeal of the privilege or the clamor of the mob; seeks to give every man a chance, and as far as law, an honest wage and recognition of human brotherhood can make it so, an equal chance; is profoundly patriotic while sincerely promoting international good will and cementing world-comradeship, is a journalism of humanity, of and for today's world.
Journalism's ethics and standards consist of the principles of ethics and good practices applicable to specific challenges faced by journalists. Historically and currently, this subset of media ethics is widely known to journalists as their professional "code of ethics" or the "canons of journalism". The basic codes and canons commonly appear in statements drafted by both professional journalism associations and individual print, broadcast and online news organizations.
While various existing codes have some differences, most share common elements including the principles of—truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability—as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public.
Like many broader ethical systems, journalism ethics include the principle of "limitation of harm." This often involves the withholding of certain details from reports such as the names of minor children, crime victims' names or information not materially related to particular news reports release of which might, for example, harm someone's reputation.
Some journalistic Codes of Ethics, notably the European ones, also include a concern with discriminatory references in news based on race, religion, sexual orientation, and physical or mental disabilities. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved in 1993 Resolution 1003 on the Ethics of Journalism which recommends journalists to respect the presumption of innocence, in particular in cases that are still sub judice.
A Creed for My Profession: Walter Williams, Journalist to the World by Ronald T. Farrar University of Missouri Press 1998 ISBN 0-8262-1188-7