News Corp. announces new code of ethics. Will it make a difference?
In response to the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed News Corp.'s News of the World, founder Rupert Murdoch said his media empire would have a new code of ethics. It could help – if managers are serious about enforcing the rules, media experts say.
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Communicating these new standards is one step, she says, “but it will be interesting to see what kind of enforcement measures Murdoch and his staff are talking about, and how exactly they intend to put them into action.”Skip to next paragraph
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Requests for comment on the proposed News Corp. codes received no response from both The Wall Street journal and Fox News Channel, two News Corp.-owned media outlets. Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, has a publicly published code of ethics, one considered by many to be among the strictest in the industry. The company was taken over in 2007 by News Corp.
History shows that a scandal can propel valuable housecleaning and industrywide progress, says Ms. McBride.
In 2003, The New York Times found itself embroiled in a front-page scandal over plagiarism and fabrication charges regarding the work of staff reporter Jayson Blair. In response, the paper undertook a thorough review of its ethical policies and made significant changes, McBride says. This self-searching triggered in-house examinations at small and large newspapers all over the country, she adds.
When it comes to a sustained cultural shift, as may be needed within segments of the News Corp. empire, long-term follow-through is the key to genuine change, notes McBride.
“There has to be a continual reinforcement process from middle and top managers on down,” she says, including such things as “finding daily teachable moments during the reporting and editing process.”
Again, she adds, The New York Times followed up with ongoing training to solidify the new standards.
The top CBS brass brought what they called “the blue book,” or its code of ethics, to life in a variety of ways. “We did a lot of mock situations,” he says, including potentially tricky ethical decisions that “really clarified what the codes mean in practice, not just in a little book.”
Note: A list of news organizations' ethics policies can be found at the Project for Excellence in Journalism.