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Media Ethics


These resources provide an overview of journalistic writing with explanations of the most important and most often used elements of journalism and the Associated Press style. This resource, revised according to The Associated Press Stylebook 2012, offers examples for the general format of AP style. For more information, please consult The Associated Press Stylebook 2012, 47th edition.

Contributors:Christopher Arnold, Tony Cook, Dennis Koyama, Elizabeth Angeli, Joshua M. Paiz
Last Edited: 2018-03-27 12:09:25


The same First Amendment freedoms that allow U.S. media outlets to publish without fear of government interference also make it nearly impossible to impose a standard of ethics or professional protocol for journalists. No organization exists to certify journalists, and likewise, no uniform system exists for penalizing unethical behavior.

Nonetheless, professionals in the field generally take great pride and responsibility in their roles, and organizations such as the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists offer thorough and useful guidelines for ethical conduct.

Generally, ethical concerns in the media can be grouped into a few broad categories. The following points synthesize and summarize some important ethical concerns proposed by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists.


Treatment of Sources

Avoiding Bias

Avoiding Distortions

Gathering Information

Minimizing Harm

Avoiding Conflicts of Interest


There is no standard for ethical journalistic practice, but two widely regarded organizations, The Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists, offer useful and time-tested guidelines. When in doubt, always confer with a trusted colleague or supervisor.


“The Associated Press Statement of News Values and Principles.” www.ap.org 16 Feb 2006. https://www.ap.org/about/news-values-and-principles/.

“Society of Professional Journalists: Code of Ethics.” www.spj.org 18 Dec 2008. http://spj.org/ethicscode.asp.

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